Monday, January 06, 2003

Transformation Myths and Reality-Callas

6 Jan 2003 Transformation Myths and Reality

The magical metamorphosis that often appear in fairytales and myths reflect the apotheosis of our mundane lives. In both Cinderella and Frog King, radical changes are effected through magic; but are they magical? Superficially, they appear to be so as the ashes of Cinderella's life carbonize to diamonds when she makes her scintillating appearance at the ball. The frog changes his shape when brutally thrown against the wall. With deeper insight the reader knows that neither is magical. Cinderella has endured humiliation, physical drudgery, verbal and psychological abuse to transcend the limitations of her immediate environment spiritually. She has the spirit that inspires social reformers to go beyond class and social restrictions to attain recognition. The inner transformation effects the external and the way society views her.

The frog, though is a slightly different creature. He too, endures verbal and physical abuse. Today, the wretched Princess would be hauled into court to be convicted of assault with intent to do bodily injury or accused of endangerment. The frog leaps out of the water to console and assist her. The story is replete with symbols that can be interpreted a variety of ways, but he is definitely at the bottom of society as her scorn shows, "as if that old frog could do anything but croak in the sludge." The Princess is disdainful of his attention. She promises what she has no intent to do, and although she is so beautiful that the sun stopped in its path to gaze upon her, she has no spiritual beauty, little integrity and much self-conceit. Why any frog would want to be her companion is beyond comprehension for there must be dozens of readily available princesses hanging about just for a chance to catch a greenback. He tolerates her abuse, returning it with courtesy and kindness. She puts on a show at the dinner table of being disgusted and repulsed; he endures the humiliation.

It is a problem of perception. So often we miss something intrinsically valuable because we don't like the packaging. A quick browse through the tips on jobsites will reveal many articles dedicated chiefly to appearance: how to dress for an interview, how to make your resume look good; which clothes to wear, the right color for shoes; yet when it comes down to it, the clothes really don't work. They are only the packaging. A person who has shabby clothes or may be out of the toe might actually be a better employee. The interviewer makes an injust decision in judging the person by his clothing, makeup or botox job. A person, dissatisfied with his or her appearance and absorbed in the superficial appearance, might also make a very bad employee, always glossing over irregularities or mistakes, afraid to confront personal shortcomings or admit failings. This isn't needed in the working world, whereas the person with limited resources, might have greater ability at utilizing the skills and resources available. He might also have the maturity to understand personal limitations which is the first step of self-mastery. The person, having endured humiliation or hardship as Cinderella, might have the tenacity to take on difficult projects that require greater self-discipline and dedication. Such a person would be a valuable asset to a company as a reliable self-starter, requiring little or no supervision, but providing a model of inspiration to others.

Do such transformations happen? Assuredly, but usually they have some personal price that comes with incredible self-sacrifice of discipline. Possibly one of the most famous cases within the 20th century was a singer by the name of Maria Anna Sophia Cecilia Kalogeropoulou, better known as Maria Callas.

She was born in Brooklyn, the daughter of Greek immigrants. By twelve, she wasn't at all pretty. She could sing, but nobody really wanted a fat lady on stage. In 1953, she carried tonnage like a laden freighter at 210 pounds. Within two years, she dropped her weight to a slim 140 pounds. She was obsessive about her public image, pictures and physical appearance. However, being thin isn't particularly good for the voice, demanding the impossible of herself, singing not only the lyric dramatic roles of Wagner and Strauss, but also the highly embellished coloratura roles of Donezetti and Bellini as well as the heavy dramatic roles such as Turandot. It wears on the voice terribly, just as badly as being an icedancer and then playing rugby. Like Patton, she created an image, conforming herself to live within the mask like a classical Greek actor from a tragedy of Sophocles. It worked. Today, she is as controversial as when she appeared on stage; her recordings are in high demand today. There are few, if any, who can explain the riddle of the sphinx; but her image and presence did not only transform the presentation of opera, but the way other leading ladies are presented as divas to the public. A quick glance through the pictures makes you realize that even Audrey Hepburn copied or imitated the Callas. There are Joan Sutherland images that look remarkably similar. Neither Jackie O or Princess Di will ever have the publicity or fascination that Maria Callas had for the world, yet it is very difficult to know the real person behind the mask, or comprehend the price she paid to become immortalized as La Divina.

Serendipity's Maria Callas' Picture Gallery
Maria Calla at 15 years hauling tonnage

Serendipity's Maria Callas' Picture Gallery
a heavyweight diva

Serendipity's Maria Callas' Picture Gallery
i vespri siciliani 1951
no small butterfly

Serendipity's Maria Callas' Picture Gallery
The transformation complete: la Divina

Serendipity's Maria Callas' Picture Gallery

Maria Callas Gallery
anna bolenna Donezetti Anna Bolena, teatro alla scala

Maria Callas. "To sing is an expression of your being, a being which
is becoming." -Maria Callas.
Gioconda early in career

Maria Callas. "To sing is an expression of your being, a being which
is becoming." -Maria Callas.
recording Gioconda at la Scala late

Divas- the site

the diva Callas

Divas-the site
the minx- Audrey Hepburn imitating callas

Maria Callas. "To sing is an expression of your being, a being which
is becoming." -Maria Callas.
the callas as the original

EMI biography for Maria Callas

ugly duck turned into a dying swan


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