The gods who looked down on Cecilia Sophia Anna Maria Kalogeropoulou must have been a diverse bunch. We may guess at there being tutelary deities from her homeland, Greece. Given her regular success in the title roles of Cherubini’s Medea and Bellini’s Norma, their number may have included darker spirits from Colchos on the Black Sea as well as Druid spirits from Gaul. Whoever they were, they created an artist and a woman who epitomised, in her short life (1923-77) and short performing career (1941-74, with significant gaps), the talents, the lifestyle and the crises both professional and personal of the modern prima donna – someone who appeared to go through life as if she herself was one of the tragic heroines she portrayed.

Six essential recordings of Callas at her best

Maria Callas