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Maria Callas & Swarovski: Jewels On Stage at the Metropolitan Opera

Let's meet at the Metropolitan Opera House and see the exhibit of Maria Callas' s custom-made jewelry. Admission is free. Afterwards, anyone who wants to can join the group at Niko's at 2161 Broadway at 76th St. for a snack... I'll fill in more details about where exactly we should meet, before the event. ABOUT THE EXHIBIT
The soprano who commissions her own stage jewels?now that?s a diva. As if Maria Callas weren?t already the incarnation of the term, the legendary singer also collaborated on the designs for the tiaras and necklaces she wore as Tosca and Norma, not to mention baubles for performances as Lucia, La Gioconda and Lady Macbeth. The Met exhibition Maria Callas & Swarovski: Jewels On Stage at the Metropolitan Opera, which runs through March 3, 2007 in Founders Hall, features 43 pieces of stage jewelry Callas wore around the world, all of it crafted exclusively for her with stones of Swarovski crystal by Atelier Marangoni, the Milanese jeweler.

?Each jewel was very much related to the specific opera,? notes Rinaldo Albanesi, a curator of the show who says that Callas was intensely involved in the conception of virtually every piece. ?For her, there was the music, the acting, the costumes, the hair dressing?and the jewels. She had to feel comfortable and often suggested changes to lighten the weight or to make sure they caught the stage lights in just the right way.? The Met is the latest stop on a world tour that began in 2003 in Verona, the city where an unknown 23-year-old Callas made her Italian debut in the title role of La Gioconda on August 2, 1947?wearing a Marangoni crown studded with stones of Swarovski crystal, the show?s earliest piece.

Marangoni created Callas?s stage pieces from sketches by costume designers and the diva?s directors, including Franco Zeffirelli and Luchino Visconti. The superstitious Callas had a penchant, Albanesi says, for wearing in later productions a piece of jewelry she wore the first time she sang a role. But during the preparations for La Traviata at La Scala in 1955, Visconti would not let Callas wear an emerald ring she was attached to. ?You must sing without the emerald,? he told her, Albanesi reports. Visconti was a fiend for historical accuracy, requiring that pieces be manufactured using techniques appropriate to an opera?s period setting.

Among the standout pieces are a crown Callas wore in Naples in 1949 for her only performances in Verdi?s Nabucco; a necklace and jewel-encrusted bonnet created for her appearances as Lucia with Herbert von Karajan; a tiara of colored crystals and artificial pearls she wore as Fedora, at La Scala in 1956; and the crown of laurels she commissioned for her 1954 Chicago (and U.S.) debut in Norma. Callas paid for pieces created before 1954; later, the opera companies paid the bills. Atelier Marangoni was acquired by Swarovski in 1999, paving the way for the exhibition.

A matched set of diadem, necklace, and earrings has a Met provenance. Designed by Met stage director Dino Yannopoulos for Callas?s debut season and her first Tosca in the U.S., the crystal pieces are ?the most beautiful stage jewelry ever created,? Albanesi says; they took more than 100 hours to create (though, as if betraying a secret, Albanesi notes that the cut of the stones is anachronistic for Tosca). The diamonds were so magnificently bright that when Callas performed a scene from the opera on ?The Ed Sullivan Show,? she could wear only the earrings.

The jewels were memorably on display at the Met earlier this season?on stage. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of their glittering debut, they were worn by Andrea Gruber, Maria Guleghina and Aprile Millo, the three divas who this season sang Tosca, not in Callas?s shadow, but in her sparkling Swarovski jewels. ?Bill Goldstein

Exhibition at the Metropolitan Opera (Concourse Level)
January 19 - March 3, 2007
Free Admission
Open Monday - Friday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Sundays: noon to 6:00 pm
(except JAN 26, FEB 6, 16, 26)

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  • A former member
    A former member

    Loved the event! The jewels were wonderful and the company even better!

    March 3, 2007

  • A former member
    A former member

    Very nice exhibit. Went to Grek Restauarnat afterward for a light meal. well planned.

    February 11, 2007

  • A former member
    A former member

    Don' have too much to say. It was nice to see the Jewels...some were very impressive. It was good to talk and meet for the first time the people that attended.

    February 11, 2007

  • A former member
    A former member

    Very nicely organized, we were free to check out the exhibit at our own pace.

    February 11, 2007

  • A former member
    A former member

    It was a pretty, and simple exhibit which we got through in about 45 minutes. Then 10 of us went up to Niko's where we were joined by one more person... we had a nice time eating and talking - it was a very nice group of people.

    February 11, 2007

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