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Callas in "bondage"

By Joel Kasow

PARIS, 13 February 1999- Alma Bond is a retired psychoanalyst who has published several books, including Who Killed Virginia Woolf? A Psychobiography. A long-term admiration of the singer led to the writing of this book, which comes with an encomium from John Ardoin, one of today's leading experts on the subject of Maria Callas. And while we may admire some of the analytic insights, too often the tone resembles a Harlequin Romance, or Barbara Cartland.

Particularly distressing are the consistently misspelled names, starting with Evangelika instead of Evangelia for Callas's mother and continuing on to Lucino Visconti or Nicola Rossi-Lemini or Lee Radziwell. There is also a carelessness with respect to musical knowledge - whether it be the "majestic finale" to Fidelio that turns out to be the soprano-tenor duet, or "sing[ing] the Dance of the Seven Veils" from Salomé, or referring to some of Verdi's soaring phrases as arias, such as "Amami Alfredo" or "Vanne lasciami" - that the author might excuse as her interpretation of a certain egotism, but surely any editor receiving such a manuscript would have removed such flagrant errors. We are never allowed to forget that the soprano is a hard worker, but would she have ever talked about the "transformation from a confused novice singer to a professional opera star"?

It is difficult to see who might be interested in a psychoanalytic approach, particularly as the subject has already been amply rehashed in the many books that have been published by both friend and foe, and while the title does carry the warning that this is a novel, many will no doubt accept it as the truth. I particularly like the self-advertising in the introduction where the Callas persona speaks highly of the author's previous work on Virginia Woolf. This is one "autobiography" in which the central figure pulls no punches and literally lets it all hang out. For those who appreciate the genre, it's a good read that might have been better with more serious editorial work.





Alma Bond: The Autobiography of Maria Callas: A Novel.

Birch Brook Press.
Delhi, New York, 1998.

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