Tuesday, 14 February 2012

La Divina in London

Madam Arcati and I went to a see a real treat last night - the marvellous Tyne Daly (of Cagney and Lacey fame) portraying Maria Callas in Master Class.

"Class" is most definitely the word! In a truly awe-inspiring performance, Miss Daly managed the "suspension of disbelief" and transformed herself into "La Divina" before our eyes, strutting and preening about the stage, in most definite charge of the operatic masterclass of the title, berating and praising her victims - sorry, students [an able supporting cast of young talent including Jeremy Cohen, Naomi O'Connell, Diane Pilkington and Garrett Sorenson] - in turn.

Quite rightly, Miss Daly has received rave reviews and accolades galore for this astounding achievement. Her monologues, as she recalls her stormy (and ultimately doomed) relationship with the brutish Aristotle Onassis, her dreadful younger days in wartime Greece and her estrangement from her mother, and of course her operatic triumphs at La Scala, Covent Garden and the New York Met, were truly breathtaking - to the point that we, the audience, did not know whether to applaud or cry. Madame Callas's constant exhortations to the audience not to applaud - "this is not about me", she kept (un)subtlely reminding us - made that struggle all the more difficult. For this performance is more than worthy of the highest applause.

In ninety minutes, we felt we knew every foible of this extraordinary woman - hard as nails, yet fragile inside; pompous and insufferable, yet a woman driven by her inner demons to become the best; cruel on occasions, yet the survivor of many cruel indignities herself.


Here's just a brief taster:

Master Class was a smash hit on Broadway, and was written by one of the best - the fabulous out-gay playwright Terrence McNally, who not only wrote one of my all-time fave films The Ritz, but also the "books" for such modern hit shows/films as The Full Monty, Kiss Of the Spiderwoman, Ragtime, and the forthcoming Catch Me If You Can.

Edward Albee, Terrence McNally, Larry Kramer

Apart from Master Class, Mr McNally has won awards for his plays Corpus Christi and Love! Valour! Compassion!. He remains a staunch gay rights advocate and married his partner Tom Kirdahy in 2010.

It is showing for a strictly limited season until 28th April 2012 at The Vaudeville Theatre. Miss this at your peril!

Visit the official Master Class website for more information and tickets.

And to conclude, let us enjoy a sample of the genius that was La Divina herself. I would have posted her sublime version of Vissi d'Arte, but that would invoke unfair comparisons with the interpretation by Miss Leontyne Pryce that I featured on Saturday. Thus, it is to Bellini's Norma we turn, for her glorious Casta Diva:

Maria Callas on Wikipedia


  1. I would never have thought of Tyne Daly for this role. How wonderful!

    As is that trio of gay theatrical icons.

  2. She wowed the audiences on Broadway, too - surprised you didn't hear about it! And yes - the tryptych of icons was just too fabulous to leave out. Jx

  3. I don't follow Broadway much anymore. I live in a bubble.

  4. A glittering, sparkling diamante bubble worthy of an Esther Williams movie, of course... Jx


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