On Callas Forever

One for the opera buffs: ‘Callas Forever’ profiles a diva on the downslope
Friday, November 26, 2004
At first thought, Fanny Ardant would seem all wrong to play opera diva Maria Callas. The French star (“Ridicule,” “Eight Women”) conveys thoughtful intelligence and quiet elegance, while the ethnic-Greek Callas is remembered as the epitome of fiery temperament.
But in Franco Zeffirelli’s “Callas Forever,” Ardant definitely pulls it off. The film, which was released in Europe more than two years ago, is fairly forgettable but Ardant blends into the sad character so completely that we lose all sense of an actress playing a role.
And she’s so commanding in her scenes lip-syncing Callas’ sublime voice that the movie sparkles here and there with real magic. It’s aimed at opera buffs, but a lot of non-fans will be rushing out to buy the soundtrack album.
The story is a what-if concoction set in 1977, when Callas is 53, long retired from the stage and living a hermitic existence in her Paris apartment, as a character describes her, “mourning the loss of her voice, her career and her youth.”
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