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Callas Forever (2002)

The last days of legendary opera singer Maria Callas.



(original idea), (scenario) | 1 more credit »

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1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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In 1977, Maria Callas, the most famous diva in the world, lives confined in her Paris apartment. Larry Kelly, a producer friend, offers her to sing "Carmen" in a televised concert. Unfortunately Maria's voice, tired and worn by years and strain, is not what it used to be. Larry knows the way around the problem : a technical stratagem will create the illusion. Maria, disregarding her friend Sarah's warning, agrees with the idea and the show is a tremendous success. With that in mind, Larry now considers a new version of "Tosca". But this time, Maria objects to the subterfuge. Her decision will mark the beginning of the end for the legendary singer. Written by Guy Bellinger

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and strong language | See all certifications »



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Release Date:

18 September 2002 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Callas, a Diva  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

€338,565 (Italy) (22 September 2002)


$445,996 (USA) (12 June 2005)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film is set in 1977, however extras are seen wearing modern (2001/2) clothes and modern cars are seen in the background. See more »


Referenced in Le code a changé (2009) See more »


(Prélude - Habanera - Chanson bohème - Air de la fleur - Choeru et scène Finale)
Performed by Maria Callas (soprano) - Nicolai Gedda (tenor) - Nadine Sautereau (soprano) - Jane Berbié (mezzo-soprano),
Choeurs René Ducllos, Choeurs d'enfants Jean Pesnaud, Orchestre de l'Opéra national de Paris (as Orchestre du Théâtre National de l'Opéra de Paris)
Conducted by Georges Prêtre
Enregistrement EMI Classics
(P) 1964 EMI Records Ltd
See more »

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User Reviews

Fascinating film
19 July 2004 | by (Genoa Italy) – See all my reviews

By 1977 (as the movie begins) Maria C. had become very much an icon, so the movie's emphasis on her large gay following is defensible I suppose, though Jeremy Irons' paramour is simply too good-looking for the part.

There was a film called Beethoven's Nephew a few years ago with a similar issue. Serious problem arise with casting attractive males in movies when they really have no qualities apart from their looks.

The Jeremy Irons character is a promoter who comes up with a thoroughly whacked-out idea for making money off the diva in what would turn out to be the last year of her life. He talks her into it -- re-staging Carmen for a movie and having her lip-sync to a tape made 20 years before -- and what we see produced is certainly knock-down gorgeous (Zefferelli directed this, after all), but still it is an absurd humiliation for the woman. Fortunately she comes to her senses at the end and gets the film quashed. (All this really happened, incidentally.) But the whole experience saves her life, in a sense, bringing her out of wasted years of drugs and a curtained existence in an elegant Paris apartment, to an acceptance of her age and an understanding of her place in high musical culture.

Fanny Ardant doesn't really look like Callas in the movie, though in the promotional stills she seems to. She can certainly act though, and makes an archetypal larger-than-life woman believable and thoroughly sympathetic. Joan Plowright is miscast, but the movie is strong enough to bury the memory of her part. There are scenes involving a board of directors that are just peculiar; apparently there is a parallel universe out there where corporate boards meet at the top of tall buildings to talk about the investment opportunities of aging opera stars. Fortunately those sequences are brief.

Some very nice touches appear having to do with Aristotle Onassis, who arguably destroyed the greatest opera singer in the 20th century, then dumped her. Coming to understand the depth of that betrayal is a painful undercurrent for Callas in the film.

For me one of the most intriguing scenes has to do with a handful of master classes Callas gave in New York at the very end of her life. I don't remember why, but I had a recording of some of them several years ago, lost now, alas. They were notable mainly for the uncanny perfection of Callas's examples when she would sing bits of arias for the students, following some young voice's painful attempt at the same piece. In one of the class's recreations in the film, while very brief, Callas-as-teacher rises to the kind of intellectual and emotional profundity that one-in-a-million teachers ever achieve. I was simply knocked out. Fanny Ardant does her very best work here, and the sequence is the emotional high-point of the film. I had tears in my eyes during the scene, something that usually nothing less than a hobbit will inspire in me.

The very end of the film is moving and utterly satisfying -- bittersweet, tragic, beautiful, more Puccini than Verdi.

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