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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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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Maria Callas
... Larry Kelly
... Sarah Keller
... Michael
... Marco / Don Jose
... Esteban Gomez
... Scarpia
Jean Dalric ... Gerard
... Brendan
Anna Lelio ... Bruna
Alessandro Bertolucci ... Marcello
Olivier Galfione ... Thierry
Roberto Sanchez ... Escamillo
Achille Brugnini ... Ferruccio
... Eugene


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, Limited Release

Opening Weekend USA:

$37,855, 7 November 2004, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$445,996, 12 June 2005
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


A poster of AC/DC's "If You want Blood, You've got It" is seen hanging on a wall of the production company. The record was released in 1978 (one year after Maria Callas' death). See more »


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


Donna non vidi mai
from "Manon Lescaut"
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Performed by Nicola Rossi Giordano
See more »

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User Reviews

Diva Fantasy Salvaged by Real Opera Production and an Inspired Ardant
5 March 2006 | by See all my reviews

Gallic actress Fanny Ardant is an inspired choice to play Maria Callas, and with her uncanny physical and likely temperamental resemblance, she plays the legendary soprano with real brio and scenery-chewing style. I would not have expected anything less in such a fanciful telling of a what-if scenario that sprouted out of director Franco Zeffirelli's fertile imagination. Zeffirelli is no stranger to the extravagant and visually resplendent as he helmed the Burtons-at-play 1967 "The Taming of the Shrew" and the much-beloved, age-appropriate 1968 version of "Romeo and Juliet". His long-time professional relationship with Callas provides the basis for this fantasy where in 1977, she is drawn out of self-imposed exile and into the limelight one last time by a fictitious concert promoter, Larry Kelly, who had long ago decided to forego opera for the more lucrative world of punk rock. Sporting a silly ponytail, Jeremy Irons portrays Kelly as a predictably irascible character who mercurially worships and degrades her as the circumstance dictates, a variation on the character he would play in "Being Julia". This time, his character is gay, of course, probably to avoid any element of romance that would detract from Callas' obsession with preserving her legacy.

Kelly's idea is to film her while acting out famous operatic roles on a sound stage and lip-synching the words, whereupon sound engineers would graft her recordings of some 22 years earlier onto the sound track. The series is to be called "Callas Forever" and starts with Bizet's "Carmen". After a rapid series of contrived scenes that resuscitate Callas from her Paris apartment seclusion back to international press attention, the film finally catches fire with the scenes that create the opera production itself. This is where Zeffirelli really shines as he makes Ardant look and act strikingly like Callas at her most passionate and charismatic. She is, of course, adored by her colleagues (in particular, an admiring young tenor playing Don Jose, as embodied by Gabriel Garko) and seems on the brink of a renaissance. Alas, it is the completion of this production that inspires Zeffirelli, along with co-writer Martin Sherman, to take the plot to the height of soap opera banality. Basking in her newly reborn confidence, Callas wants to take on Puccini's "Tosca" with her real voice, an idea supported blindly by Kelly but rejected by her backers. Instead of being crushed, she seems resigned to her legacy and insists that her "Carmen" be destroyed as she deems it a fraud.

That she comes to this realization after the fact is one of the central conceits of the film since it implies she has been cavalier about the efforts around her who did believe in her, but I suppose that is what diva behavior is all about. After all, at the beginning, Callas is portrayed as a pill-popper who feels sorry for herself as a has-been, her voice shot during an infamous tour in Japan, and as the rejected paramour of Aristotle Onassis, who cast her aside to marry Jackie Kennedy. Throughout the movie, she is haunted by her former voice with ghostly visions of her stage triumphs. These kinds of excesses seem appropriate to this kind of tribute film, but it all feels so predictably over-the-top. Sadly, Joan Plowright stereotypically plays a music journalist as a wisecracking, truth-bearing confidante that Thelma Ritter would have played with greater aplomb in the fifties. There is a persistent clunkiness to Zeffirelli and Sherman's screenplay and an overall lack of subtlety that can only be blamed on Zeffirelli's heavily ornate, Baroque film-making style. The DVD is short on extras as there is no audio commentary track, but it does include a brief making-of featurette, additional interview excerpts with Zeffirelli and the principal players and several trailers including the one for the movie.

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