BBC Arena Commission

BBC Arena Commission

Swan Films has been commissioned by BBC Arts and Classical Music to make a film about the opera singer Maria Callas for the prestigious Arena arts strand.

Arena: Maria Callas (w/t) will focus on the great classical diva of modern times: known around the world for her beauty and fiery temper as much as her voice. She was a cover star with a thirst for the high-life and the looks of a supermodel. She dominated opera until disaster struck – she fell in love with Aristotle Onassis, and when he left her for Jackie Kennedy her life fell apart.

But this tragic legend of Maria Callas isn’t true: Callas was nobody’s victim. She was defiant, exacting – a woman who blazed a trail for female artists of today. But there was one thing that mattered more to her than anything – her astonishing, life-changing voice. It was gradually failing her. And she knew it.

At her peak in the 1950s Callas averaged 50 appearances a year. But between 1959 and 1963 she sang in public only 28 times. She cancelled performances, earning her an (undeserved) reputation as an erratic diva. This film is, in part, a detective story: what was it that made Maria Callas lose her voice?

This film is also a celebration of Callas - her brilliance, originality and determination to be the greatest opera singer alive. A stellar cast of experts and admirers uncover the truth about her and the gift of her extraordinary voice. Her impact on classical music was revolutionary, bringing forgotten roles into the limelight and making them her own: magnificent, indomitable heroines. Callas is the artist who reminded the world what opera is for.

The director and producer is Clare Beavan, the executive producers are Neil Crombie and Joe Evans. The commissioning editor for BBC Arts is Mark Bell.