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See The First Stills Of Angelina Jolie As Opera Singer Maria Callas In Her Upcoming Biopic

Photo: Pablo Larraín

Pablo Larraín has a type. After bringing to life Mrs Kennedy’s response to JFK’s assassination in 2016’s Jackie and dressing Kristen Stewart in vintage Chanel as Diana, Princess of Wales for 2021’s Spencer, the Chilean auteur has tapped Angelina Jolie to play “La Divina”, Maria Callas, in a forthcoming biopic. Referred to as “the Bible of opera” by Leonard Bernstein, the Greek-American Callas is perhaps the most famous opera singer of the 20th century, ushering in a revival of Bellini and Rossini with her performances at La Scala (although it’s her performances of Tosca at Covent Garden that are frequently described as some of the greatest of all time). Her talents, however, were frequently overshadowed by the drama in her personal life. As Callas herself once said, “Wherever I am, it is hectic.”

Maria Callas with Aristotle Onassis, with whom she began an affair during her first marriage. Photo: GettyPerhaps

Perhaps most famously – after a difficult childhood and tumultuous first marriage to business tycoon Giovanni Battista Meneghini, whom she accused of stealing from her – Callas began a decades-long relationship with the shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who would go on to leave her for Jackie Kennedy. Beyond being estranged from her family (she once declared that her mother would have to throw herself off a roof before she would give her any cash), the soprano had a long-running feud with her rival at La Scala, Renata Tebaldi; to compare their voices, she once told the press, would be like comparing Champagne with Coca-Cola.

Callas on stage at La Scala during a performance of Medea. Photo: Getty

As is Larraín’s wont, the film, titled Maria, will home in on a specific period in Callas’s life: her final days in Paris in the 1970s, before her death of a heart attack at the age of 53. Steven Knight – who wrote the screenplay for Spencer – penned the script prior to the Writers Guild strike, and as the film is an independent production with an interim agreement from SAG-AFTRA, filming can now begin over eight weeks in Paris, Greece, Budapest and Milan.

Photo: Pablo Larraín

Alongside the Oscar-winning lead, the cast includes Italian actor Valeria Golino as Maria’s older sister, Yakinthi Callas, and Turkish stalwart Haluk Bilginer as Aristotle Onassis, as well as The Power of the Dog’s Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alba Rohrwacher and Pierfrancesco Favino in unspecified roles. It’s also yet to be confirmed whether Jolie will actually sing in the biopic, though she seems up for the challenge. “I take very seriously the responsibility to Maria’s life and legacy,” the actor said in a statement. “I will give all I can to meet the challenge. Pablo Larraín is a director I have long admired.” As for Larraín? “Having the chance to combine my two most deep and personal passions, cinema and opera, has been a long-awaited dream,” he said.

Photo: Pablo Larraín

The first stills were released on October 9 – and they immediately sparked a frenzy. One shows Jolie gazing out of the window while sporting a glamorous ensemble and Callas’s signature winged eye liner, and the other presents her off duty, in a cosy knit and wide-rimmed glasses. Expect more images to surface as filming commences.

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