Maria Callas\'s Million-Dollar Sell-Off by Annick Benoist

Published November 24th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

More than 2,000 items once owned by the opera diva Maria Callas, ranging from hair-pieces to kid slippers, come under the hammer at a Paris auction-house on December 2 and 3, reported Agence France Presse.  

The items which are expected to fetch up to seven million francs (a million dollars, 1.2 million euros) have been put on show and offer a tantalizing glimpse into the private life of the singer who died in her Paris apartment in 1977, aged 53.  

The 415 lots include furniture, artworks, jewels, photographs and musical scores but also items of clothing ranging from a pair of 10-denier black nylon stockings, a bodice and a Christian Dior suspender belt to a floral-design kimono and a bolero with a white mink shawl. 

"La Callas was not just a voice, she was also a woman," auctioneer Frederic Chambre commented.  

Fans of the Greek singer widely regarded as the greatest soprano of the 20th century can also bid for bundles of postcards and personal letters that she received from friends and admirers during her lifetime.  

These include a letter from her first singing instructor Elvira de Hidalgo and another from the film director Luchino Visconti

The items include the singer's personal bible, two portraits by Pier Paolo Pasolini, and a pair of tortoiseshell glasses estimated at 90,000 francs.  

Among the odder items to be up for purchase are a pair of ballerina's slippers, a set of wigs and combs including two pink velvet coat-hangers, the chinchilla cloak that she wore on a famous photograph in which she is seen with her husband and Aristotle Onassis, and a genuine lock of the diva's dark auburn hair, expected to fetch up to 25,000 francs. 

The items have been placed on sale by Ilario Tamassia et Nicolas Petsalis-Diomidis who bought them after Callas' death and can vouch for their authenticity.  

They do not include the furniture from her Paris apartment, sold separately in 1978, or her sumptuous jewelery whose whereabouts, Chambre said, are unknown.  

The auction-house Calmels, Chambre, Cohen has spared no effort to present the event to the media, beginning with the extract from a recording of Callas singing from Tosca on their answering machine.  

A lavishly illustrated bilingual French-English catalogue entitled Souvenirs d'une Legende (Memories of a Legend) has been published to accompany the display of Callas's effects, including several articles about the life of the "voice of the century."  

The sale will be the first in France to be broadcast live on the Internet  

www.theauctionchannel.com and on French satellite television.  

Last year a similar sale by Christie's in New York fetched 13.4 million dollars for 1,500 personal items that had belonged to Marilyn Monroe, and a sale of the personal effects of Jacqueline KennedyM by Sotheby's in 1996 fetched 34.4 million dollars. – AFP. 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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