SOPRANO Mairéad Buicke gave an emphatic yes when asked to perform the lead role of Maria Callas in the show about her life, Casta Diva, the life, loves and music of Maria Callas.
But in preparing for the role, Mairéad dug deep into the archives, watching documentaries and reading books and articles in a bid to really understand one of the most amazing Divas the world of singing and opera has ever known.
“No other opera singer has sung like her,” Newcastle West-born Mairéad says with conviction, disagreeing with those who consider Callas’ voice to be strident and even harsh. “I don’t think that is fair,” Mairéad says simply.
But to carry the part of Callas, she had to study Callas’ physical bearing, her mannerisms and the way she interpreted the arias she sang. “She was an amazing musician as well. She sang every note on the page and she knew the scores inside out,” Mairéad explains.“She had a very distinctive tone and that is what carried her. And her tone came from her emotions.”
But of course, in the end, Mairéad sings in her own voice. And she is quick to point out that the repertoire featured in Casta Diva, is “perfect for my voice”. It is, she says, where her voice “sits”.
But the show is much more than a string of favourite Callas arias, Mairéad continues. It is “very intelligently written” by Niall Morris and covers the singer’s early career, when she was young and very heavy, her subsequent weight loss and career and the stormy relationships with the two main men in her life, Battista Meneghini and Aristotle Onasis. And these scenes are threaded through with the arias and duets for which Callas is still remembered today. For the audience, Mairéad believes, it is a chance to get inside Callas’ head. But for all that, Mairéad believes, no one every knew who the person was behind Maria Callas. “She was defined by being Maria Callas. She was such an icon.”
In the National Concert Hall, Casta Diva received a standing ovation and will return there due to demand in February. And Limerick audiences will have the chance to enjoy it on Friday, November 9 at the University Concert Hall.
“I am really excited about being on home ground. It is really nice to be going home with a show like this which showcases all the repertoire I have spent years learning. I am really looking forward to it,” Mairéad enthuses.
Mairéad is an honours graduate of the Royal Irish Academy and trained with Dr Veronica Dunne before moving to London and the National Opera Studio. She worked as a young principal with the English National Opera for over three years and was a sensation in the lead role of Tosca for Grange Park Opera last year. Earlier this year she starred in the BBC Proms series, which she described as an amazing experience. Tickets for Casta Diva are available from the University Concert Hall at 061-331549 or www.uch.ie