“Perhaps the greatest gift of Maria by Callas that gives it an advantage over so many recent biographical music documentaries is how willing it is to let its subject just perform, uninterrupted,” writes Emily Yoshida in Tuesday’s (10/30) Vulture.com. “The first we are treated to is perhaps her most famous, the ‘Casta Diva’ from Bellini’s Norma…. There’s something deeply lived-in and known about how Callas approached these performances, some seriously grown-up-woman stuff. Of course we would want to know the life that inspired them. The embrace of performance footage is a fitting approach for a documentary that, as the title suggests, aims to present the 20th-century opera prima donna in her own words…. It also feels incomplete…. Aside from some very brief references to Callas’s childhood in America and rigorous musical tutelage in Greece, the story really starts quite far into her life as a star; never do we get the story of the rise, the public’s head-snapping ‘who’s that?’ moment…. This, despite the abundance of primary sources (and warm, emotive readings of Callas’s letters by opera star Joyce DiDonato) makes it hard to connect to a woman whose life is seemingly so all-caps, so far-flung and outsize.”

Posted November 5, 2018