Singer Maria Callas, new film


This September 2018 video says about itself:

Maria By Callas | Official US Trailer HD

Tom Volf’s MARIA BY CALLAS is the first film to tell the life story of the legendary Greek/American opera singer completely in her own words.

Told through performances, TV interviews, home movies, family photographs, private letters and unpublished memoirs—nearly all of which have never been shown to the public—the film reveals the essence of an extraordinary woman who rose from humble beginnings in New York City to become a glamorous international superstar and one of the greatest artists of all time.

Assembling the material for the film took director Volf four years of painstaking research, which included personal outreach to dozens of Callas’s closest friends and associates, who allowed him to share their personal memorabilia in the film. When recordings of Callas’s voice aren’t available, Joyce DiDonato, one of contemporary opera’s biggest stars, reads her words.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

Maria by Callas: A documentary on the life of the famed opera singer

8 December 2018

From France, Tom Volf’s Maria by Callas is an engrossing documentary about the legendary Greek-American opera soprano. An intimate portrait of Maria Callas (1923-1977) is presented through archival material, television interviews, home movies, family photographs and unpublished memoirs. Opera star Joyce DiDonato reads Callas’ words, when recordings of Callas are unavailable.

Volf’s research is meticulous. He tracked down a global array of people with expertise on Callas, filming interviews with 30 of the singer’s friends in nearly a dozen countries who “opened up their cupboards and pulled out 8mm films, audio tape reels, letters, and photos. He quickly realized that a large part of this memorabilia was previously unseen and had never been shown in public before,” according to the movie’s production notes.

Says Volf: “I understood very quickly that she was not only a phenomenon in her lifetime, she was still a phenomenon in 2013, nearly four decades after her death.”

One of the film’s highlights is Callas’ 1970 interview with commentator and television host David Frost. Portions of the 17-minute interview are interspersed throughout the documentary, which toggles between her career and personal life. A key theme of Maria by Callas is Maria’s comment to Frost, “There are two people in me actually, Maria and Callas … If someone really tries to listen to me, he will find all of myself there.” Volf is adept at presenting, as he says, “how the two communicate and sometimes struggle, and sometimes sacrifice one to the other.”

One segment shows dedicated young people waiting, and sleeping, on line in New York City for a chance to hear Callas sing. Also mentioned is her notorious (she was ill) 1958 “Rome Cancellation”, as well as her publicized conflict with the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager (1950-1972) Rudolf Bing. There is, as well, in-depth footage of her complicated relationship with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Longtime friend Nadia Stancioff (author of Maria Callas Remembered) and Georges Prêtre, one of her favorite conductors, also form part of the film’s fabric.

Notably, Callas worked with Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini on his film, Medea (1969), her only film role, and developed a close friendship with the influential director and writer.

The film brings out the immense pressures exerted on Callas by the demands, on the one hand, of an art form that requires constant artistic obsession and near perfection and, on the other, of her status, in the words of a commentator, as “one of the world’s first international celebrities, especially after she began her affair with shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1959. The paparazzi couldn’t get enough of her.” The combined pressures may well have helped lead to her early death from a heart attack at the age of 53, while living in considerable isolation.

Undoubtedly, one of the film’s most breathtaking moments is Callas’ 1958 performance in concert of “Casta Diva” (Chaste Goddess), the famed aria from Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma.

This music video shows that 1958 performance.

Sung at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra in Paris, it is, according to the movie’s production notes, “presented for the very first time in color and shows a Callas at the pinnacle of her career. We will see her Norma seven years later in the film, when she has to abandon the stage in Paris in 1965. It’s the last time she ever sang it and her last but one performance ever on an operatic stage. One could say her career started with Norma (back in 1947) and ended with it.”

Also featured are sublime performances of arias from Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata —“Addio del passato” (Farewell to the Past, 1958); Georges Bizet’s Carmen —“L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (Love is a Rebellious Bird, 1962); and Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca—“Vissi d’arte, Vissi d’amore” (I Lived for Art, I Lived for Love, 1963).

Volf’s films does not choose to take up the more controversial question of Callas’s activity, while still a teenager, in occupied Greece during World War II. In The Unknown Callas: The Greek Years, author Nicholas Petsalis-Diomidis discusses the singer’s performances at concerts attended by Italian and German troops. He takes note of “the number of Greek singers who took part, although the events were organized by the loathed enemy. Even those with leftist political views seldom missed such opportunities to make a public appearance, to further their careers and be rewarded for their services, usually with food that could not otherwise be obtained at any price. Of course there was no question of their being accused of collaboration.”

However, in Callas’ case, “her accusers have concentrated much more on her social intercourse with Italians … than on her ‘collaboration’ in the field of music. … In [Callas’] case it is beyond question that she did have close friendships with a number of Italians on a clearly personal basis.”

In a review of Petsalis-Diomidis’s book, the Telegraph wrote, “There is also a lot here about Callas’ personal life. Her mother, as they used to say, was no better than she should be during the war, with lovers ranging from an Italian colonel to German officers. Callas took up with a Fascist major, a paratrooper, a German music critic, a British officer who got her a job at Army HQ and a Greek businessman (shades of things to come), who paid for her return ticket to America.”

It should be noted that left-wing Italian artists such as Pasolini and Luchino Visconti did not consider Callas’ wartime activities an obstacle. Visconti first directed the singer in a 1954 production of Gaspare Spontini’s La Vestale at Milan’s La Scala. Four other collaborations (one of them conducted by Leonard Bernstein) followed over the course of several years. In a 1969 joint television interview, Visconti explained, “I started to direct opera because of … no, not because of, but for Maria Callas.”

Advertisements

‘World’s oldest shipwreck discovered’


The newly discovered ancient Greek ship, photo Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP)

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Researchers report finding oldest shipwreck in the world

Archaeologists have found the wreck of an intact Greek ship at the bottom of the Black Sea. According to them, it has probably been already for more than 2400 years at the bottom of the sea. Archaeologists think it is the oldest complete shipwreck in the world.

The ship is 23 meters long and lies at a depth of over two kilometers, about 75 kilometers off the coast of Bulgaria. The lack of oxygen at that depth, according to the archaeologists, ensured that the mast, rudders and rowing bags of the ship were preserved.

Professor Jon Adams of the Black Sea Archeology Project, the team that found the ship, never thought that such a discovery would be possible. “It is changing our understanding of shipbuilding and shipping in the ancient world.”

The researchers think it is a commercial ship, of a type that has so far only been seen on ancient Greek pottery such as the Siren Vase in the British Museum. This vase dates from the same period as the found wreck, a few centuries BC, and shows how the mythological hero Odysseus sailed past the Sirens.

The Siren Vase at the British Museum

The researchers removed a small piece of the wreck to date it, but then left the ship alone.

The Black Sea Archeology Project is a three-year project that traces shipwrecks at great depths in the Black Sea. Meanwhile, more than sixty have already been found.

The world’s oldest intact shipwreck has been discovered in the Black Sea. Archaeologists say the 75-foot vessel has sat on the seabed undisturbed for more than 2,400 years.

Stopping donkey abuse on Greek island Santorini


Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Heavy tourists are no longer allowed on donkeys on Santorini

Tourists who weigh more than 100 kilos are no longer allowed to ride on donkeys on the Greek island of Santorini. The Greek Ministry of Agriculture has determined this with a new law.

Donkeys are popular with tourists on the island to climb the steep steps to the capital Fira – a walk of about half an hour.

Damage to vertebrae

The volcanic Santorini is the most popular Greek holiday island, partly because of the world-famous sunset near the town of Oia. The island with over 15,000 inhabitants annually attracts more than two million tourists and that number is growing.

As a result, the donkeys are used more and more often. Animal rights organizations such as The Donkey Sanctuary and PETA have been fighting against the situation of the donkeys in Santorini for some time.

The animals are said to regularly have overweight tourists on their backs, causing damage their vertebrae. In addition, they are used seven days a week in the burning sun while they get little food and drink, they suffer from stress and worn saddles cause wounds in the animals.

The campaigns of all the action groups together, including a petition on change.org that was signed more than 100,000 times, led to the problems with donkeys in Santorini becoming higher on the agenda of the Greek government.

This 10 September 2018 video says about itself:

An eyewitness report published by PETA Germany reveals the horrific conditions that approximately 100 donkeys and mules are forced to endure every day on the Greek island of Santorini. They carry heavy loads, are given practically no respite from the hot Mediterranean sun, and are even denied access to water. They also incur wounds and abrasions from ill-fitting and worn-out saddles.

Greek neonazis’ violent attack on MP


This February 2017 video says about itself:

“The true homeland of Golden Dawn is Nazi Germany

The release of a video of a neo-Nazi rock concert in 2005 attended by the leadership of Golden Dawn in Greece has grabbed headlines and is proving a major blow to the fascist party, which is on trial for constituting a criminal organisation.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Extreme right-wing activists violently attack Greek MP

In Greece a member of parliament has been beaten up by probably dozens of extreme right-wing activists. He was taken to the hospital injured.

The victim, 40-year-old Petros Konstantineas of the left-wing government party Syriza, was attacked after visiting a football match in the city of Kalamata with his son. A party member says to Greek media that it concerned about thirty extreme right-wing perpetrators.

Greek political parties have reacted with horror to the attack. Prime Minister Tsipras, also of Syriza, says that the “fascists” who attacked Konstantineas will be tried. The police have now arrested five suspects.

Referee

The injuries of the victim are not serious. He may probably be discharged from the hospital soon.

Konstantineas is a fairly well-known member of parliament, partly because of his previous career as a professional football referee. He has been in parliament since 2015.

Neonazism in Greece and Germany


A huge demonstration in Piraeus, Athens, Greece this week. The front banner reads in red 'finish with the nazis.' Demos marked the fifth anniversary of the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas

By Kevin Ovenden:

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Call a Nazi a Nazi

KEVIN OVENDEN reports on the fascist right and racism in Greece and Germany

Demonstrations and concerts took place across Greece this week to mark the fifth anniversary of the murder by Golden Dawn neonazis of rap artist Pavlos Fyssas.

That case forms part of the base of the trial of Golden Dawn to determine it a criminal organisation masquerading as a political party. The trial began in April 2015 and is now in its final stages. Verdicts are expected early next spring.

To mark the anniversary also, the radical left GUE/NGL grouping of members of the European Parliament published a study I produced for them and the wider anti-fascist movement. It is titled “The Terrorist Activity Of Neonazi Organisations In Europe: the case of Golden Dawn.”

It is based on the three-and-a-half years of court proceedings and on the work of the Jail Golden Dawn small group of lawyers acting for the anti-fascist movement in Greece and for some of the victims of scores of neonazi crimes.

It falls into two parts. A forensic examination of the critical evidence and an assessment of the implications for mass democratic opposition to violent racism and the fascist threats which are so apparent in much of Europe today.

It is important to understand the nature and legal basis of the prosecution. In the Greek legal system it is driven principally by the victims and their lawyers, with the state prosecuting authorities adopting a less adversarial role.

It is not a trial of ideas. It is not seeking to ban Golden Dawn under those kinds of constitutional provisions or restrictions on speech and political organisation which exist in many countries to protect liberal democracy.

It is a criminal trial under criminal law — specifically Article 187 of the penal code introduced to deal with the prosecution of mafia and organised crime.

Golden Dawn cadres are on trial for acts not words — murder, attempted murder, grievous bodily harm, arson, extortion and other serious felonies.

The leadership and organisation as a whole are also charged with running a criminal organisation which commissions and directs those violent actions in the way a mafia don controls the foot soldier directly perpetrating a crime.

It’s on that rigorous legal ground that the prosecution has sought to explore the failure over decades of the Greek state to deal with neonazism, evidence of collaboration between elements of the police and state with Golden Dawn, connections to the wider right and the necessary criminality of a neonazi organisation.

The legal logic parallels the Nuremberg process after the second world war.

We await the verdicts, but the legal and political strategy is something for all opposed to the threat of fascism elsewhere to consider.

It is in contrast to the recent failed state prosecution of the nazi-inspired NPD in Germany, for example. That was under the constitutional basic law outlawing parties which “threaten democracy” — a much more slippery and double-edged provision than penal law.

The prosecution had to be abandoned when it became clear that the penetration of the NPD by German domestic intelligence had become so unmanaged and legally dubious that the court said the defence had a good claim to being manipulated by agent provocateur actions.

The failure was a big boost for the German far right and posed some serious questions about the security state response to fascism.

That also came out — though less strongly than it ought to have — in the trial of the sole surviving member of the banned nazi terror group the National Socialist Underground in Munich.

The NSU was able for years to commit major crimes, including the murders of 10 people — a policewoman and nine immigrants.

Despite judges restricting the scope of the trial, there was strong evidence that one reason for the spectacular failure of intelligence and police agencies — in addition to racist and false assumptions that the victims were in criminal gangs — was the protection of “sources” inside the far right.

In several instances it seems these “intelligence assets” were taking state pay-offs and using them to facilitate crimes by the fascist right, to which they remained wholly committed.

Little of this or of the associations of NSU nazi terrorists and the wider far right, including its more “respectable” wing, was examined.

The enforced removal of the German equivalent of the director of MI5, Hans-Georg Maassen, this week raises further concerns as to why.

The East German city of Chemnitz saw frightening rampages by the fascist right whipping up wider layers against refugees and immigrants at the end of August. Global media reported many phone-videos, witness testimony and other evidence of a pogrom-like atmosphere. Hundreds of riot police failed to intervene to protect those attacked.

But Maassen said, incredibly, that his agency had seen no such evidence and he endorsed the false claims of the far right that Chemnitz was merely a spontaneous eruption of concerned citizens. That is despite a copycat mobilisation in another German town two weeks later where a violent core raised the chant: “National-Socialism [Nazism] now!”

It was also reported that Maassen had provided unpublished figures from the domestic intelligence to MPs of the far right AfD.

Angela Merkel’s coalition government has finally acquiesced to demands from the left for his removal, but he has been, in effect, promoted to a post in the office of hard-right Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

His CSU party in Bavaria is shifting further to the racist right to try to stem the loss of conservative votes next month to the AfD, in which a fascisising wing is now dominant.

The episode casts light on the morphing nexus between racist demagogic politicians, the far right, actual neonazism and violent criminality and the failures, or worse, of the security state apparatus.

That apparatus has grown enormously across Europe in the wake of the war on terror. From France and its state of emergency to Germany and its bans on communists from employment by the Bonn state after WWII there is no lack of policing and intelligence powers.

The issue is a lack of political determination and a constant prejudice to see the left and immigrant communities as the threat, not the adherents of Hitlerism.

The biggest group of terror investigations in Britain in the last 12 months has been of the far right — such is the threat.

How many more might have been foiled and criminals brought to justice had the authorities not been sending spy cops into environmental and peace groups, blacklisting trade unionists or criminalising law-abiding Muslims with the Prevent strategy these last 20 years?

Frenzied anti-leftism is one common thread across the spectrum of radical and racist right-wing politics from parliamentary figures over to the neonazi terror gangs.

The distinctions between the different formations are important, but they are not absolute.

The far-right Swedish Democrats emerged from the Nordic neonazi scene, made a turn to parliamentary politics but, in the course of advancing, incubate today the most violent fascist elements on their fringes.

The AfD in Germany evolved from being a Thatcherite chauvinist response to EU bailouts for the European south to putting anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant racism at the centre and producing a leadership that is fascist.

The new communications technologies mean that it is much easier for right-wing populist

The word ‘populist’ should not be used for the extreme right.

activists to form links with hardened nazis, whatever formal political affiliation they hold.

The experience of Greece shows the importance for the left and consistent democrats in highlighting the violent fascist, neonazi formations that are growing in the swamp of the transatlantic far right, boosted by Donald Trump in the US.

Of course, all far-right charlatans will seek to exploit people’s economic hardships and prevalent reactionary prejudices.

But it is not a “spontaneous” reaction of a precariously employed worker in Germany who mistakenly believes there is too much immigration to take to the streets demanding the return of the Third Reich.

That requires a hardened fascist mechanism. And we will not isolate that core mechanism from those it seeks to con unless we name it as such. Neonazism is at the heart of that mechanism from London to Lithuania.

There is a further necessity — not to yield a millimetre to racist ideas but instead to counter those lies with a militant anti-racism based upon the good sense of working people.

Horst Seehofer tries to straddle the parliamentary and fascist racist right by saying: “The mother of all problems is migration.”

He was due to speak in Frankfurt this week but was a no-show. That did not stop 6,000 people demonstrating against him.

There were banners for the refugees and against Fortress Europe. One huge banner caught my eye. It read: “The mother of all problems is the contradiction between us and the fat cats.”

These are the messages that must be taken to every workplace and neighbourhood — and onto the streets — across Europe.