With so much biographical literature already available on Maria Callas, any new volume at this point, almost a quarter century after her death, had better be prepared to offer something truly new in the way of either information or insight. Although Anne Edwards is a respected biographer of famous, unhappy women (i.e., Viven Leigh, Princess Diana of Wales), her latest effort does not, on the whole, meet this standard.
There are new details about Callas' life that pique the interest: a closer recounting of her miserable years in wartime Greece, painting her mother Litza in even blacker colors than in previous material; gossip about Onassis' encounters with other famous women (I had never heard, for example, of his alleged youthful affair with another diva, Claudia Muzio); and more detail about the tangled web that was woven after her death, when the pianist Vasso Devetzi, who had befriended her in her last years, swindled her mother and sister out of literally millions of dollars from the singer's estate. These tidbits are recounted with enough authority to make the reader wonder where the information came from, since Edwards provides only scanty documentation about her sources. Her refutation of Nicholas Gage's claim of there having been a Callas-Onassis "love child" proves to be largely assertion and re-interpretation of existing fact. Set against this is the mostly familiar retelling of stories that have been told ad nauseam--the feud with Bing, the Rome walkout--perpetuating in some cases falsehoods that have been disproven. Edwards proves unable to shed new light on what created the excitement about Callas in the first place--her vocal and dramatic abilities that made her the most charismatic operatic performer of her time. A plethora of careless misspellings that could easily have been checked (Renata "Tibaldi", "Katrina" Paxinou for example), further undermines credibility when she attempts to address the diva's career.
The reader who wants true insight into Callas' unique artisty should investigate vastly superior writing by John Ardoin, Gerald Fitzgerald, George Jellinek and Michael Scott. As far as gossip about her life is concerned there are any number of books by people who actually knew Callas. For that matter, Arianna Stassinopoulos' effort from the early eighties is better written, and if she plagiarized her material, as some assert, she at least stole from authoritative sources.