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Maria Callas Performs Live in “Master Class”

By Sarah Liebowitz; A&E Editor
On February 9, 2017


Maria Callas ruled the world of opera for 10 years. Her presence will grace the PSU stage this weekend, when faculty member Eva Nagorka embodies her in the staged reading of Terrence McNally’s play “Master Class,” directed by Fran Page.

“Master Class” will show on Feb. 10 and 11 at 7 p.m., in the Smith Recital Hall.

In the play, Maria Callas holds a master class at the Juilliard School. She calls up three “victims,” played by PSU faculty members Emily Jaworski and Brendan Buckley, whom she teaches in front of an audience. The show features glorious music, clever jokes, and snippets into Callas’ life and career.

Maria Callas is often considered the definition of a diva. During her dramatic life, she married a powerful businessman, had an affair with Aristotle Onassis (who later married Jackie Kennedy), went through a dramatic mid-career weight loss, and experienced premature vocal decline. Callas had a unique and controversial voice. Her acting ability and theatricality were constantly praised. While Nagorka was studying voice at a music conservatory, Maria Callas was reaching the end of her career. In the conservatory, Nagorka studied and listened to Callas as one of the greatest actresses in opera.

“She has been a driving force in my career, in my choices, and in my work in opera, and I have always been enthralled with her,” Nagorka said.

Al though she has been acting since high school, “Master Class” is Nagorka’s first serious foray focusing on the drama and theater of the stage, as opposed to the drama and theater of opera, “which are the same, but delivered in a different style,” Nagorka said, “and that’s what prepares me for this role.”

Through her role as Callas, “I have learned so much about being a powerful woman, yet recognizing vulnerability and self-doubt in even these great, great artists,” Nagorka said.

During this weekend’s staged reading, audiences can expect minimal staging. The setting of a master class lends well to this type of performance. “Even if we were doing this in a full performance, it would be the same blocking,” Page said.

Audience members can take this opportunity to open their ears, listen to some of the great arias that were prominent in Callas’ career, and maybe learn something about the life of this influential artist.

In the show, Callas reminds her students, and the audience, to be honest in their work. “The expression of music is to be honest for singers to sing with clarity, and for singers to express the deep feeling of their character,” said Nagorka. “If they do that, then Maria Callas has done her job.” 


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