Blog 42. 25/10/2016 Maria Callas and the Story of the Piano at the Pera Musuem, Istanbul.
Maria Callas and the Story of the Piano at the Pera Musuem, Istanbul.
Whilst on my last trip to Istanbul, I came across this interesting snippet of information at The Pera Museum and thought I would share it with you all. The piano in question, which now takes centre stage in the cafe there, was bought for Maria Callas (Cecilia Sophia Anna Maria Kalogeropolou) by her father. In 1939, father and daughter travelled by liner across the Atlantic through the Straits of Gibraltar to the Aegean. The piano landed at Pire (Piraeus) and was transported to their apartment in Athens. The second protagonist in the story is Elvira de Hidalgo, the daughter of an old Spanish family, who studied at the Conservatory in Vienna and became a Prima Donna at a young age. After a brilliant singing career ranging from the Paris Opera to La Scala in Milan, she became singing teacher at the Athens Conservatory in 1939 and Maria Callas was one of her students.
After the liberation of Greece at the close of WWII, Maria and her father returned back to New York and decided not to take the piano with them and Maria presented it to her teacher, Elvira, as an expression of gratitude. At the time, Carl Ebert was director of the Ankara Conservatory, established years earlier at the wishes of Ataturk, and he invited Elvira de Hidalgo to take up the post there of singing teacher. The piano was transported from Piraeus to Istanbul and then on to Ankara.
The third protagonist in the story is Mordo Dinar whose passion for music began at Galatsaray High School. Dinar devoted his life to music, music lovers and musicians and soon became friends with Elvira. When she became seriously ill she gave him the piano. This time the piano was transported from Ankara to Haydarpasa Station, across the water to Karakoy Quay and on to Dinar’s home. One evening, Yiğit Okur listened to Dinar’s account of the piano’s story at a dinner given by Suna and Inan Kirac, and was inspired to write his novel “The Piano”.
When Dinar died in 2002, his daughter who was living in Madrid, wrote to Yiğit Okur saying “the piano became your novel, I leave it in your charge.”
Yiğit Okur gave this news to Inan Kirac, and Dinar’s daughter was asked how much she wanted for it. She replied, “One day when I am visiting Istanbul, take me to one of those shabby taverns on the Bosphorus. A glass of raki and a fresh bluefish are the price of the piano. Just let it not be lost and have an owner who appreciates its worth.”
Iman Kirac did not let her down. The piano at the Pera Museum belongs to all of us.
Excerpt from “The Embroiderer” Chapter 25
The Setting – The Olympia Theatre, Athens 1929.
‘”If Sophia had any doubts about Maria’s talents, they were quickly put to rest. As the delicate Butterfly, she was captivating. The love duet performed with up-and-coming tenor, Manolios Bouras playing the part of Captain Pinkerton did not disappoint. In Act III, Maria’s skill at portraying Cio-Cio-San’s undying belief that Pinkerton would return held the audience spellbound. Her rendition of ‘Un bel di vedrimo’ brought the house down. Sophia and Nina glowed with pride and Kyria Angeliki, overcome with emotion, patted her chest while choking back the tears.”
“I want to talk to you about your daughter,” said Monsieur Marchand, the distinguished director of the Paris Opera House. “When I first heard that voice – the voice of a goddess – my soul soared. With strict discipline she will shine like a diamond. To possess such a fine voice combined with a gift for drama is a rare talent. That is why I am offering her the chance of a lifetime to study with the best – at the Paris Opera House.”‘