July 2020 | Rebecca Rego Barry

For Sale: Maria Callas’ Personal Collection of Musical Scores

Courtesy of Christie's

Opera fans might hit a high note when they hear this: a collection of musical scores from the personal library of the legendary American-born Greek soprano Maria Callas is being offered in an online sale at Christie’s that ends on July 30. Chiefly dating from the 1940s and 50s, many of the scores contain annotations by Callas and dedications from composers, librettists, and admirers, according to the auction house. The scores were “apparently used by Callas for productions in which she performed," with some, like Poliuto, showing her cuts marked in blue crayon as she prepared for a 1960 performance at La Scala.

Courtesy of Christie's

“The present scores are as enticing for the tangible connection they offer to the roles Callas came to define – her marked copies of Il pirata, Carmen and Poliuto are a highlight – as they are for tracing an alternate career of parts left un-sung: the duets marked in the score for Francesca da Rimini, for example, in which the titular role was famously taken by Magda Olivero in the 1959 La Scala production, offer a tantalizing glimpse of the performances that might have been,” said Christie’s.

Callas died a very wealthy woman in 1977. A major Sotheby’s sale of her estate in Milan in 2007 that included gowns, jewelry, and her record collection also contained the 55 musical scores – in her personalized cloth bindings, in various colors, bearing her monogram on the spine – now back on the market with Christie’s and estimated to sell for $15,000-23,000.