Maria Callas underwent a significant weight loss of about 40 kilograms in 1954. The dramatic physical transformation was said to have been brought about because, at 108 kgs, she felt the pressure to be thin because she learned that she was mocked for being fat. Maria Callas reportedly started consuming a diet based on consuming iodine for weight loss. Check out her before and after pictures.
Maria Callas was the greatest, the most renowned, and the most influential opera singer of the 20th century. It was she who revived the genre of bel canto, which had mostly been forgotten, with her enchanting and distinctive voice with its sheer vocal power and technical agility. Her bel canto technique, dramatic interpretations, and wide-ranging human were simply heavenly. She was rightfully hailed as La Divina (The Divine One).
Leonard Bernstein called Maria Callas “the Bible of opera” and with her unparalleled vocal talent and musical artistry, she definitely was. As Opera News wrote about her, she’s still the definition of the diva as an artist and she is still one of classical music’s best-selling vocalists. She had a brilliant career and the only tragic thing about it is how her career was short-lived because her voice was affected. Many think that she lost the magic of her voice because of her drastic weight loss but is that true? Let’s learn about her dramatic physical transformation!
Maria Callas Before and After Weight Loss: What Diet Was She On?
Maria Callas had the most dramatic, stunning, and tragic weight loss which turned her into an international celebrity overnight. She lost around 40 kilograms which was deemed a great improvement in her aesthetic but her voice was said to have been affected by her transformation.
Maria Callas underwent a drastic weight loss of 40kgs in 1954.
Image Source: The Telegraph
For someone who had made her name with her voice, who had established herself in the music scene, one would not think that her physical appearance would not concern her much and it ought not to because the magic is in her voice but unfortunately, it was not so for Callas who found herself feeling pressured to be thin at the prime of her career. When she began her international career in 1947, which was the time when opera singers were overweight, her weight was not a big deal to her. But, soon, she would go to any length for weight loss.
As time went on, Maria Callas reached 108 kg and she could not bear it because, at that weight, she didn’t feel good about herself. She felt ugly and unlovable and she was miserable because of it. She might have started to get self-conscious about her weight in that way because she learned how people would mock her for being fat. She reportedly heard Franco Zeffirelli compare her ankles to an elephant’s leg as he loudly asked, “Why is she so fat?” No wonder she decided to undergo weight loss.
It was not just comments like these. There have been reports that some people refused to work with her unless she lost weight. For instance, Rudolf Bing was said to have been “repelled by her monstrously fat and awkward appearance.” He apparently told Maria Callas that she had a lot to learn before she could star at the Met. Director Luchino Visconti also rejected her because of her weight and said that she had to lose 30 kg to work with him. Thus, it was for her career as well that she embarked on a weight loss journey.
Now, what did the opera singer do to lose weight? Well, the legend has it that she deliberately swallowed a tapeworm. She did have to get treatment for tapeworms but it was because she was very fond of raw steak which might have caused that, is what Tosi, president of the International Maria Callas Association, claimed but some people still believe that she did the former for weight loss.
Maria Callas was rumored to have swallowed tapeworm to lose weight.
Image Source: Vogue
There have been other reports that she shed her weight by following a diet based on consuming iodine which later went on to affect her central nervous system and change her metabolism. However she did it, she turned into a beautiful swan and her celebrity rose overnight internationally. She transformed herself into a slender and elegant diva from fat and dowdy opera with her weight loss and people couldn’t stop talking about it.
Maria Callas, the food-loving soprano, turned away from food and maintained her body for the rest of her life. She loved cakes and puddings but ate only steak and salad. She only made it through because she lived vicariously by writing down recipes of her favorite dishes she never allowed herself to have. She stole recipes from famous cooks in hotels and wrote them on scraps of paper she would then stuff into her handbag but she never ate. And that’s how she maintained her weight loss.
Was Maria Callas’ Voice Affected By Her Weight Loss?
While Maria Callas may have undergone that drastic physical transformation for the sake of her career, it ended up hindering her career because her career was her distinctive voice and the weight loss took the magic of her voice away. Around the time that she lost weight, her voice began to lose some of that charm and magical quality that made her successful in the first place.
Maria Callas’ voice was supposedly affected by her weight loss.
Image Source: Classic FM
Some speculated that the opera singer’s voice was affected by her taking too demanding roles and then, too light roles too soon. Her husband said it was the hormonal change caused by early menopause that was to blame. However, the majority believed that her vocal changes were to be attributed to her 40kg weight loss. Soprano Renée Fleming theorized that it was the change in posture resulting from her physical transformation.
It’s not the weight loss per se… but if one uses the weight for support, and then it’s suddenly gone and one doesn’t develop another musculature for support, it can be very hard on the voice.
Maria Callas herself provided similar explanations about the change in her voice. She did not exactly pinpoint her weight loss as the reason but it was related. She said,
I never lost my voice, but I lost strength in my diaphragm. Because of those organic complaints, I lost my courage and boldness… The result was that I overstrained my voice, and that caused it to wobble.