By Marlene S. Gaylinn
“Master Class,” at Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) is about Maria Callas, a famous opera diva who taught several, selected students at Juilliard during 1971-72. Terrence McNally’s play is based on recordings taken during these classes and evidently there was enough material here to gain insight to this star’s complex personality.
What is intriguing about Callas is that her success as an opera star rose like a rocket and ended just as quickly when her abused voice began to fail. Later, she died mysteriously at age 55. Contributing to her downfall was her widely-publicized lifestyle -- that included Aristotle Onassis, one of the richest men in the world. However, Onassis, who had different tastes than hers, could afford to have anything he desired -- and he did! This included marriage to Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of President Kennedy, while still being involved with Callas. No further explanation is needed.
Irene Glezos gives a powerful performance as the difficult, demanding Callas who is auditioning three students for her upcoming classes. The actress doesn’t sing a note and she doesn’t have to. While recordings of Callas’ famous arias are heard in the background, Glezos unfolds the singer’s inner thoughts and deepest emotions like a GreekTragedy. The students are “Sophie” (Soprano, Charlotte Munson), who is timid and tearful, “Tony” (Tenor, Andrew Ragone) who stands his ground, defiantly insisting on being heard, and “Sharon,” (Soprano, Emma Rosenthal), a cross-browed combination of both personalities -- which Callas most responds to. All three performers have delightfully rich voices -- that is, after Callas first ridicules, humiliates, and finally allows them to sing. The piano accompanist, “Manny,” (Kevin Winebold) and “Stagehand,” (John Flaherty) round out the cast which is masterfully directed by MTC’s Kevin Connors.
The conclusion is that most great artists have: Determination, Discipline and 100% Devotion. However, not everyone can meet these specifications and have a normal, happy life.