Faye Dunaway as Maria Callas in "Master Class"
"A Master Class with Maria Callas"
by Terrence McNally
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
THE ARTISTIC GENIUS AND MAGNIFICENT PERFORMANCE OF FAYE DUNAWAY
It was a refreshing experience to see a film star I've always admired do
her artistic tour de force on stage. The charisma of Faye Dunaway on stage
is as vibrant and exciting, if not more, as she is on the big
Her portrayal last night of the temperamental and high-strung Maria Callas
was powerful and brilliant. What struck me the most in Ms. Dunaway's performance
were the internal monologues that tore the soul of Maria Callas
Imagine this: a solitary spotlight on Maria Callas: her mind wanders in the
middle of her Master Class as she remembers painful memories of her lover,
Aristotle Onassis. She talks to herself in a ranting dialogue/monologue which
oftentimes seems baffling, almost the babblings of a mad woman. Her pace
is at super -speed as she delivers her lines-- and yet, all of a sudden,
she pauses, giving way to painful emotions. She continues delivering in the
raw and harsh crudeness of what she is, but holds the audience spellbound--one
could, as the adage goes, "hear a pin drop" in one of those pregnant pauses
as she agonizes her past.
Then, the lights come up and we are brought back to the reality of her Master
Class where she, the Master, gives her philosophy of art and the opera, as
we, the audience, the students, listen to her every word, in her charming
Greek accent. We burst out laughing as her students enter one at a time.
She makes fun of the plump Sophie (Melinda Klump), scrutinizes Sharon (Suzan
Hanson) for her Lady Macbeth aria telling her that the role doesn't suit
her and that she would be better off as Mimi. Then Tony (Kevin Paul Anderson)
enters, conceited, out to conquer the world. But Callas doesn't like his
attitude, but he begs her to hear him, and she is touched by his sudden change
from braggart to beggar. Suddenly, we see another side of Callas: the sensitive,
compassionate human being, as she is moved to tears by Tony's aria, "Recondita
Armonia" from Puccini's Tosca.
This was Ms. Dunaway's intense portrayal of Maria Callas. On the one hand,
crude, castigating, doleful and harsh; and on the other, light, joking, relaxed,
in her rapport with Vancouver's opening night audience. She delighted each
and everyone of us as we laughed and reacted to her perfectly timed punch
The genius of playwright Terrence McNally who wanted to portray the emotional
rawness as well as the sensitive soul in Callas was brilliantly put together
by the superb performance of Ms. Dunaway. In McNally's words: "Callas sees
and hears what other singers are deaf and blind to: the poetry of the
music...Callas sings meaning...the intensity of the feelings and the flashes
of genius that still astonish but can never be duplicated."
And Ms. Dunaway is Callas reincarnated in Master Class!
The standing ovation and three curtain calls was a but a miniscule gesture
of Vancouverites who expressed their delight and appreciation of the artistic
genius and magnificence of Faye Dunaway's superb performance.