Mrs Vasso Papantoniou's Speech at Delphi Economic Forum VI

Your Excellency, the President of the Hellenic Republic, Esteemed Prime Minister of Greece, Your Reverence, Archbishop of the Church of Greece, Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Honourable Mayor of Athens, good afternoon.

I would like to start my speech by expressing my thanks to the Organising Committee for giving me the honour of talking about Maria Callas at such an important event, where remarkable Greek women of Culture, Science and the Arts are remembered and celebrated.

I accepted this honour, not in recognition of my artistic contribution, but rather as a Musician who is serving the Musician Maria Callas and is striving to create a Temple in which her Spirit may live and her Principles may be taught.

Thank you for this recognition.

Of course, I will speak in my capacity as a Musician and not as an Art Historian, Critic or Musicologist.

Please forgive any emotional charge, which will undoubtedly and inevitably be heard in my voice.

I will begin with her own astounding message, when, after many years of absence, she returned to Greece to sing at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, following an invitation by the great Mr Kostis Bastias.

“I am Greek. I have Greek blood and no-one can take this away from me.”

What prompted her to announce such a thing?

Was it the lurking fear of envy that she sensed?

Was it Greece, the country that does not forgive those who, break away from its stranglehold, manage to move away from it, yet keep Greece inside them as sacred Knowledge and nostalgia?

All these people, however, have their own Motherland; a place that holds something precious and personal:

Anxiety, Doubt, Language, Memory, Destination.

I shall conclude this parenthesis and offer my personal Reading of this personality, the true Great Greek Woman.

My belief is that her Motherland and her Language was Music.

She attempted to explore every one of its uncharted areas, in order to draw the deeper knowledge of her Existence and the Reason of her Destination.

She felt, in her subconscious, that there was a destination, which was predetermined.

She attempted to overturn and reveal unknown aspects of the Musical texts in Opera.

She was the one who brought back the original definition of this Art, which consists of Melos (Melody) and Drama.

She left her mark by creating an unsurpassed role model.

As a result, she became a Constellation herself, unique and fixed upon the landscape of Art.

I believe she shouldered this burden with a deep diligence and awareness of the Sacredness of this duty to Her and to the Music she served, defending everything that was Sacred to her.

There is no doubt that she felt she had this metaphysical duty, which perhaps frightened her, despite projecting some arrogance at times.

I do not think she was vain or conceited when she decided to carve out, in a painful and dangerous manner, the Unappealing part which did not allow her to portray roles that required a different physique.

She did it again, serving her absolute need to give aesthetic credibility to the character she was portraying, as she was devoted to the Art, which she fully Identified with and Experienced.

In this revealing metamorphosis, she was lucky enough to have beside her people with great aesthetic, Culture and Knowledge, such as Luchino Visconti and Pierro Tosi.

Thus, Transformed, she left her Imprint on the Parchment of Time.

I have nothing more to add to the many portraits of her.

I would like, with your permission, to talk about my relationship with her, or perhaps, about the mystic threads connecting two lives, so foreign between them, yet devoted to the same Art or quest.

I speak of Her, whom I never met and for whom I felt an eclectic, I would say, kinship.

They called her divine – La Divina.

I would call her deeply human.

She definitely carried the divine, but without losing her human touch.

And the divine is manifested in her strong will to reveal the Human to the human, through her Art, despite the war waged against her by those around her, who refused to accept that Human eventually means, above all, struggle, effort, course, rather than recognition or compromise.

To me, she was a figure that cannot fit into the pantheon of symbols – she was beyond that.

She was vulnerable, and, for this reason, distant, unreachable. She accepted the burden of her human form and brought recognition to humans.

She proceeded with the unprocessed, the amorphous that was given to her, towards form and measure.

Because her life was a quest, not for cold perfection, but for truth and beauty.

Her path was a path of self-awareness and offering, but also a struggle for coexistence.

She wanted to belong, but without dependence.

She was intuitive, but never uncontrollable.

Her primal nature led to wisdom and a path of self-awareness and exaltation; towards an aesthetic awareness which did not ignore her sensitivities and did not, in the least, affect her human nature.

I would like to conclude with the hope that our endeavour is successful and that the Academy of Lyric Art is created in the home where this Great Greek Artist started it all.

Thank you.

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