More than 40 years after her death, the legend of Maria Callas, “La Divina Assoluta,” remains unsurpassed. Her sensational opera career and fraught private life, from her definitive mastery of iconic opera roles to her love affairs and tantrums, made her the prototype for the 20th century celebrity diva. 

Her extraordinary voice, in particular, has become an object of cult-like adoration and cultural significance almost with a life of its own. Such adoration is not without consequences. When Callas is transformed into a vessel for such transcendent magic, it overshadows what is perhaps her most superhuman ability—the masterful technique she deployed to shape and craft her astounding instrument. 

Using one of Callas’s first recital recordings from 1954, this book envisions each aria as a lens to examine various aspects of vocalization and cultural reception of the feminized voice in both classical and pop culture, from Homer’s Sirens to Star Trek. With references to works by Marina Abramovic, Charles Baudelaire, Michel Chion, Wayne Koestenbaum and Farah Jasmine Griffin, as well as films by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jonathan Demme, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, each chapter explores phenomena unique to the singing voice, including the operatic screaming point, the politics of listening, and the singing simulacrum.


"Even if you've never heard of the 1954 Maria Callas album, even if you neither know nor care about her or opera, this book is entrancing."

Greil Marcus, Real Life Top Ten, LARB 1/2022    



GINGER DELLENBAUGH is a music historian who has taught and written about music and politics, the cultural techniques of the human voice, and vernacular notation systems.  As a trained opera singer and songwriter/composer, she performed for over a decade in Europe and the United States.  Her current research involves patents of music notation in the USPTO. She lives in New York City and Vienna, Austria. 


Selected Publications