Sunday, December 25, 2005

Maria Callas

Maria Callas (1923 – 1977) was an American-born Greek soprano and perhaps the best-known opera singer of the post World War II period. She combined an impeccable bel canto technique with great dramatic gifts, making her the most famous singing actress of the era. An extremely versatile singer, her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria, such as Spontini's La Vestale to late Verdi and the verismo operas of Puccini.

Born Maria Anna Sofia Cecilia Kalogeropoulos to Greek parents in Brooklyn, New York, she moved with her mother to Athens, Greece at the age of 13. There she received her musical education and became a pupil of the well-known soprano Elvira de Hidalgo at the Athens Conservatory. After a few appearances as a student and in secondary roles, she made her professional debut at the Athens Opera on July 4, 1941, as Tosca, going on to sing Santuzza and Leonora during the next three years. In 1947, Callas made her Italian debut at the Verona Arena in La Gioconda under the baton of Tullio Serafin. Together with Serafin, Callas subsequently recorded and performed many bel canto operas, contributing greatly to the bel canto revival of the 1950s.

Throughout the 1950s, Callas made numerous appearances at the world's great houses: La Scala in Milan, Opera Garnier in Paris, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, Dallas Opera (Dallas, Texas), Royal Opera House in London, Mexico's Palacio de las Bellas Artes, and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. By the mid 1950s, strain on her voice started to become apparent; by 1958 it reached a point where she was no longer suitable for many roles. Her later stereo recordings evidence masterly musical interpretations with an increasingly unstable higher register that wobbled uncontrollably at times. Her last new production at La Scala was Donizetti's Poliuto in 1960. The role was well chosen for her vocal capacities. The premiere was on La Scala's traditional opening day, 7th December, Saint Ambroise Day. It was a great success and is still remembered today as a model.

In her final years as a singer, there were performances of Medea, Norma and Tosca , most notably her Paris, New York, and Royal Opera House Covent Garden "Tosca"s of January/February 1964 and, her last performance on stage, on 5th July 1965 at Covent Garden.

Callas was romantically involved for many years with the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, and their love affair received much publicity. She was introduced to him in 1957, after a performance in Donizetti's Anna Bolena, at a party given in her honor by Elsa Maxwell. In November 1959, she left her husband, Giovanni Battista Meneghini, for Onassis. According to one of her biographers, Nicholas Gage, Callas and Onassis had a child, a boy, who died hours after he was born on March 30, 1960. The relationship ended nine years later, when Onassis left Callas for Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of assassinated US president John F. Kennedy.

Heartbroken ("First I lost my voice, then I lost my figure and then I lost Onassis," she once said), Callas spent her last years living largely in isolation in Paris, and died in 1977 from a heart attack at the age of 53. The funeral service was held at the Greek Orthodox Church on Rue Georges-Bizet on September 20, 1977, and her ashes were buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery. After being stolen and later recovered, they were scattered into the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Greece.

In late 2004, opera and film director Franco Zeffirelli made a bizarre claim that Callas may have been murdered by her female lover, Greek pianist Vasso Devetzi, motivated by Callas' $9,000,000 USD estate. As Devetzi carried out Callas' wishes in founding the Maria Callas Foundation, which provides international scholarships for young singers, this seems unlikely. A more likely explanation is Callas' overuse of quaaludes. Devetzi may have conned Callas' sister, Lakintha, into signing her share of the estate over to herself.

Greatly admired by many opera fans, disliked by others, Callas was a controversial artist. Her supporters called her "La Divina" and raved about the dramatic intensity and ravishing portayals she brought to the opera stage. Callas' detractors believed that she regularly pushed her voice beyond its natural limits, achieving her dramatic effect at the expense of beauty of tone.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Seismic Test

Click here to watch a video of a shake table test of typical Japanese post and beam houses. The test was done Nov. 21, 2005 at the recently completed US$500 million lab near Tokyo called E-defense. The test facility has a 15m x 12m 3-dimensional shake table capable of supporting a 1200 ton structure.

The two houses in the video are identical 30 year old post and beam homes (approx. 5.5m x 5.5m footprint) that were moved into the lab. One house was reinforced for seismic loads (plywood sheathing and steel connectors) and the other was not. The ground motion replicated the Kobe earthquake, the PGA of which was 0.65g.

Monday, December 19, 2005


Liel, only 16 years old now, has become a star in Germany. She has done hundreds of performances all around the world.

She has turned a symbol and voice for peace since she sang the nostalgic beautiful song “Imagine” with President Clinton and two choirs including Arab and Jewish children singers.

Liel has also performed concerts with legends such as Sir Elton John, and Scorpions. She sings in five languages, plays guitar, and writes her own music.

Ever Loving Heart

Some English talking friends have asked me to translate my Persian poems. Well, this may not keep the original form of the poem, but can definitely show the feelings that these friends are looking for. This is one written in 2002:

The land of grief and painfulness.
A blend of aches and sorrow.

Oh thou, life, naught be your being,
For what do I have to find your hidden secrets?
I want you not as of this very moment,
I will not be deluded by you humble world,
With all your colourful deceptions and tricks.

One moment you show me the gardens,
Full of flowers in variety of colours,
And intoxicating scents,
And butterflies in various colours over the flowers…

But the next moment,
You show me your talons and teeth as flower thorns.
Flower is naught but delusion,
The bare fact is nothing but the thorn,
Colour is naught but cold white light,
And all these butterflies are nothing but degenerated worms!

Well come forget it all,
There would be no antidote but death,
Death will overtake me one day,
And today could be that one day,
The reborn could get started any time.

Much could be learned from phoenix,
Into fire could be thrown this dusty body,
And get burned expecting another birth.

Surrounded by the worms,
Under the white light,
I can light the fire now.

Oh fire, the flame of thou will purify me,
Surround this impure body of mine,
Amorously and amatory in the warm hands of yours,
(In the warmth of which, there is no deceptions),
Make cold ashes of my body,
And puff it into the wind.

Later on,
No name, no infamy will remain,
Of me and of ashes of my ever loving heart…

Friday, December 16, 2005


Happy birthday of the greatest and most beloved musician in history, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1927).

Monday, December 5, 2005


From the first moment, at the very first glance,
I knew I had found a beauty, an angel,
Holding her tight in arms, caressing her hair,
I would forget the borders, Heaven, and the hell. . .

Dreaming of her crimson lips, over and over at night,
Thinking of the charming eyes, all day long,
Imagining the finger tips, dancing over the keyboard,
Has regenerated this old, at once into a young. . .

Sunday, December 4, 2005

English Handwriting

1. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) believed that FISH could be spelled GHOTI according to English handwriting: gh sometimes sounds f, as in cough; o may sound i, as in women; and ti may sound sh as in cautious!!!

2. Try how easily you can read and understand the following passage:

i cdnuolt blveiee taht i cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht i was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

azanmig huh? yaeh and i awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! any comnotts?!
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