In ‘La Divina: The Last Interview of Maria Callas’ Shelley Cooper Hits all the High Notes


By Ernest Kearney — Maria Callas (1923-1977) left an indelible mark as one of the most gifted and influential opera singers of the 20th century if not “the most.” To pen and perform in a one-woman show based on Callas’ life would be a formidable challenge to any actress. To step forth and try to match Callas’ singing is chutzpa bordering on self-immolation.

So it is to Shelley Cooper’s credit that she does so in La Divina: The Last Interview of Maria Callas and emerges without the slightest singe.

This is partly due Cooper wisely choosing to perform Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro” and Bizet’s “Habanera” from Carmen, “light” arias, and not going head-to-head, or throat-to-throat with La Divina (“The Divine One”) on a far more problematic piece such as “È morto” from Puccini’s Tosca.

Contributing to Cooper being able to pull off her vocal homage to Callas is the fact that she has a pretty impressive set of pipes herself and manages to quiver the walls of the Hudson Theatre, and probably a good portion of Santa Monica Boulevard, quite nicely with her singing.

Callas, in comparing herself with other sopranos, referred to her voice as “Champagne” and theirs as “Coca Cola.”

Cooper’s singing is definitely not a carbonated beverage.

Framed within the conceit of a televised interview, Cooper touches on Callas’ teen years during the Nazi occupation of her native Greece, her toxic relationship with her mother and her tempestuous involvement with Aristotle Onassis which begs for an operatic treatment suitable to the #metoo age.

But the problem is that Cooper only “touches” on the grief of Callas’ life.

Why Callas was La Divina was not her voice, which it is acknowledged suffered damage in the late 40’s, but that Callas, in her greatest roles, sang not the operas but her own pain.

Cooper recognizes and understands this, and at the beginning of her performance as Callas admits, “Only when I sing I feel loved.”

No operatic libretto ever voiced such a heart-breaking admission.

Fringe Award-Gold Medal-The TVolution

However, Cooper’s performance assisted by Director Mariangela Chatzistamatiou whose talents share the stage with her, manages to engage her audience superbly and for that earns the 2021 Hollywood Fringe’s first Gold Medal.

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La Divina: The Last Interview of Maria Callas


Friday August 13 2021, 8:30 PM
Thursday August 19 2021, 8:30 PM
Sunday, August 22 2021, 2:30 PM


Hudson Theatres
6539 Santa Monica Boulevard

For Tickets and Additional Information:

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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

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