Master Class
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Melania Mahoney

Elly Lichenstein brings out the many sides of opera diva Maria Callas in Cinnabar Theater’s production of Master Class in Petaluma. Lichenstein, Cinnabar’s Artistic Director, subtly explores the many nuances of Callas’ complex character. While Callas was often portrayed by the media as the General Patton of opera – outlandish, self-centered and ungrateful - Lichenstein recognizes that Callas had all these characteristics but was also very human with deep feelings and passions that she drew on to create many opera performances that audiences will never forget.

The play’s author, Terrence McNally, saw Callas perform in 1956 and also had the opportunity to hear a series of master classes that Callas taught in the early 1970s at Julliard School of Music. The play is based on those master classes where Callas chose 26 out of 300 students. She jokingly referred to her chosen few as her victims, and with her many interruptions of their singing to point out flaws and shortcomings, she did bring some of her students to tears. In the play, these scenes are used to full comic potential and also help illuminate Callas’ unique sense of humor. It’s also this comic emphasis that makes this play accessible to non-opera lovers. Additionally, it’s very accessible to military historians. Callas describes opera as “a struggle. The audience is the enemy… Art is domination.” And one of her students accuses her of wanting “to make the world dangerous for everyone.”

But for the opera lover, Cinnabar has provided a fantastic supporting cast of young singers with excellent voices and Lichenstein provides a well-rounded look into the life and soul of one of the world’s greatest divas.

For tickets and information call (707) 763-8920 or visit

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