Rugby Theatre review: Master Class does justice to Maria Callas

The show tells the story of Maria Callas
The show tells the story of Maria Callas

Ed Green reviews Master Class at Rugby Theatre

Master Class by Terrence McNally focuses on Maria Callas’ teachings at Juilliard School New York. The audience were treated to a delightful production with dry humour and emotive dialogues throughout.

Ruth MacCallum as the star Callas passed convincingly as Maria with accent, voice and persona perfected naturally. Students were just as impressive, especially young Sophia (Rita Santos) showing great promise, confident Tony (Matt Goodwin) hitting tenor notes unbelievably well and Sharon (Emma Griffiths) showcasing an astounding voice. It’s easy to overlook Manny (Mervyn Bethell), resident pianist acting as Maria’s sounding board and student aid, but his piano skills are to be highly commended.

Heartfelt monologues from MacCallum were lengthy but only highlighted her memory and talent and with a cast of only six this production not only accurately portrays Callas, it celebrates her life.

Externally Maria was independent, terse and strong, hardened by years of singing training, but internally an insecure, sensitive human longing for constant reassurance from her audience.

Notable events such as Callas’s abortion and difficult marriage were subtly placed into monologues during reminiscences, but credit to graphics production making use of the stage by projecting inside the La Scala and historical images onto the rear of the theatre in addition to original recordings of Callas; very moving.

This is enjoyable for opera lovers but also ideal for those just starting out with it, a passionate but humorous production accurately portraying the legend, warts and all. More lines from Manny would’ve given balance, however that’s not in the script and, as Maria would say, “that’s another story”.

Like most geniuses she was the victim of her own success and this production portrays above all that Maria Callas lived to be loved.

* Master Class runs until Saturday July 9. Call C1788 541234 to book.