Callas Memorabilia Fetches Thousands

— A lock of Maria Callas’s hair and a cherished painting were among hundreds of personal relics of the legendary opera diva snapped up by fans late on Saturday at an auction held 23 years after her death.

The sale, which was continuing today in Paris and was being broadcast simultaneously over the Internet and cable television, included about 2,000 mementos of one of the 20th century’s most glamorous singers.

Admirers from around the world, who participated by telephone and through the Web, bid for items including a personal photo album, a pair of gloves worn by Callas and a postcard signed by the Greek-American soprano.

Lucky Painting

A lock of Callas’s hair fetched 78,000 francs ($10,390) from a buyer in New York and the star of the auction, an 18th-century Italian oil painting entitled “The Holy Family,” was bought for 900,000 francs ($119,900) by an anonymous bidder.

A gift from her husband Giovanni Meneghini after a successful opera debut in 1947, the painting became a good luck charm for Callas who, in subsequent years, refused to sing unless it was in her dressing room.

The items on sale, which included furniture, jewelry and various garments worn by Callas, came from the collections of two Italian and Greek admirers of the singer.

Born Maria Kalogeropoulos in New York, Callas gave her first performance in Greece at the age of 18.

Her career skyrocketed when she went to Italy and Paris, but her personal life was riddled with controversy after an intense affair with shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

When Callas died mysteriously in her Paris apartment in 1977 at the age of 53, she left behind legions of fans known as Callas Widows. More than 700 of them reportedly reserved seats at the sale.