Overshaddowed by illustrious neighbours – Allee Maria Callas


One of my first self-imposed tasks upon arriving in Paris was to go to the address where Maria Callas, the famed soprano, once lived and, tragically, died. My mother has always been her biggest fan, never once failing to shed a tear when listening to Callas’s signature aria, ‘Casta Diva’, despite having heard it hundreds, if not thousands, of times.

I have been an opera fan since my early twenties, when I used to go to the Royal Albert Hall on a frequent basis, having the opportunity of both proximity and those 5 or 10 pound student-priced tickets while attending university in London. I have been fortunate enough to see some of the contemporary greats live, including Pavarotti, Carreras, Domingo, Kiri te Kanawa and Montserrat Caballé on numerous occasions. Yet, somehow, I came to love Callas relatively late.

And so it is partly due to my mum’s undying love for Callas and in part due to my own growing into her unique timbre that I went to see the house she used to live in, on one of my very first days in Paris.


Callas’s voice, as was her life, is unique, tremendous and rather tragic. Her timbre is instantly recognisable, her powerful dramatic soprano resonance sends shivers down one’s spine, and yet, there is a sad underlining tone to her voice…and one can hear this in her early as well as late recordings, though perhaps more distinctly in the latter. Perhaps her voice encompassed a reflection of her life, whereby she came from nothing, achieved everything, and then heartbreakingly descended into nothing, yet again.


It was in reverence to her genius and unique talent but accompanied by the bitter taste of knowing her tragic fate that I went to 36 Avenue Georges Mandel, to have a look at the building that was once her home in the City. Arriving in Avenue Georges Mandel one is immediately impressed by the beauty of the surroundings: old chestnut trees line the broad avenue, old, Haussmannian buildings on each side, lilac trees adorning most building entries. It is a magnificent avenue, in close proximity to Trocadero and within view of the Eiffel Tour, I suspect, from the topmost apartments.


The service street alongside the Avenue has been renamed Allee Maria Callas, in honour of the street’s famous former resident. On the Saturday afternoon of my visit, while just 5 minutes’ walk away, in Trocadero, hundreds of tourists were applauding a Michael Jackson lookalike doing the Parisian version of the Moonwalk, there were only two Japanese tourists beside me…. on a bench across from number 36, looking at the signposts for “Allee Maria Callas”, looking up at the apartment floor, acting like they had an appreciation that this elegant and distinguished building once housed a most elegant and distinguished woman, possibly the greatest soprano that ever lived!

So, if anyone other my mother (who’s surely sobbing now), is reading this post, please do me a favour, go on Youtube and have a listen. I recomend ‘Casta Diva’.


In Paris

Incredibly, Paris is now my home town. As an expat I share it with the natives and the millions of tourists making the pilgrimage every year. The population density is incredible and in the height of summer there is not one peaceful spot to be found in the entire city. This is infuriating at best, but then, who am I to complain? I should not be here, either: I was not born here, never a Francophile, don’t even speak French.

Paris takes some getting used to. It’s undoubtedly a beautiful city, probably the most beautiful of all. We have Haussmann to thank for the ordered beige boulevards  and the ornate buildings, the tree-lined streets and the uniform charm. On a sunny day walking the streets of Paris is a sensual experience.

There are some bad things about the city, and visiting and living here are totally different things. The view of the rooftops from my apartment is unbeatable. The size of the apartment is laughable! The metro is fast and efficient but clean, it is not. And no foreign resident will ever look at a dog with quite the love they used to have for the animal prior to living in this city.  But then,  no city is perfect, no place with more than a handful of inhabitants is pristine, and no other city stirs quite as much a love-hate relationship with its residents as Paris. A colleague asked me the other day how I feel about Paris after one year here. I gave him a response that I reserve for later posts, but let me tell you what I love about Paris:

  • Classical music sounds better in Paris
  • Callas used to live around the corner from my place
  • I can walk to Trocadero and look at the Eiffel Tour when I feel lazy and don’t want to venture far at the week-end
  • Arthur Rubinstein’s biography mentions his first Paris apartment 5 buildings away from my temporary accommodations when I first moved here
  • Avenue Georges Mandel – anytime, in any weather
  • The gardens at Musee Rodin
  • The view of the rooftops at breakfast time: just like in the Aristocats


Long overdue

When I first moved to Paris I promised my friends back in North America that I will write a blog. Something light and witty, capturing my travels, thoughts and impressions.

…but then, life (and a crazy job) kind of got in the way and now, a year later, I am finally setting out to do what I had promised.

So, here it is…. From above Paris, a chronicle in the making!Image