Born Maria Anna Sofia Cecilia Kalogeropoulos to Greek parents in New York City, she moved to Athens, Greece at age 13. Her debut was in 1939 as Santuzza, in Cavalleria Rusticana. A few years later, in 1947 she made another debut, this time in Italy and at Arena of Verona, with Tullio Serafin conducting La Gioconda. Together with Serafin Callas subsequently recorded and performed many bel canto operas, contributing greatly to the bel canto revival of the 1950s.
By 1954, however, strain on her voice started to become apparent; by 1958 it reached a point where she was no longer suitable for many roles. Her later stereo recordings evidence masterly musical interpretations with an increasingly unstable higher register that wobbled uncontrollably at times.
In November 1959, she left her husband Meneghini for Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, a love-affair that received much publicity. It ended nine years later, when Onassis left Callas for Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of assassinated US president John F. Kennedy. Heartbroken, Callas spent her last years living largely in isolation in Paris, where she died at age 53. Cremated, her ashes were buried in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. After being stolen and later recovered, they were scattered into the Aegean Sea, off the coast of Greece.
Maria Callas has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1680 Vine Street.