THE STORY: Maria Callas is teaching a master class in front of an audience: us. She’s glamorous, commanding, larger than life—and drop-dead funny. Callas’ first “victim” is Sophie, a ridiculous, overly perky soprano. Sophie chooses to sing one of the most difficult arias, the sleepwalking scene from La sonnambula—an aria that Callas made famous. Before the girl sings a note, Callas stops her—and now what has started out as a class becomes a platform for Callas. She glories in her own career, dabbles in opera dish, and flat-out seduces the audience. But with that, there are plenty of laughs going on, especially between Callas and the audience. The next two sessions repeat the same dynamic: The middle session is with a tenor, who moves Callas to tears. She again enters her memories, and we learn about Callas’ affair with Aristotle Onassis; an abortion she was forced to have; her first elderly husband whom she left; her early days as an ugly duckling; the fierce hatred of her rivals; and the unforgiving press that savaged her at first. Finally, we meet Sharon, another soprano— the young singer has talent, but Callas tells her to stick to flimsy roles. Sharon is devastated and rushes out of the hall, and Callas brings the class to a close by acknowledging the sacrifices we must make in the name of art.
Winner of the 1996 Tony Award for Best Play. “…For Mr. McNally, the play demonstrates his ability to create rich, vivid, satisfying theater…MASTER CLASS is an unembarrassed, involving meditation on Callas’ life and the nature of her art. Such subjects are not easily dramatized, certainly not with this brio.” —NY Times. “Terrence McNally’s new play MASTER CLASS…will be talked about for years to come whenever people point to theater experiences that genuinely deserve to be labeled by the overused word 'great.'” —The Hollywood Reporter. “It is Terrence McNally’s total triumph in his MASTER CLASS…This is a night to remember.” —NY Post. “Get a ticket: MASTER CLASS is mesmerizing theater.” —Star-Ledger.