Aplication note of Nina Foresti (Maria Callas?) to the Mayor Bowes Amateur Hour contest.
By courtesy of John Ardoin.
Catalogue: MC-DOC-005

     “My musical studies were begun when I was four years old. I studied piano many years but as my family was in very comfortable circumstances, my music was not considered seriously. I was sent to finishing school, studied languages and singing all as social accomplishments only. One day in 1930, upon our return from a cruise, we found our ‘comfortable circumstances’ had vanished so I have been giving piano instruction. However, I always loved to sing so I continued my vocal studies and have sung in concerts and made my debut as Nedda, in Pagliacci, but as an amateur. My voice is admired but opportunities are so few and I find that corner – from amateur to professional – a very difficult one to turn.”


     From the notes of Divina Records DVN-1 CD:
     It is believed that a girl who participated at a 1935 Major Bowes Amateur Hour radio audition could have been the eleven-year old Mary Ann Callas using the false name of Nina Foresti. The recording made on that occasion is still controversial in that the singing voice of the contestant does not bear any resemblance to the great soprano’s (Foresti was given a “D” rating and the note “Faint possibility for future”). However, the girl’s speaking voice (which can be heard during the introductory dialogue with Major Bowes in its entirety here for the first time on CD) is strikingly similar to Callas’. The clue to the mystery may lie in the contestant’s tone when she describes herself as an Italian-American who is “employed in the toy department of a large department store.” Neither of these statements was true in Maria Callas’ case, and a slight hesitancy, discomfort and hurry to finish can clearly be heard on this recording. A pseudonym was probably chosen to deceive Callas’ father, who objected to his wife’s ambition regarding their younger daughter’s career, in case he or some acquaintances were listening to the radio. According to Nikos Petsalis-Diomidis, Mary Ann Callas had only two music teachers in New York from 1931 to 1937 – Signorina Sandrina, who taught Mary Ann the notes and gave her piano lessons once a week for a few months in 1931-1932; and a neighbor from Sweden, who gave her singing lessons without payment. Considering such modest training, it is possible that Mary Ann learned the music she performed in public between 1934 and 1937 mainly by listening to records and radio programs. Since Callas always had an impeccable ear, learning to sing “Un bel di” by imitating the singing style and timbral characteristics heard on a recording would have posed no difficulty. This might explain why neither Nina Foresti’s singing nor her timbre, curiously mature-sounding for an eleven-year old girl, resemble anything known to have been recorded by Callas from 1949 to 1977. Once merely a hypothesis, it is now generally accepted that Nina Foresti was actually Maria Callas, despite Callas’ denial that she ever sang under an assumed name. (She nevertheless admitted the fact to her friend and confidante Nadia Stancioff; the same assertion was made independently by Steven Linakis, Callas’ cousin who knew her in her childhood days.)
(c) Milan Petkovic, 2000.