Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Masterful 'Master Class' from Tyne Daly

Sierra Boggess as Sharon Graham and Tyne Daly as Maria Callas in “Master Class.” Photos by Joan Marcus.


Daly has nothing to prove. She’s had a glorious career. She’s been on television in an iconic and Emmy-winning series, on Broadway in musicals and dramas and has a Tony and Tony nominations to her credit.

Yet in the revival of Terrence McNally’s “Master Class,” TD proves that she is capable of creating an impressively distinguished portrait in a role that is so completely against type for her.

As Maria Callas in “Master Class,” currently in a Manhattan Theatre Club production at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through 4 Sept., TD shatters her usual persona as a kind of everywoman, down to earth, matter of fact; she wholly owns a role that on the surface seems like it’s not tailor-made for her strengths. (See video at

As a matter of fact, TD is transformed; she doesn’t just act the part of Maria Callas, she is the late, great opera singer. The play is based on an actual event. Maria Callas – a diva past her prime and powers, who is depressed, self-aggrandizing, and so self-absorbed that she lacks all sensitivity – was invited to give a series of voice classes at Julliard in 1971.

TD embodies Callas in a grueling near-monologue. She engages the audience as participants in her “Master Class,” abuses the students she is meant to instruct, and indulges in reveries in a series of flashbacks to her life with Ari aka Greek billionaiare Aristotle Onassis.

Anthony Condolino (Garrett Sorenson) is Maria Callas' (Tyne Daly) star pupil in "Master Class."

The foil for the over the top, over-the-hill luminary, is Emmanuel Weinstock (Jeremy Cohen), her pianist for the lessons she is giving. Callas is kind only to the tenor, Anthony Condolino (Garrett Sorenson), who comes to one of her sessions. GS is particularly endearing in his talented presentation before Callas. Rounding out the cast are two young singers who each get short shrift. While Sophie De Palma (Alexandra Silber) folds under Callas’ gaze, Sharon Graham (Sierra Boggess) bravely stands up to her mistreatment.

Even though “Master Class” offers gossipy and tabloid-driven insights into Callas’ life, TD takes the highlights in the text to give a performance worthy of Greek tragedy. Her Maria Callas is the ultimate woman scorned, she is abandoned by her profession – banned from the opera house, La Scala, in one of many famous feuds. Her lover, Ari, leaves her for a bigger prize in the widow and former First Lady of the United States, Jackie Kennedy.

Despite her troubles, though, Callas is still full of fire and determination, as is "Master Class."

Visit http:// to learn more about “Master Class.”

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