Diva Is An Understatement 

If you're a female pop vocalist with a song in the Top 40, you're immediately branded a diva. In order to receive that sobriquet, Maria Callas had to financially support a domineering and emotionally distant mother, survive WWII in occupied Greece by "dating" enemy soldiers, leapfrog across Europe in search of professional vocal instruction, almost single-handedly revive the fading art of bel canto singing, drop more than 100 pounds and astonish audiences worldwide with a voice that was not traditionally beautiful but was sublimely powerful and expressive. Mastery of the voice that was her great gift to the world is what she offers to the hopeful young voice students in her Master Class, or at least that's what they hope she's providing. Instead, Callas offers biting commentary on the press and her professional and romantic rivals, when she's not recalling her past glories and great tragedies. Terrence McNally's Master Class offers a compelling argument that great artists are those who are willing to sacrifice everything, including themselves, on the altar of great art. Stray Dog Theatre opens its new season with Master Class at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (September 16 through October 2), with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on the final Saturday. All performances are at the Tower Grove Abbey (2336 Tennessee Avenue; 314-865-1995 or www.straydogtheatre.org). Tickets are $18 to $20.
Thursdays-Saturdays. Starts: Sept. 16. Continues through Oct. 2, 2010

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