Madonna And Maria Callas: Two Divas
The Oxford English dictionary defines a diva as "a distinguished female singer" (Oxford University Press, 2014). Both Maria Callas and Madonna fit this definition, despite doubts in their singing ability. They share a dramatic presence, both on and off stage, which distinguishes them from others.
Madonna and Maria Callas are both singers whose personality and presence are often given more weight than the strength of their technical performance. Madonna's vocal ability, Jones tells us, was largely considered "the weakest aspect of her performance" (Jones, 2008 p.165). This is evident throughout Material Girl (The Diva, 2008, track 1), where the singing quality is weak, and shows little of the vocal agility one might expect from an operatic diva. Madonna's voice, as Jones puts it, is "lacking in power and resonance" (Jones, 2008 p.165). Similarly, Callas, "battled throughout her career against vocal problems" (Philip, 2008, p.178), although Philip admits Callas' considered technical ability varied between commentators. Philip mentions an "aggressive warble" (Philip, 2008, p.178) in the higher notes Callas sings, which is evident in the extract from Tosca (The Diva, 2008, track 5,1:38 – 1:42). However, both artists are certainly distinguished singers. This is because a diva must be more a singer, they must be "someone who is almost larger than life" (Moohan, 2008, p.163).
When examining this notion of being “larger than life” (Moohan, 2008, p.163), one must look at the broader identity of these performers, beyond technical singing ability. For Madonna, the use of controversial topics in her lyrics and music videos, such as Like A Prayer (The Diva, 2008, track 2), with its themes of "religion and racism" (Jones, 2008, p171), conveys meaning and emotion without relying on vocal agility. Jones states that Madonna “exerts influence and creative control over her product” (Jones, 2008, p166), and she uses that control advantageously. For Callas, Philip tells us that the "emotional range of her singing is very wide" (Philip, 2008, p.178). That is to say...