Maria Callas defined what it meant to be a diva. And Callas remains one of the towering figures of opera. But, exciting as Callas was as a performer, her voice began to decline while she was still relatively young. Experts and fans alike continue to question what exactly happened to a voice that was both exhilarating and controversial.
The year was 1952, and Callas was performing what would become one of her legendary roles -- Bellini's Norma -- at London's Covent Garden.
In 1957, Barbara Smith Conrad was studying music at the University of Texas in Austin. She was cast as Dido in a student production of Henry Purcellâ€™s opera "Dido and Aeneas."Â
Two weeks before the curtain, Conrad learned that she would not be singing the role of Dido, because a state congressman had objected to an African-American woman being cast opposite a white leading man in a romantic role.Â Â