(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/7; the above Master Class monologue was presented for the Philadelphia Theatre Company.)
Towering before us — and tower she does, though she is not particularly tall — the celebrated opera singer is undeniably, overwhelmingly there. And yet she’s not there at all. One of the most daunting presences you’re ever likely to come across is, on some profound level, absent. Which makes it all the more impossible for you to take your eyes off her.
This paradox is the magic trick at the center of Tyne Daly’s remarkable performance as Maria Callas in “Master Class,” Terrence McNally’s 1995 play about the twilight of that goddess of bel canto. In the production that opened Thursday night at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, Callas is supposedly in an auditorium at the Juilliard School in the early 1970s, where she is instructing students on the art of performing opera.