When NPR Music published its list of 150 Greatest Albums By Women two weeks ago, we who created it firmly intended that this be just the beginning of a conversation that puts women’s musical artistry at the center. Immediately, others took up our call. Lists began proliferating, representing different taste affinities, time periods and genre focuses than what our list encompassed. In that spirit, today NPR Music introduces two ongoing series of essays: Forebears, celebrating women whose recording careers made the most impact before the time period our list encompasses, and Shocking Omissions, honoring women whose albums did not make the initial list, but which still deserve special recognition. These essays act upon our belief that the feminist music canon is a living, constantly evolving entity.
No opera star has shone brighter in the public consciousness of the last half-century than soprano Maria Callas. Born in New York in 1923 to a couple of struggling immigrants who had just arrived from Greece a few months before her birth, Callas — who throughout her life bore an undeniable feeling for music, a pronounced taste for luxury, and an iron will — climbed to the pinnacle of international fame.
Much of that notoriety had nothing to do with her artistic…