Sydney witnessed an extraordinary concert this past weekend. Michael Morton-Evans was there.

It’s taken a long time for opera singer Maria Callas to make it to Australia, but finally she arrived this past weekend. But wait a minute, I hear you say, I thought the diva was dead. Well, it’s true. She died in 1977 at the early age of 53, but thanks to the wonders of modern-day technology, and an initiative of the European Union, she gave two magnificent concerts in the Sydney Opera House on Saturday and Sunday.

When the curtain went up we were presented with American pianist and arranger Daniel Schlosberg and three brilliant Australian musicians, Jun Yi Ma, violin; Angela Lindsay, viola, and Ruben Palmer, cello. Then came the sound of footsteps, and there before our very eyes was the diva herself, slender as a willow, dressed from head to toe in white, her russet hair tied in a tight bun on top of her head.

Saturday, December 2nd, we were told, was Maria’s 100th birthday. But this was no centenarian Callas, this was Maria in her pomp, aged mid-40s when her voice was at its peak.

It only took a few bars of Je veux vivre from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet for us to forget that what we were seeing was a hologram.

All the operatic favourites were there. The letter scene from Macbeth; the card aria from Act 3 of Carmen, the mad scene from Hamlet. But she left the best to last. Nobody has ever sung Casta Diva from Bellini’s Norma better, nor Vissi d’arte from Puccini’s Tosca. She brought the house down. The audience clapped as loudly and as long as if she had really been there. And then, with a graceful bow, she turned and dissolved in a shower of glitter.

It was a truly magnificent performance all round. What a wonderful way to preserve the memory of the world’s great artists. Let’s hope that Base Xperential, who put this clever act together, might do the same with our Dame Joan.

The tour continues with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in the Hamer Hall, Melbourne on December 7th; the Dunstan Playhouse in Adelaide, December 9th; and the Perth Concert Hall on December 13th.