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Ballet dancer Steven McRae and opera singer Maria Callas are the focus of two new Arena films this year.

Arena: Steven McRae – Dancing Back to the Light charts the physical and mental journey back from the brink of Steven McRae, one of the Royal Ballet’s principal dancers. In the middle of a performance in 2019, he was catastrophically injured, tearing his Achilles tendon.

At 35 years old his career was dramatically halted just as it was reaching its peak, to the extent that he wondered if he would ever be able to dance again. Could he ever return to the stage and stay on it for the entire season? Would he ever be able to get back to the level he was at before the fall?

 Over the course of a year, director Stéphane Carrel filmed the return of this spectacular dancer to his company, his recovery training alongside a deeper question of whether the pressures of being an elite performer contributed to his downfall. Can Steven triumph against the setbacks and dance his way back into the light?

Arena: Maria Callas (w/t) focuses on the great classical diva of modern times: known around the world for her beauty and fiery temper as much as her voice. She was a cover star with a thirst for the high-life and the looks of a supermodel. She dominated opera until disaster struck – she fell in love with Aristotle Onassis, and when he left her for Jackie Kennedy her life fell apart.

But this tragic legend of Maria Callas isn’t true: Callas was nobody’s victim. She was defiant, exacting – a woman who blazed a trail for female artists of today. But there was one thing that mattered more to her than anything – her astonishing, life-changing voice. It was gradually failing her. And she knew it.

At her peak in the 1950s Callas averaged 50 appearances a year. But between 1959 and 1963 she sang in public only 28 times. She cancelled performances, earning her an (undeserved) reputation as an erratic diva. This film is, in part, a detective story: what was it that made Maria Callas lose her voice?

This film is also a celebration of Callas - her brilliance, originality and determination to be the greatest opera singer alive. A stellar cast of experts and admirers uncover the truth about her and the gift of her extraordinary voice. Her impact on classical music was revolutionary, bringing forgotten roles into the limelight and making them her own: magnificent, indomitable heroines. Callas is the artist who reminded the world what opera is for.


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