Omero Lengrini: Much Ado About Nothing
by Brigitte Pantis
It has taken more than 2 years to get the issue of the story of Madame Callas’ “son” into the Callas Magazine. It is useful here to note that the article entitled “The secret son” of Maria Callas. Facts and Fictionwas originally written for Pablo Berruti’s Divina Records website, followed by its publication in Maurice Vandenbergh’s Nieuwsbrief Nr. 67 and, as a German version, in Mitteilungen Nr. 4 / 2006 issued by the German Callas Club.
Responding to this contribution, the editor of the magazine now presents the results of his own research the outcome of which was predictable: he continues to provide unwavering support for the famed investigative reporter and to champion the baby story. Mr. van Zoggel’s reply is weighted with his own conjectures and speculations (note the many maybes, probably, possibly, etc.) and with affirmative messages from “certain members of the Club” and unidentified “reliable sources”. Who are those anonymous informants? Surely the servants to have survived all the possibilities to reveal private information to sensational newspapers must be very loyal to Callas. The same goes for Madame Callas’ close friends or associates. Why after decades of complete silence, with no benefit to them, would these people surrender to this intrusion into her private life and “confirm” Gage’s story so detrimental and harmful to the memory of the diva? It is hard to believe that anyone fond of, or loyal to, Maria Callas would do this. By a similar token, someone with a grudge against the singer, why would they wait so long?
Van Zoggel has proven that Omero Lengrini existed. Until verifiable evidence is found to connect the child to Callas, it is simply a “Red Herring”.
The emphasis van Zoggel places on the documents is as counter-productive as it is questionable. What is particularly upsetting, to begin with, is how he dodges the crucial issue of the key evidence Gage relied on to make his claim: the documents acquired by Gage “on 22 and 23 October 1998, when he was writing his book and gathering information. That is probably the reason why the origin is so obscurely described by Gage.” Indeed the origin is anything but obscurely described by Gage. The harsh fact is that Gage presents these documents, entirely unrelated to Maria Callas, as purported “authentic Callas papers” and that his story was built on the basis of this huge deception (and just for the record, Gage’s documents do not show the standard statement “a true copy of the original released for historical research”).
Mr. van Zoggel wrongly states “Pantis is completely right in making her points by writing that the documents lack vital information and are therefore insufficient to be considered as ‘official’.” The documents were not issued on an official form and lack all information related to the parents. They thus cannot be considered valid birth and death certificates, as claimed by Gage.
As is evident from the registration forms (which do not provide for the inclusion of information concerning the parents of the child), van Zoggel’s handwritten documents are certified copies taken from the vital event indexes. While an extract from an original entry of birth/death must include details relating to the parents, certificates taken from indexes of birth/death registration records omit parent’s details. Accordingly, the information recorded on the documents produced by van Zoggel contains only details related to the infant. And that is the reason why we still do not have an answer to the question: who was the mother of Omero Lengrini?
Van Zoggel embellishes Gage’s account with all manner of details. Much attention is given to the description of the photograph and the shop, the affidavit signed by the obstetrician, the baptism, etc. The result of these efforts is that van Zoggel continually revises key details of Gage’s version of events in order to adjust them to the data of his findings (e.g. time and place of death, baptism “in the air”, etc.). What eventually emerges is an entirely new version of the circumstances surrounding the birth and death of Omero Lengrini. And thus van Zoggel further demolishes the accuracy and integrity of Gage’s story of the purported child of Callas, making it even less believable.
Substantially transformed, in particular, appears the most heart-rending account submitted by Gage, who knows so well “how to write an exciting story”, of how and why Callas decided to go for the premature delivery which gives way to the somewhat more ‘realistic’ admission that “the premature Caesarean section was most probably not a choice but a medical necessity”. While even going so far as to suggest that “maybe Callas had a say in choosing the exact day and the horizontally cut”, van Zoggel ignores the fact that the lower transverse abdominal incision, which is the procedure most commonly used today, was only widely introduced after the establishing of the Joel-Cohen medical procedure of 1972. In the sixties, however, the classical Caesarean section was performed which involves a midline longitudinal incision, leaving a big and ugly vertical scar from below the naval downwards. Thus, after this operation, Callas would have never worn a bikini.
Van Zoggel states that, at the clinic, “It was confirmed that Callas was the woman in question,” yet there is still not one document or verifiable proof that Callas was pregnant, entered the clinic or was connected to Omero Lengrini. It is difficult to believe that, though nearly 47 years have passed, there would be still some staff members working at what is today’s “first rate” clinic ‘Casa di cura privata’ who supposedly witnessed that Callas delivered a child in what was decades ago ‘Clinica Dezza’ and who would even remember such details as “that the baby was baptized in the Catholic church San Rosario nearby.” Then there is the ethics issue. Nobody working in the medical discipline would discuss medical information with anyone other than the patient or close family. If Mr. van Zoggel was able to find someone who was prepared to talk, one must immediately question this unethical person’s reliability.
Even with these two visits to Milan the editor of the magazine is unable to find a shred of proof for Gage’s story of Maria Callas’ “secret son”. Certainly few will agree with his conclusion that “this matter is now cleared and will not cause any further discussion.”
©2006 by Dr. Brigitte Pantis