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Google Doodle sings praises for opera star Maria Callas

The late opera icon who died at the age of 53 would have been 90 years old on December 2.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

The latest Google Doodle honors the birthday of an opera singer who defined the word diva.

Born on December 2, 1923, Maria Callas became one of the world's most celebrated opera stars, winning acclaim throughout the 1940s and '50s for her legendary performances. After making her debut in 1941, Callas went on to sing in such operas as "Tosca," "Fidelio," "Norma," and "Lucia."

But she also became known for her extravagant tastes and temperamental behavior, according to her official Web site. Off stage, she had an affair with Aristotle Onassis while still married to her husband Giovanni Meneghini. But the affair came to an end after Onassis left her to marry Jackie Kennedy in 1968, an act that some say devastated her.

In later years, she suffered from the gradual decline of her voice and ill health, eventually dying of a heart attack in Paris in 1977.

But her personal troubles could not take away from her impact as an artist.

After being told of her death, conductor Leonard Bernstein said that "besides being a cherished friend, she was for me the uniquely great singer of bel canto in the mid-20th century and has for some years been irreplaceable," The New York Times reported.