Rosa Ponselle: American Diva

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9781555533175: Rosa Ponselle: American Diva
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Rosa Ponselle (1897--1981) was one of the greatest American opera singers of the twentieth century. This definitive biography, published on the centenary of her birth, provides a compelling, in-depth, and balanced portrait of the brilliant soprano. It is a captivating Cinderella story of the spirited diva's rise from modest beginnings in Meriden, Connecticut, to star of the Metropolitan Opera.

Drawing on interviews and extensive documentary research, Mary Jane Phillips-Matz charts the course of Ponselle's incredible career, from demonstrating sheet music in dime stores, to singing in motion picture houses and restaurants, to performing on the vaudeville stage with her beloved and talented sister Carmela, to her pivotal audition for Enrico Caruso. With Caruso's backing, the twenty-one-year-old soprano, with no previous experience in opera, made a sensational debut at the Metropolitan Opera and became an overnight celebrity.

The extraordinarily successful operatic and concert career that followed the diva's debut is chronicled in this vibrant account. Also included are Ponselle's headstrong disputes with the Metropolitan, her troubled marriage and divorce, and her productive retirement years as Artistic Director of the Baltimore Civic Opera and teacher of such future opera stars as Placido Domingo, Beverly Sills, William Warfield, James Morris, and Sherill Milnes.

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About the Author:

Mary Jane Phillips-Matz is the author of the highly praised Verdi: A Biography. She served as manager of the Spoleto Festival for several years, and is a regular contributor to Opera News. She lives in New York City. Beverly Sills is Chairman of the Board of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and she sits on the Managing Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A thorough if dry biography published in the centennial year of the great soprano's birth. There are two ways of writing biography: Creating a portrait--novelized nonfiction, if you will--or presenting an incredibly detailed and more distanced account of a life. Phillips-Matz (Verdi, 1993), a regular contributor to Opera News and a former manager of the Spoleto Festival, has chosen the latter strategy here; the results are both good and not-so. Reading at times like a grocery list as the author strings together quotes from reviews and other sources, this volume about one of the 20th century's great singers is nonetheless impressive for the depth of its research. In ably charting Ponselle's life, Phillips-Matz relies on extensive interviews (conducted by both herself and others) as well as on a great deal of documentary material. Born in Meriden, Conn., in 1897, Ponselle rose from her modest origins as a sixth-grade drop-out who traveled the vaudeville circuit as one half of a singing duo with her sister, Carmela. Later, with the assistance of star tenor Enrico Caruso, she made her fairy-tale-style Metropolitan Opera debut at the age of 21. Ponselle was an unpredictable character, given to practical jokes and sports. This was a woman who spent her vacations not only learning every note of the new operas she was scheduled to sing the following season, but also mountain climbing in the Swiss Alps, and biking and fishing wherever. Her star status is all the more striking considering that she didn't come to opera training until fairly late. Aspiring opera singers will appreciate the author's attention to Ponselle's habits and singing strategies, while lay fans will value the book's indefatigable flow of information. Included are a Ponselle discography and a foreword by Beverly Sills. A rather conventional approach to a fairly unconventional life. (illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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