January 22, 1897, Meriden, Connecticut – May 25, 1981
Rosa Melba Ponzillo was an American coloratura soprano of great breadth of range and expressive ability, who is probably best known for her performance in the title role of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma.
Ponzillo began singing at an early age in the cafés and motion-picture theatres of Meriden, Connecticut, and nearby New Haven. Later she and her sister Carmela played in vaudeville in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as the Ponzillo Sisters.
In 1918 she came to the attention of Enrico Caruso, who was deeply impressed by her voice. At his urging she was engaged by the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and in November, as Rosa Ponselle, she made her operatic debut opposite Caruso, taking on the challenging role of Leonora in Giuseppe Verdi’s La forza del destino.
The first American-born, American-trained singer to star at the Met, she was remembered by some critics as the greatest voice of her day. Ponselle retired after the 1936–37 season and devoted herself to making recordings and to teaching. She also served as artistic director of the Baltimore Civic Opera Company in Maryland for a time.
Puccini – Tosca Vissi d’arte