Anna Moffo

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Anna Moffo
Anna Moffo.jpg
Moffo in 1962
Born(1932-06-27)June 27, 1932
DiedMarch 9, 2006(2006-03-09) (aged 73)
OccupationOpera singer (soprano)
TV hostess
Actress
Years active1956–1974

Anna Moffo (June 27, 1932 – March 9, 2006) was an American opera singer, television personality, and actress. One of the leading lyric-coloratura sopranos of her generation, she possessed a warm and radiant voice of considerable range and agility. Noted for her physical beauty, she was nicknamed "La Bellissima". [1]

A coloratura soprano is a type of operatic soprano voice that specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs, leaps and trills.

Contents

Winning a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Italy, Moffo became popular there after performing leading operatic roles on three RAI television productions in 1956. She returned to America for her debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on October 16, 1957. In New York, her Metropolitan Opera debut took place on November 14, 1959. She performed at the Met for over seventeen seasons. Although Moffo's earliest recordings were made for EMI Records, she later signed an exclusive contract with RCA Victor, recording for the company until the late 1970s. In the early 1960s, she hosted her own show on Italian television and appeared in several operatic films along with other non-singing roles.

Lyric Opera of Chicago non-profit organisation in the USA

Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of the leading opera companies in the United States. It was founded in Chicago in 1954, under the name 'Lyric Theatre of Chicago' by Carol Fox, Nicolà Rescigno and Lawrence Kelly, with a season that included Maria Callas's American debut in Norma. The company was re-organized by Fox in 1956 under its present name and, after her 1981 departure, it has continued to be of one of the major opera companies in the United States. The Lyric is housed in the Civic Opera Building, which the company now owns.

Metropolitan Opera Opera company in Manhattan, New York City

The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company based in New York City, resident at the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager. As of 2018, the company's current music director is Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

EMI Records record label founded by the EMI company

EMI Records Ltd. was a British record label founded by the music company of the same name in 1972 as its flagship label, and launched in January 1973 as the successor to its Columbia and Parlophone record labels. The label was later launched worldwide. It has a branch in India called "EMI Records India", run by director Mohit Suri.

In the early 1970s Moffo extended her international popularity to Germany through operatic performances, TV appearances, and several films, all while continuing her American operatic performances. Due to an extremely heavy workload, Moffo suffered a serious vocal-breakdown from which she never fully recovered. Her final appearance at the Metropolitan Opera was in 1983.

Early life

Anna Moffo was born in Wayne, Pennsylvania, USA [2] to Italian parents, Nicola Moffo (a shoemaker) and his wife Regina Cinti. After graduating from Radnor High School, Anna turned down an offer to go to Hollywood and went instead to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she studied with Eufemia Giannini-Gregory, sister of soprano Dusolina Giannini. In 1954, on a Fulbright scholarship, she left for Italy to complete her studies at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome where she was a pupil of Mercedes Llopart and Luigi Ricci. She later studied voice privately in New York City with Beverley Peck Johnson. [3]

Wayne, Pennsylvania Unincorporated community in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States

Wayne is an unincorporated community centered in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, on the Main Line, a series of highly affluent Philadelphia suburbs located along the railroad tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad and one of the wealthiest areas in the nation. While the center of Wayne is in Radnor Township, Wayne extends into both Tredyffrin Township in Chester County and Upper Merion Township in Montgomery County. The center of Wayne was designated the Downtown Wayne Historic District in 2012. Considering the large area served by the Wayne post office, the community may extend slightly into Easttown Township, Chester County, as well.

Radnor High School is a public high school in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Of all high schools in Pennsylvania, Radnor is ranked 3rd by U.S. News & World Report, and 1st by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Curtis Institute of Music music school

The Curtis Institute of Music is a conservatory in Philadelphia that offers courses of study leading to a performance diploma, Bachelor of Music, Master of Music in Opera, or Professional Studies Certificate in Opera. It is among the most selective institutes of higher education in the world with a 4.8% admissions rate.

Career

Anna Moffo (right) with Janet Cox-Rearick Waldman (left) at a cafe in Rome in 1954, when both were Fulbright Fellows in Italy Janet Cox-Rearick Waldman with Tom Fitzpatrick and Anna Moffo Rome 1954.jpg
Anna Moffo (right) with Janet Cox-Rearick Waldman (left) at a cafe in Rome in 1954, when both were Fulbright Fellows in Italy

Moffo made her official operatic debut in 1955 in Spoleto as Norina in Don Pasquale . Shortly after, still virtually unknown and little experienced, she was offered the challenging role of Cio-Cio San in an Italian television (RAI) production of Madama Butterfly . The telecast aired on January 24, 1956, and made Moffo an overnight sensation throughout Italy. Offers quickly followed and she appeared in two other television productions that same year, as Nannetta in Falstaff and as Amina in La sonnambula . She appeared as Zerlina in Don Giovanni , at the Aix-en-Provence Festival and made her recording debut for EMI as Nannetta (Falstaff) under Herbert von Karajan, and as Musetta in La bohème with Maria Callas, Giuseppe Di Stefano and Rolando Panerai. The following year (1957) saw her debut at the Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival, at La Scala in Milan and the Teatro San Carlo in Naples.

Spoleto Comune in Umbria, Italy

Spoleto is an ancient city in the Italian province of Perugia in east-central Umbria on a foothill of the Apennines. It is 20 km (12 mi) S. of Trevi, 29 km (18 mi) N. of Terni, 63 km (39 mi) SE of Perugia; 212 km (132 mi) SE of Florence; and 126 km (78 mi) N of Rome.

<i>Don Pasquale</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Don Pasquale is an opera buffa, or comic opera, in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti with an Italian libretto completed largely by Giovanni Ruffini as well as the composer. It was based on a libretto by Angelo Anelli for Stefano Pavesi's opera Ser Marcantonio written in 1810 but, on the published libretto, the author appears as "M.A."

RAI Italys national public service

RAI – Radiotelevisione italiana (Italian pronunciation: [ˈrai ˌradjoteleviˈzjoːne itaˈljaːna]; commercially styled as Rai since 2000; known until 1954 as Radio Audizioni Italiane is the national public broadcasting company of Italy, owned by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Moffo returned to America for her debut there, as Mimì in La bohème next to Jussi Björling's Rodolfo, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on October 16, 1957. Moffo had three other roles at the Lyric that season: Mignon , Le nozze di Figaro (with Tito Gobbi, Giulietta Simionato and Eleanor Steber) and Lucia di Lammermoor. On at least one occasion her performance of Lucia's Mad Scene earned Moffo a 10-minute standing ovation.

Jussi Björling Swedish tenor

Johan Jonatan "Jussi" Björling was a Swedish tenor. One of the leading operatic singers of the 20th century, Björling appeared for many years at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and less frequently at the major European opera houses, including the Royal Opera House in London and La Scala in Milan.

<i>Mignon</i> opera by Ambroise Thomas

Mignon is an opéra comique in three acts by Ambroise Thomas. The original French libretto was by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, based on Goethe's novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. The Italian version was translated by Giuseppe Zaffira. The opera is mentioned in James Joyce's "The Dead" (Dubliners) and Willa Cather's The Professor's House. Thomas's goddaughter Mignon Nevada was named after the main character.

Tito Gobbi Italian opera singer

Tito Gobbi was an Italian operatic baritone with an international reputation.

Her Metropolitan Opera debut took place on November 14, 1959, as Violetta in La traviata , a part that would quickly become her signature role. She performed at The Metropolitan Opera for seventeen seasons in roles such as Lucia, Gilda, Adina, Mimì, Liù, Nedda, Pamina, Marguerite, Juliette, Manon, Mélisande, Périchole, and the four heroines of Les contes d'Hoffmann . Alfred Lunt's production of La Traviata as part of the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House in the Lincoln Center in 1966 was mounted especially for her.

<i>La traviata</i> 1853 opera by Giuseppe Verdi

La traviata is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. It is based on La Dame aux camélias (1852), a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas fils. The opera was originally titled Violetta, after the main character. It was first performed on 6 March 1853 at the La Fenice opera house in Venice.

<i>Lucia di Lammermoor</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Lucia di Lammermoor is a dramma tragico in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Salvadore Cammarano wrote the Italian-language libretto loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott's historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor.

<i>Rigoletto</i> opera by Giuseppe Verdi

Rigoletto is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. The Italian libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le roi s'amuse by Victor Hugo. Despite serious initial problems with the Austrian censors who had control over northern Italian theatres at the time, the opera had a triumphant premiere at La Fenice in Venice on 11 March 1851.

In the late 1950s, she recorded Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, opposite Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Giuseppe Taddei, conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini; and recitals of Mozart arias with EMI. She then became an exclusive RCA Victor artist.

Moffo was also invited to sing at the San Francisco Opera where she made her debut as Amina on October 1, 1960. During that period she also made several appearances on American television, while enjoying a successful international career singing at most major opera houses around the world (Stockholm, Berlin, Monte Carlo, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, etc.). At the Metropolitan Opera in March 1961 with Birgit Nilsson and Franco Corelli she performed in Turandot as Liù, conducted by Leopold Stokowski. [4] She made her debut at the Royal Opera House in London, as Gilda, in a Franco Zeffirelli production of Rigoletto. Shortly after the Italian tenor Sergio Franchi joined RCA Victor, they recorded a popular album of operetta duets, The Dream Duet, which peaked at number ninety seven on the Billboard 200 in 1963. [5] Later that year Franchi and Moffo collaborated in recording The Great Moments From Die Fledermaus with The Vienna State Orchestra and Chorus, Oskar Dannon conducting. In 1999 this album was re-mastered and re-issued in High Performance Stereo. [6]

Grave of Anna Moffo Sarnoff in Kensico Cemetery Anna Moffo Sarnoff Grave 2011.JPG
Grave of Anna Moffo Sarnoff in Kensico Cemetery

Moffo remained particularly popular in Italy and performed there regularly. She hosted a program on Italian television "The Anna Moffo Show" (two series: the first in 1964; the second in 1967) and was voted one of the ten most beautiful women in Italy. She appeared in film versions of La traviata (1968) and Lucia di Lammermoor (1971), both produced (with the Italian TV director Sandro Bolchi) and directed by her first husband Mario Lanfranchi, as well as non-operatic films, including Menage all'italiana (1965), the then controversial Una storia d'amore (1969), The Adventurers (1970), A Girl Called Jules (1970), and The Weekend Murders (1970). In the early 1970s, she began appearing on German television and in operetta films such as Die Csárdásfürstin and Die schöne Galathée . She also recorded with Eurodisc the title roles in Carmen and Iphigenie in Aulis , as well as the role of Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel .

Her heavy workload led to physical exhaustion and serious vocal impairment in 1968, from which she never fully recovered. Although she continued to sing in staged opera through 1980, her appearances became more sporadic. Her last performance at the Met was during the 1983 Centennial celebrations, where she sang the Sigmund Romberg duet "Will You Remember?" with Robert Merrill. After retiring from singing Moffo remained active as a board member of the Metropolitan Opera Guild and by hosting several tributes and giving occasional masterclasses.

Personal life

Moffo was married twice, first to stage and film director Mario Lanfranchi, on December 8, 1957. The couple divorced in 1972. Her second marriage was to Robert Sarnoff, the chairman of the RCA Corporation, on November 14, 1974. He died on February 22, 1997.

Anna Moffo spent the last years of her life in New York City, where she died in 2006 of a stroke at age 73, following a decade-long battle with breast cancer. She is interred with Sarnoff at Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York.

Selected RCA Victor recordings

Anna Moffo in 1962 Anna Moffo 1962b.jpg
Anna Moffo in 1962

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References

Notes

  1. https://www.amazon.com/La-Bellissima-Anna-Moffo-Recordings/dp/B000002S1P
  2. Interview on 3sat in 1990 on YouTube
  3. Anthony Tommasini (January 22, 2001). "Beverley Peck Johnson, 96, Voice Teacher". The New York Times .
  4. https://www.amazon.com/Puccini-Turandot-Giaiotti-Guarrera-Stokowski/dp/B000E7PH52
  5. Anna Moffo & Sergio Franchi, The Dream Duet, RCA Victor Red Seal LSP-2675, 1963, LP
  6. Anna Moffo, Sergio Franchi, et al, The Great Moments from Die Fledermaus, RCA Victor Red Seal LSP-2725, 1963, LP

Sources