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Rosa Ponselle
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    (January 22, 1897-May 25, 1981)
    Born in Meriden, Connecticut
    Birth name was Rosa Ponzillo
    Operatic soprano
    Sang with the Metropolitan Opera (1918-37)
    Most popular parts were the title roles in Bellini's 'Norma' and Bizet's 'Carmen'
    She started in a vaudeville act with her sister, billed as 'Those Tailored Italian Girls.'
    She had stage fright and a phobia of high Cs, which she would count when presented with the score for a prospective role.
    After appearing in the unsuccessful debut of Joseph Carl Breil's 'The Legend,' she burned the score and said the opera would 'stink up a cat box.'
    She retired from the Met in a dispute over her repertoire.
    She suffered a nervous breakdown after her divorce from socialite Carle Jackson (1949).
    She had a three octave vocal range.
    She was discovered in vaudeville by Metropolitan Opera star Enrico Caruso, who convinced the Met to audition her.
    She was the first American-born singer to perform a major role at the Met with no European training or experience.
    As artistic director of the Baltimore Civic Opera Company, she coached Beverly Sills, Placido Domingo and Sherril Milnes.
    Her fans included Leonard Bernstein (who wrote her a letter saying that hearing one of her records at age eight 'made me a music lover forever. I thank you every day of my life.'), Maria Callas ('Ponselle is simply the greatest singer of us all.') and Luciano Pavarotti ('The Queen of Queens in all of singing').

Credit: C. Fishel

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