Italian American Soprano Florence Quartararo (1922-1994) in the Mirror Song, "Dis-moi que je suis belle" from Act 2 of Massenet's Thaïs. This is a transcription of a live radio concert on 11 February 1950. In this scene, Thaïs, alone in her bedroom, suddenly realizes the superficiality of her life. Looking into a mirror, she asks herself what will happen once her beauty fades.
Quartararo's stellar talent and qualities were discovered in the postwar period. She was admired by both Bruno Walter and Toscanini. The latter had wanted her to sing Desdemona in his 1947 broadcast performance of Otello. Unfortunately her contractual obligations with the Met prevented her from attending Toscanini's rehearsals and Toscanini had to turn to Herva Nelli instead. Her career at the Met lasted only three years as it was curtailed by her marriage to Italian bass Italo Tajo and the birth of a daughter.
The following brief biographical notes by Dave Lewis comes from answers.com: "Soprano Florence Quartararo had about the shortest career of any major historical singer. Born to Italian parents in America, Quartararo was discovered through a quirk of fate at the age of 23, and never studied singing formally. Quartararo's first public appearance was singing on the Bing Crosby radio show under the assumed name of "Florence Alba," but had reverted to her true name by the time she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1947. In 1951, Quartararo retired from singing forever when she married Italian bass Italo Tajo and never returned. At the Met, she had given only 37 performances in nine roles. Quartararo made four 78 sides for RCA Victor in 1947 -- Handel's Care selve, "La mamma morta" from Giordano's Andrea Chénier, and two duets with tenor Ramón Vinay. This is likely all we might have of her artistry if she had not been sought out by researcher Richard Caniell, who had seen her perform at the Met in the 1940s and interviewed Quartararo in 1982. At this time, Quartararo turned over her personal collection of recordings to Caniell, who initially issued them on three cassettes. Since then these recordings have emerged on CD reissues, helping re-establish a reputation for Quartararo as one of the great voices of the twentieth century. About her singing, Robert Farr of Music Web International called Quartararo "a voice to set alongside the giants of the twentieth century.""