Rosa Ponselle (January 22, 1897 -- May 25, 1981), was an American operatic soprano with a large, opulent voice. She sang mainly at the New York Metropolitan Opera and is generally considered by music critics to have been one of the greatest sopranos of the past 100 years. Rosa Ponselle made her Metropolitan Opera debut on November 15, 1918, just a few days after the Great War had finished, as Leonora in Verdi's La forza del destino, opposite Caruso. It was her first performance on any opera stage. She was quite intimidated for being in the presence of Caruso, and in spite of an almost paralyzing case of nervousness (which she suffered from throughout her operatic career), she scored a tremendous success, both with the public and with the critics. New York Times critic James Huneker wrote: 'What a promising debut! Added to her personal attraciveness, she possesses a voice of natural beauty that may prove a gold mine. It is vocal gold, anyhow, with its luscious lower and middle tones, dark, rich and ductile, brilliant in the upper register.' In addition to Leonora, Ponselle's roles in the 1918-19 season included Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana, Rezia in Weber's Oberon, and Carmelita in the (unsuccessful) world premiere of Joseph Carl Breil's The Legend (a role and opera that Ponselle loathed so much that she later burned the score and said the opera "would smell up a cat's box"). In the following Met seasons, Ponselle's roles included the lead soprano roles in La Juive (opposite Caruso's Eléazar, his last new role before he died), William Tell, Ernani, Il trovatore, Aida, La Gioconda, Don Carlos, L'Africaine, L'amore dei tre re, Andrea Chénier, La vestale, and in 1927 the role that many considered her greatest achievement, the title role in Bellini's Norma. In addition to her operatic activities, which were centered at the Met, Ponselle had a lucrative concert career. A tour of the West coast included an appearance at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on March 14, 1927 in the Artist Series of the Community Arts Association's Music Branch, accompanied by pianist Stuart Ross...
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