American opera singer Rosa Ponselle was born on January 22, 1897 in Meriden, Connecticut, and died on May 25, 1981 in Baltimore, Maryland. January 2022 will mark her 125th birthday.
Rosa Ponselle (actually Rosa Melba Ponzillo) appeared from 1915 with her older sister Carmela as the Ponzillo Sisters in New York cinemas and cabarets. The impresario William Thorner recognized her talent and brought her into contact with the Metropolitan Opera, where she was promoted by Enrico Caruso. In 1918 she made her stage debut alongside Caruso as Leonore in “La forza del destino” by Giuseppe Verdi. The performance made Ponselle famous overnight. From 1918 to 1937 she was part of the Met ensemble for 19 seasons in a row.
After the end of her active career, she took on a managerial position at the newly founded Baltimore Civic Opera. There she also gave singing lessons. One of her students was Plácido Domingo.
Rosa Ponselle is one of the most outstanding coloratura sopranos in opera history. Her repertoire included 23 roles in operas by Mascagni, Weber, Rossini, Ponchielli, Spontini, Mozart and Verdi. Her star role, however, was the title role in Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma. Her last role at the Met was Georges Bizet’s Carmen.
The video shows Rosa Ponselle as Carmen in 1936 during test shoots in the MGM film studios.