Sunday, March 12, 2006

Anna Moffo, 1932-2006

The great American soprano Anna Moffo passed away last Thursday evening.

My favorite story about this particular diva involves a Metropolitan Opera performance of La Traviata a couple of seasons ago, where two pretentious old queens were standing against the railing of the Alberto Vilar Grand Tier comparing the evening's Violetta (Fleming) to Traviatas of ages past. In aiming for a more authentically Italian pronunciation of her last name (as opposed to maw-fo) he rounded the initial o but failed to double the f. Anna Mo-fo, indeed.

As with her frequent stage partner Robert Merrill, I was first introduced to her singing my senior year of high school when I picked up highlights of their classic recording of La Boheme. She specialized in opera's fragile heroines: Mimi, Violetta, Gilda, Lucia.

She was thin, beautiful, glamorous and an affecting actress but her early career was badly mismanaged (too much, too soon, too often) which resulted in a vocal crisis from which she never recovered. Fortunately several recordings were made during her brief but glorious vocal prime. The best of these is a spectacular Lucia di Lammermoor (sadly not presently available), partnered by a vibrant Carlo Bergonzi exuding exemplary Italianate dramatic interpretation and flawless bel canto legato, a robust and menacing Mario Sereni, and the amazing and much under-appreciated Ezio Flagello.

Her spectacular technique allowed for a warm, easy full lyric sound with tremendous coloratura agility, stretching easily up to high E-flat and beyond. Her top notes were brilliant and secure, including a sustained high F in "Ah, non giunge!" For a time she was the Met's reigning Violetta, combining Sutherland's technical proficiency with Scotto's dramatic insight and expressive power and a timbre all her own.


Anthony said...

Given her date of birth and, by implication, the likely period of her prime, I suspect it's unlikely her Lucia will be out of copyright any time soon, and therefore Naxos (still the best remasterers in the business) won't be in a position to issue it for a while yet.

It's more than likely there will be a few commemorative issues on the way, however, which may well include excerpts from that recording, if not the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

Anna Moffo's biography is acquirable in Italy :for further information please write to Giuseppe Genesi
Via Angelo Genocchi numero 50 -Cap. 29100 Piacenza Italy .The Book is huge (over 500 pages ) with hundreds of footnotes and about 200
photoes .
Luxurious !

Giancarlo Zaffignani