The Rosa Ponselle Foundation

Rosa Ponselle pictures

News Releases

June 25, 1996


In honor of the centenary of the legendary American dramatic soprano, ROSA PONSELLE, The Rosa Ponselle Foundation will be offering a two-hour audio/visual lecture program featuring the Life and Art of the American DIVA to American, Canadian and international opera guilds, opera centers, conservatory programs and schools of music within universities and colleges.

Considered by many to have been the greatest dramatic soprano of our century, the Metropolitan Opera Diva was the first American-born artist without the benefit of European training or experience to have opened the doors of the Met to the American- trained singer. Born Rosa Ponzillo in Meriden, Connecticut on January 22, l897 of Italian immigrant parents, she entered a vaudevillian career at age l6 with her sister, Carmela. By l9, she and Carmela became headliners at the Palace in New York City. It was soon thereafter that she would be discovered by Enrico Caruso, who was looking for his Leonora for the Met's l9l8 premiere of Verdi's LA FORZA DEL DESTINO. Given only five months to prepare for her debut, the completely vocally and operatically untrained Ponselle made her historic debut at age 2l. An over- night sensation, she entered an unrivaled career in opera, concert, oratorio and radio, establishing herself as the Metropolitan Opera's reigning queen for l9 seasons. At age 39, while at the height of her career and vocally in her prime, she abandoned her operatic career to marry Carle A. Jackson, the son of Baltimore's mayor. Unknown at the time to Ponselle and the public, her last performance for the Met was in April of l936 during a live radio broadcast from Cleveland of her CARMEN for which she had been acclaimed by her colleagues and the notable critics of her day as, perhaps, the greatest of all the portrayers of the role. The Met's Historical Recording Division has since reproduced the live l936 broadcast. Although her retirement from the operatic stage occurred at age 39, she continued to concertize and make recordings for several years thereafter leaving the public with a great sense of loss that she ended her operatic career in her vocal prime. In l954, while living in Baltimore, she emerged from a l5-year retirement to make two LP recordings for RCA which displayed that her voice and artistry were still in tact. Never again to perform publicly or to re- cord professionally, Ponselle spent the last 32 years of her life teaching, nurturing or launching in their operatic careers some of our century's most brilliant generation of rising stars. They include John Aler, Lili Chookasian, Placido Domingo, Raina Kabaivanska, Spiro Malas, Adriana Maliponte, Sherrill Milnes, James Morris, Sheila Nadler, Will Parker, Leontyne Price, Louis Quilico, Beverly Sills and William Warfield.

The Rosa Ponselle Foundation's audio/visual lecture program features slides capturing Ponselle from her early childhood in Meriden, Connecticut throughout her career and into her retirement years in Baltimore until age 83; an MGM screen test in l936 which features Ponselle performing two selections from CARMEN; recordings of her Columbia and RCA releases; her live "off-the- air" radio broadcasts; and nonreleased private recordings from her "Villa Pace" estate.

The program lecturer is Miss Elayne Duke, a close Baltimore, family friend of Ponselle's since her early childhood, who has, since l982, served as the Director of Ponselle's "Villa Pace" Estate Museum and as President and Administrative Director of the Rosa Ponselle Charitable Foundation, Inc.'s Competition, Scholar- ship and Young Artist Training Programs.

All costs relating to the lecture presentations are funded under the auspices of the Rosa Ponselle Charitable Foundation, Inc.'s Educational endowment and will be offered ONLY throughout l997.

For further inquiries or to schedule lecture dates, contact:

The Rosa Ponselle Charitable Foundation, Inc.
Stevenson, Maryland 2ll53-9999
Telephone: (l 4l0) 486-46l6 Fax: (l 4l0) 486-0495

Back to News Releases

Updated: 5/1/97
Copyright © 1997, The Rosa Ponselle Charitable Foundation
All rights reserved
Comments and questions can be directed to the Foundation