32¢ Rosa Ponselle
Issue Date: September 10, 1997
City: New York, NY
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
Rosa Ponselle (1897-1981) was born in Meriden, Connecticut. As a teenager she played piano accompaniment for silent motion pictures, and at age 16 began singing in vaudeville with her sister Carmela. The two performed under their real name, the Ponzillo Sisters.
Ponselle’s transition from vaudeville performer to opera singer is undocumented, but at age 21 she came to the attention of opera legend Enrico Caruso. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Leonora in Giuseppe Verdi’s La forza del destino. She studied for the role with Romano Romani, who remained her vocal coach throughout her career.
Most of Ponselle’s career was spent at the Metropolitan, where she sang 22 dramatic roles. Many of these were coloratura parts – that is, marked by ornamental vocal trills and runs. She also sang one season at the Covent Garden in London in 1929, and another at the Maggio Musicale in Florence in 1933.
Classified by experts as a coloratura soprano, Ponselle’s voice was one of the greatest ever produced by America. It had an extremely rich tone, especially in its lower notes – almost like a contralto (the lowest female voice part). Her most noted performance is considered to be the title role in Vincent Bellini’s Norma.