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Digital Collections in the Friedheim Library

About this collection

The most sought-after soprano of the 1920s and 1930s, Rosa Ponselle (née Rosa Ponzillo, 1897–1981) began her musical career in a vaudeville act with her sister Carmela Ponselle. Upon hearing Rosa Ponselle for the first time, Enrico Caruso took her under his wing and they appeared on the Metropolitan Opera stage together in La Forza del Destino and La Juive, which was Caruso’s last opera before his retirement. She would go on to sing the title role in the Metropolitan’s revival of Norma, Violetta in La Traviata, the title role in Carmen, and many more principal roles. After her retirement from performing, Ponselle moved with her husband to Baltimore, where they built an Italian-style home they named Villa Pace as an homage to her debut role at the Metropolitan Opera as Leonora in La Forza del Destino. In Baltimore, she taught lessons in her home and became the Artistic Director of the Baltimore Lyric Opera, aiding the careers of singers such as James Morris and Lili Chookasian.

 

After Ponselle's death in 1981, Villa Pace became a museum, and after the museum closed to better fund the Rosa Ponselle International Vocal Competition, her belongings were moved to her hometown of Meriden, Connecticut, to be displayed in their local library. This collection, which includes photographs, postcards, articles, recordings, and programs from countless recitals and performances in the United States and abroad, was combined with the personal collection of Mr. Lester Dequaine and was donated to the Peabody Institute's Arthur Friedheim Library by The Lester Dequaine/Frank Chiarenza Foundation in 2015. Included also are numerous photographs, articles, and programs of Carmela Ponselle, who was also a celebrated mezzo-soprano, turned dramatic soprano, at the Metropolitan Opera and on the radio.

 
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