Monday, March 13, 2006


I don't usually weep for deceased opera singers but the death of Anna Moffo reminds me that nobody stays young forever.
Moffo will be remembered primarily I suspect as a very beautfiul woman, which indeed she was. Her death last week at age 73 came thirty years after the short lived prime of her voice. Her career began in Italy in the mid fifties, and there were still some good performances to be heard until around 1975. After that it was chancy at best and horrible at worst. Those of you born after 1975 would not have heard her at her best, but her many recordings still offer a lot of pleasure.

Traviata-Violetta was her signature role
La rondine
Madama Buttefly
Luisa Miller
Villa-Lobos, Canteloube, Rachmaninoff with Stokowski
Marriage of Figaro

these recordings and many more are all available and have been catalogue favorites for forty years. There's a reason for that. She had a lovely voice with a lot of warm, sort of dark rose colored overtones. She was a terrific actress. She sang WITH the music, using text and notes to create character. (The old fashioned way!)
She meant what she sang.

Anna Moffo was born in Wayne, PA . She trained at Curtis, and made her mark first in
Italy. Her earliest recordings were with Karajan, Callas, Giulini, Schwarzkopf and Colin Davis. There are also a number of beautiful opera films with her: Lucia di Lammermoor, Daughter of the Regiment and Madama Butterfly among them. She had a brief "nudie" phase in Italain cinema in the early sixties, but by the mid seveties, though her voice was suffering she settled down to a long and happy marriage with RCA Chairman Robert Sarnoff. He died in 1997.

My own favorites would be the Rondine with the famous "Sogno di doretta" and the even more beautiful "Ore dolce e divine", Luisa Miller (Verdi) and Butterfly. I last saw her on stage as Violetta, in Providence RI in the late 70s and there were still some good notes left. I last saw her in person at Carnegie Hall last year, she was in the audience. I went up to say hello to her and got a hug, diamonds and all.

The collpase of her voice has never really been explained. She "owned" it and blamed it on exhaustion and too much work and she may have been right. But when it was good, it was splendid. Go find her recoridngs and films in the library. Enjoy, and say a prayer for her. In the era of Callas, Tebaldi, Milanov, Price, Corelli, Merrill and Siepi, Anna was a class act.


Anonymous said...

What lovely and heartfelt comments on the career and passing of Anna Moffo. Before I saw Moffo as Madame Butterfly in the early 70s, I had no interest in opera. It was her performance in Philadelphia that turned this high school lad into a life-long opera lover. The last time I saw her perform was in a recital in Towson, MD in the early 1980s. After the performance I went backstage to her dressing room and she signed my program. I was too much in awe of Moffo to tell her that her career had prompted me to study opera in college and grad school, eventually becoming an opera director and voice teacher. I have every commercial recording she made and they have provided me with many years of listening pleasure.

Anonymous said...

Talk of co-incidence!! I also saw the Providence Traviata in August of 1977. I caused some consternation when my parish choir arrived in front of the then Lowe's State theater. Wewe supposed to hear Roberta Peters with Robert Merrill and when I saw Anna's photo on a large easel type poster....I'mn afraid I exploded with such joy. At last I would hear her in this role.
Fact is back in 1965 I got the complete Opera for my Mother who had seen it in Boston with the Met. It was with Steber, TUCKER and Warren. Well, since she had always raved about Tucker in this Opera, I figured it was quite a coup. Lo and all backfired. I always listened to opera in the house though I was more into classical orchestra music and piano works. When I got the set home, i was alone and decided to "try out" the records a bit ....just to be sure they were flawless. Having already known the Prelude to acts 1 and 3, I stayed in the living room almostto the end of the first prelude and left the room for the kitchen for a glass of water. When that electric crescendo opening of the act 1, I nearly choked on the sip I had taken because I had put up the volume somewhat so as to not miss anything. WHen Moffo started with the " Flora, amici, la notte que resta " I went fanny over teakettle at breakneck speed to see just WHO this voice belonged to. Upon seeing the photo in the libretto, I literally got reeling in hte head as I could not associate such a young beautiful woman with THAT magnificent voice.
Once my Mom got over the surprise on Christmas, I was the one who began listening to the opera in "homeopathic doses until I had the entire Opera memorized in my head and very soul. That was how my addiction began, and thanks to this great talent, I now have a modest collection of some 175 different opera recordings in many languuages......but we all have our favorites. I wish I could find her recording in collaboration with Stokowski and the "pop" album she did with Skitch Henderson entitled ONE NIGHT OF LOVE. She was one of a kind and I went into shock because of her death. I had very recently bought my first computer and one late night in March of 2006, I got a whim figuring that now with a computer, I might be able to write her of my immense gratitude for all she's offered the world. Upon seeing all the listings through Google, I began noticing that most were writing about her in the past tense. A strange pall began to settle over me and when I finally read the sad news. I shut the computer, and, I'm afraid, I woke up mu wife to tell her the news. Neither of us fell asleep for te rest of what was left of that night. I'm sure many others like me will feel the loss for quite some time. We often enjoyed hearing her on the Met broadcasts when invited to speak. God bless her and keep her, always.