'Simply the greates singer' Opera: Music lovers and the U.S. Postal Service commemorate Rosa Ponselle 100 years after her birth.

September 26, 1997|By Carl Schoettler

Luciano Pavarotti praised her as "the Queen of Queens in all of singing." Maria Callas called her "simply the greatest singer of us all." Montserrat Caballe said: "My favorite singer? Rosa Ponselle!"

A now legendary superstar, Ponselle, the first truly great American dramatic soprano, would have been 100 years old this year. She'll be remembered and honored in two extraordinary memorial events this weekend -- near her mausoleum in Druid Ridge Cemetery, Pikesville, at 4 p.m. tomorrow, and in a memorial concert at 4 p.m. Sunday in Murphy Auditorium at Morgan State University.

A U.S. postage stamp commemorating the singer's centenary will be "unveiled" at Sunday's concert. The 32-cent stamp depicts Ms. Ponselle as a 21-year-old singer plucked from vaudeville in 1918 by Enrico Caruso to star opposite him in Verdi's "La Forza del Destino."

She would reign as the premier diva of the Metropolitan Opera for 19 years, retiring to Baltimore in 1937 after her final triumph as "Carmen," married to the son of the mayor. She lived the last 40 years of her life at the Villa Pace, her Green Spring Valley home named for the aria "Pace, pace, mio dio," from her debut role as Leonora in "La Forza." She died there May 25, 1981.

Once in a confab of sopranos, Lotte Lehman exclaimed to Geraldine Farrar: "How does one get a voice like Ponselle's?!"

"There's only one way," Farrar replied. "By a very special arrangement with the Lord -- and then you must work very, very hard!"

Pub Date: 9/26/97

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