“The Queen of Queens in all of singing.”
– Luciano Pavarotti, tenor.
Rosa Ponselle was born on January 22, 1897, in Meriden, Connecticut, to Italian immigrants from Caiazzo, near Caserta. She was the youngest of three children. They lived at the corner of Lewis Avenue and Bartlett Street, then on Foster Street, and when she was three they moved to Springdale Avenue. She had a naturally gifted mature voice, and took piano lesion with the local music teacher, Anna Ryan, who was also the organist of a nearby Catholic church. She decided very soon on she wanted to become a cabaret singer. She billed herself well and was soon performing ballads all around the area and performing as a silent-movie accompanist.
In 1912 she did vaudeville, performing in The Girl from Brighton, a 1912 Broadway musical. She became so well known she was soon performing a long-term engagement at the San Carlino theater in New Haven near Yale University. She and her sister Carmela also performed on the vaudeville circuit as the Ponselle Sisters until 1918 when the split the act and the great tenor Enrico Caruso persuaded Rosa to audition for the Metropolitan Opera.
On November 15, 1918, Rosa Ponselle debuted at the Met as Leonora in Verdi’s La forza del destino, opposite Caruso. She received rave reviews from New York Times critic James Huneker. She went on to perform numerous operas.
This was the part she was born to play; the voice of an opera singer. All she knew was that she wanted to sing on stage. All she needed to do was to find where she fit.
Here is Rosa Ponselle performing “Suicidio!” which shows her range, timbre, pianissimo