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Lyric Coloratura SopranoSoprano

Jewel Song from Gounod’s Faust, Anna Moffo soprano

By July 16, 2019March 17th, 2023No Comments

Anna Moffo was an American lyric soprano (born June 27, 1932, Wayne, Pa.—died March 10, 2006, New York, N.Y.), whose glamor, radiant beauty onstage, and warm voice made her a favorite operatic heroine in the 1960s, especially at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera. She won a place at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music and later studied voice and the Italian language in Rome. She made her stage debut in 1955 at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, singing Norina in Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, and she first sang at Milan’s La Scala two years later as Nannetta in Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff. Her American debut took place in 1957 at the Chicago Lyric Opera as Mimi in Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème, with Jussi Björling, then at the end of his distinguished career, as Rodolfo. For her Met debut in 1959, she sang Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata, perhaps the role for which she became best known. She sang in some 200 productions at the Met over the next decade.


One more thing, Moffo’s version of Rachmanoff’s Vocalise is well worth listening to.  She has pitch problems in it, but the voice is still quite beautiful.


Ah! je ris de me voir
si belle en ce miroir,
Ah! je ris de me voir
si belle en ce miroir,
Est-ce toi, Marguerite, est-ce toi?
Réponds-moi, réponds-moi,
Réponds, réponds, réponds vite!
Non! Non! ce nest plus toi!
Non…non, ce nest plus ton visage;
C’est la fille d’un roi;
Ce n’est plus toi,
C’est la fille d’un roi
Qu’on salut au passage!
Ah, s’il était ici!
S’il me voyait ainsi!
Comme une demoiselle
Il me trouverait belle, Ah!

Achevons la métamorphose,
Il me tarde encor d’essayer
Le bracelet it le collier!
Dieu! cest comme une main,
Qui sur mon bras se pose! ah! ah!
Ah! je ris
de me voir si belle dans ce miroir! etc

Ah, I laugh to see myself
so beautiful in this mirror,
Ah, I laugh to see myself
so beautiful in this mirror,
Is it you, Marguerite, it is you?
Answer me, answer me,
Respond, respond, respond quickly!
No, no! it is no longer you!
No…no, it is no longer your face;
It is the daughter of a king,
It is no longer you, etc.
It is the daughter of a king,
Whom one bows to as she passes!
Ah, if only he were here!
If he would see me like this
Like a lady
He would find me so beautiful, Ah!

Let us complete the metamorphosis,
I am late yet in trying on
The bracelet and the necklace!
God! it is like a hand
Which is placed on my arm! Ah, ah!
Ah, I laugh
to see myself so beautiful in this mirror! etc

Anna Moffo was born in 1932 and died in New York at aged 73 in 2006.  Moffo was an American soprano who was beloved for her rosy voice, dramatic vulnerability and exceptional beauty.

Though Ms. Moffo’s career began splendidly, her voice had declined by her late 30’s. With her radiant appearance, she was drawn early on into television and film, playing host of her own variety show on Italian television for many years.

Though Ms. Moffo’s voice was not large, it was warm and rich, with soft pastel colorings and a velvety lower range. Agile coloratura technique allowed her to sing high soprano bel canto repertory impressively, especially “Lucia di Lammermoor.” She was a thoroughly trained musician, having studied the piano and viola when she was a voice major on scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

As Susanna on the classic 1959 EMI recording of Mozart’s “Nozze di Figaro,” Ms. Moffo holds her own and then some in scenes with the intimidating soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, who sings the Countess. Her RCA recording of “La Traviata,” with Richard Tucker and Robert Merrill, is still prized for the subtlety and pathos she brings to her portrayal of Violetta

Anna Moffo was born in Wayne, Pa., to an Italian-American shoemaker and his wife on June 27, 1932.   After graduation, Hollywood beckoned, but her parents, as Ms. Moffo told it, wanted her to be a nun. Instead, in 1954 she entered and won the Philadelphia Orchestra Young Artists Auditions. Awarded a Fulbright fellowship, she went to Rome to study voice, master the Italian language and train for opera.

Ms. Moffo made her stage opera debut in 1955 as Norina in Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” in Spoleto. Her big breakthrough came the next year, when she starred in a television production of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” directed by Mario Lanfranchi, a producer for RCA Victor and RAI. She and Mr. Lanfranchi married in 1957. Sensing her star potential, he pushed her too hard. Recalling this period in a 1977 interview, Ms. Moffo lamented that she sang an average of 12 new roles a year for the first four years of her career, all star parts.

Her Met debut in 1959 was as Violetta in “La Traviata.

Ms. Moffo soon became a favorite at the Met, and remained so well into the 1960’s. She appeared some 200 times with the company, including her portrayal of Liù in the legendary production of Puccini’s “Turandot” in 1961 that starred Birgit Nilsson and Franco Corelli, available today on a limited edition live recording produced by the Met.

<p”>By the late 1960’s, her voice was often unreliable. This should be a cautionary tale to all who go to miracle “voice fixers”.  This is what Moffo did at about this time, and it ruined her voice for the rest of her carrier.

This next part was unknown to me.  I know of Beverly Johnson, and she was reputed to be one of the best voice teachers in the world.  I know that she helped Tebaldi when she was having trouble.

In the late 1970’s, Ms. Moffo went to a respected voice teacher, Beverley Johnson, to get her singing back in shape. The work paid off somewhat: her career continued. But her best years were long behind her.

Gounod:  Faust

This is a 5-act opera, and so I will give you the briefest of summaries.

Act 1. Faust’s cabinet.
The philosopher Faust is profoundly depressed by his inaptitude to reach fulfillment through knowledge and thinks of committing suicide. By the end of the act, he has sold his soul to the Devil.

Acte II. The carnival at the city gates.
The curtain rises on a joyful choir of students, soldiers, bourgeois, girls and stout women (choir: ” Vin ou Bière “). Valentin enters, holding in his hand a medal which his sister Marguerite gave to him; he is about to leave for war, and is giving instructions to his friends, notably to Wagner and Siébel, so that they take care of her. Méphistophélès appears suddenly. Méphistophélès remains alone, soon joined by Faust and by a group of village waltzers (waltz and choir: ” Ainsi que la brise légère “). When Marguerite appears among them, Faust offers hers his arm; she refuses with modesty and goes away deftly.

Acte III. Marguerite’s garden.
Faust and Méphistophélès enter the garden; while the devil is in charge of finding a present for Marguerite, Faust shouts out to Marguerite’s house and to the defending embrace of nature (cavatina: ” Salut, demeure chaste et pure “). Méphistophélès returns and sets down a casket with jewels for the girl. Marguerite arrives, wondering who the young gentleman was who approached her earlier. Marthe, Marguerite’s governess, tells her that these jewels have to be the present of an admirer.

And here follows the Jewel Song.  I leave it to you to look up the rest of the plot, if it interests you.

Charles-François Gounod was born on June 18, 1818 -in Paris and died on October 18, 1893, in Saint-Cloud.

The French composer was the son of a pianist mother and a draftsman father. His mother was his first piano teacher. Under her tutelage Gounod first showed his musical talents. He entered the Paris Conservatoire where he studied under Fromental Halévy. He won the Prix de Rome in 1839 for his cantata Ferdinand. He subsequently went to Italy where he studied the music of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. He concentrated on religious music of the 16th century.

Charles Gounod eventually returned to Paris and composed the Messe Sollennelle, also known as the Saint Cecilia Mass. This work was first performed in London during 1851 and began his reputation as a noteworthy composer. He wrote two symphonies in 1855. His Symphony No.1 in D major was the inspiration for Georges Bizet’s (who was then Gounod’s 17 year old student) Symphony No. 1 in C, composed later that same year. Despite their charm and brilliance, Gounod’s symphonies are seldom performed.

Charles Gounod wrote his first opera, Sappho, in 1851, but had no great success until Faust (1859), based on the play by Goethe. This remains his best-known work. The romantic and highly melodious Roméo et Juliette (based on the Shakespeare play), premiered in 1867, is also performed and recorded regularly. The charming and highly individual Mireille of 1864 is admired by connoisseurs. There is some controversy surrounding Faust. Many critics believed it was a far advancement over Gounod’s prior works. One critic stated his doubt that Gounod composed it, which prompted Gounod to challenge the critic to a duel. The critic withdrew his statement.

From 1870 to 1875 Charles Gounod lived in England, becoming the first conductor of what is now the Royal Choral Society. Much of Gounod’s music from this time is vocal or choral in nature. Later in his life, he wrote much religious music, including a musical setting of Ave Maria based on the first prelude from Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier by J.S. Bach and Hymnus Pontificius the anthem of Vatican. He also devoted himself to chamber music, composing four string quartets.