Mafalda Favero enrolled at the Bologna Conservatory when she was seventeen, where she studied singing with Alessandro Vezzani and also attracted the attention of the composer Franco Alfano. At Cremona in 1925, under the name of Maria Bianchi (“Mary White”), she substituted for another singer at short notice as Lola / Cavalleria rusticana; but her formal operatic stage debut took place in 1927 at the Teatro Regio, Parma as Liù / Turandot, followed by Elsa / Lohengrin and Margherita in Boito’s Mefistofele.

In 1928 Favero was engaged by Toscanini to sing Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at La Scala, Milan in the production mounted to mark the thirtieth anniversary of his principal conductorship there. She sang at La Scala continuously until 1949 in a considerable variety of roles, being especially identified with the lyric repertoire with an emphasis upon verismo roles.

Lo arrivo di Butterfly

VOCE DI BUTTERFLY
Ancora un passo or via.

Aspetta.

Spira sul mare e sulla terra
un primaver il soffio giocondo.

Io sono la fanciulla
più lieta del Giappone,
anzi del mondo.
Amiche, son venuta
al richiamo d’amor…

D’amor venni alle soglie
ove s’accoglie il bene
di chi vive e di chi muor.

BUTTERFLY
Siam giunte.

Butterfly’s arrival

BUTTERFLY’S VOICE
Just one more step now…

Wait.

Over land and sea there floats
a joyous breath of spring.

I am the happiest
girl in Japan,
or rather,in the whole world.
Friends, I have come
at the call of love…

I have come to the portals of love
where is gathered the happiness
of all who live and die.

BUTTERFLY
We have arrived.

L’Amico Fritz duet, with Tito Schipa.

Fritz
Suzel, buon dì. D’un gaio rosignuolo
la voce mi svegliò.

Suzel
Che dite mai?

Fritz
Mi piace come canti…

Suzel
Oh, signor Fritz…
Canto così come mi vien dal core.

Fritz [scende dalla scala]
Quei fiori son per me?

Suzel
Per voi li ho colti…
Ed oltre i fiori ho pronta una sorpresa..

Fritz
Una primizia certo…

Suzel
Le ciliegie.

Fritz
Ciliegie! e son di già mature?

Suzel
Han della porpora vivo il colore,
son dolci e tenere…

Fritz [fra sè, guardandola dolcemente]
Di primavera somiglia a un fiore
fragrante e roseo…

Suzel
Son pronta a coglierne un mazzolino…
debbo gettarvele?

Fritz
Gettate subito, bell’augellino,
le saprò prendere…
[Suzel esce dalla porta dell’orto, appare in cima alla scala dall’altra parte del muro, coglie le ciliegie e le getta a Fritz]
Fresche scintillano, di brina ancora
son tutte roride…
Ma… è da quell’albero che, sull’aurora,
pispiglia il passero?

Suzel
Sì, da quell’albero…

Fritz
Ciò ch’egli dice
non sai comprendere?

Suzel
lo lo so intendere… ch’egli è felice
nel canto mormora,
sui rami floridi ha i suoi piccini…
lieti l’aspettano,
agili scherzano dei biancospini
tra i fiori candidi.

Fritz
Come ne interpreti bene il linguaggio!

Suzel
Sembra che parlino…
Sembra salutino coi fior il raggio
dell’aurora…

Fritz [sala, al proscenio]
Tutto tace,
eppur tutto al cor mi parla…
questa pace
fuor di qui, dove trovarla?
Tu sei bella,
o stagion primaverile!
Rinnovella
fiori e amor il dolce aprile! . . .Ah !

Suzel [rientrando dalla porta dell’orto, col grembiulino pieno di ciliegie]
Quale incanto
nel risveglio d’ogni fiore!
Riso o pianto,
tutto è palpito d’amore!
Tutto il prato
d’un tappeto s’è smaltato…
Al Signore
s’alza l’inno da ogni core! . . .Ah!

Fritz
Suzel, good morning. The song of a merry
nightingale awakened me.

Suzel
What are you saying?

Fritz
I like that way that you sing.

Suzel
Oh, Master Fritz,
I sing what comes from my heart.

Fritz
Are those flowers for me?

Suzel
I picked them for you.
But, besides the flowers,
I have a surprise for you.

Fritz
Something new, I expect.

Suzel
Cherries

Fritz
Cherries! Are they already ripe?

Suzel
They’re bright purple,
Sweet and tender.

Fritz (aside, watching her)
She’s like a spring flower,
Fragrant and rose-pink.

Suzel
I’m ready to pick a bunch of them,
Shall I throw them down to you?

Fritz
Throw them down now, my pretty little bird,
I’ll catch them.

(Suzel picks some cherries and throws
them down to Fritz)

The fresh fruit sparkle, still with
Hoar frost
But, . . . is that the tree where the sparrow
twiters at dawn?

Suzel
Yes, that is the one . . .

Fritz
Do you understand what
it says?

Suzel
I do . . . it is singing,
how happy it is!
It has its little ones on the stout branches . . .
Joyfully, they are awaiting it;
Nimbly, they play among the
White blossoms of the hawthorn.

Fritz
How well you interpret their language!

Suzel
They seem to be talking . . .
They seem to be greeting with flowers,
The first rays of dawn!

Fritz
How well you interpret their language!

Suzel
They seem to be greeting with flowers,
The first rays of dawn!

Fritz
How well you interpret their language!

All is still.
Yet it speaks to my heart . . .
Where can you find,
Peace like this elsewhere?
You are beautiful,
O springtime!
Sweet April renews,
Blossoms and love!

Suzel
What enchantment,
In the awakening of each flower!
Laughter or tears,
It all beats with love!
The whole meadow
Is bedecked by a colored carpet . . .
From every heart,
A hymn rises to the Lord! . . .Ah!

Signore ascolta, from Turandot

Signore, ascolta! Deh!, signore, acolta!
Liù non regge più!
Si pezza il cuore! Ahimè,
quanto cammino
col tuo nome nell’anima
col nome tuo nell’labbra
Ma se il tuo destino,
doman, sarà deciso,
noi morrem sulla strada dell’esilio.
Ei perderà suo figlio…
io l’ombra d’un sorriso!
Liù non regge più!
ha pietà!

Signore ascolta, from Puccini’s Turandot

My lord, listen! Ah, sir, listen!
Liu cannot bear it any longer, it breaks my heart!
With your name in my soul,
with your name on my lips!
But if your fate will be decided tomorrow,
we die on the road of exile.
He will lose his son …

I am the shadow of a smile.
Liu cannot bear it any longer!
Have mercy!

Mafalda Favero (stage name of Giuseppina Favero), January 5, 1905 – September 3, 1981.

Mafalda Favero was an Italian lyric soprano whose career was cut short by the lead up to WWII. She only sang two performances at the New York Metropolitan Opera, both as Mimì. She was born in 1903 in Portomaggiore near Ferrara. She studied singing at the Conservatory of Bologna under Alessandro Vezzani, and then under the composer Franco Alfano. She made her debut as Liù in Turandot at Parma in 1927. By 1929, Arturo Toscanini invited her to make her La Scala debut as Eva in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger. She performed at La Scala for every season until 1949. She was closely identified with the roles: Mimì, Liù, Manon, Violetta, Lodoletta (from the eponymous opera of the same name by Mascagni), Iris, Suzel, and two Margheritas (Mefistofele and Faust). She appeared for two seasons at Covent Garden, in 1937 and 1939. Favero is said to have had a small voice, but she pushed it to sing in the lyric repertoire. She claimed that singing Madama Butterfly took 5 years off of her career. Butterfly is known to be a voice killer.

After World War II, Favero took part in the reopening concert of La Scala, singing the third act of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut with Toscanini conducting. Her farewell performances were given in 1949, at La Scala in Milhaud’s Le Pauvre Matelot and at Piacenza as Massenet’s Manon.

Favero was most concerned with dramatic expression in her performances, commenting: “…emotion was the most vital aspect of any heroine I portrayed.”
As a result her voice suffered an earlier decline than might have been expected. Her appearance and affecting dramatic gifts made a great impression on stage, and she possessed the ability to generate great emotional intensity. Unusually complete opera recordings from both the beginning and end of her career exist, notably an account of Mefistofele for Columbia under Molajoli (1931) and a post-war recording of Adriana Lecouvreur, in addition to recordings of many arias and duets.