Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy Birthday: Mirella Freni

Scène de la Crau: "Voici la vaste plaine"
Mireille (Gounod)
"Born February 27, 1935 as Mirella Freni into a working class family in Modena (both her mother and tenor Luciano Pavarotti's mother worked in the same cigarette factory in that city); her aunt was the soprano Valentina Bartolomasi. She was a musically gifted child and sang 'Un bel dì vedremo' in a radio competition at age ten. The tenor Beniamino Gigli warned her, however, that she risked ruining her voice and advised her to give up singing until she was older. She resumed singing at age 17. Mirella made her operatic debut in Modena at 1955, at age 19, as Micaëla in Bizet's Carmen. She was offered many roles after this, but she decided to put her career aside and marry her singing teacher, Leone Magiera. She resumed her career in 1958 by winning a singing competition and singing Mimì in Puccini's La bohème at the Teatro Regio in Torino. She then sang with The Netherlands Opera during the 1959-60 season. Her international breakthrough came when she

"Va godendo vezzoso e bello"
Xerxes (Händel)
sang Adina in Franco Zeffirelli's staging of Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore at Glyndebourne, where she also sang the Mozart comic roles of Susanna and Zerlina during the 1960-62 seasons. In 1961, Freni made her Royal Opera House debut as Nannetta in Verdi's Falstaff. In 1963, she made her debut at La Scala, in a production staged by Zeffirelli and conducted by Herbert von Karajan (Freni went on to become one of Karajan's favourite singers, and she collaborated with him in numerous operas and concerts). In 1965, Freni made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Mimì, and later appeared there as Liù in Puccini's Turandot, as well as Marguerite in Faust and Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, among many other roles, for a total of 139 performances. The following year she sang Mimì again for her debut with the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company with Flaviano Labò as Rodolfo. From the early 1970s into the 1980s, Freni began singing heavier Verdi roles, notably Elisabetta in Don Carlo (in John Dexter's production), Desdemona in Otello (with Jon

"So anch'io la virtu magica"
Don Pasquale (Donizetti)
Vickers), and Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, Elvira in Ernani (staged by Luca Ronconi), Leonora in La forza del destino, and the title role of Aïda. She also added the Puccini heroines of Manon Lescaut and Tosca to her repertory, and recorded Madama Butterfly as well as all three roles of Il trittico. She also starred in a 1975 film of Madama Butterfly opposite Plácido Domingo, with von Karajan conducting and Jean-Pierre Ponnelle directing. In 1976, she starred as Susanna in a Ponnelle film of Le nozze di Figaro, also featuring Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Hermann Prey. In 1981, she married Nicolai Ghiaurov, one of the leading operatic basses of the post-war period. Together they helped establish the Centro Universale del Bel Canto in Vignola, where they started giving master classes in 2002. Following Ghiaurov's death in 2004, Freni continued their work in preserving the Bel Canto tradition, and currently teaches

"Dove sono" Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
young singers from around the world. Freni published a memoir, Mio Caro Teatro in 1990. She was also awarded the order Cavaliere della Gran Croce della Repubblica Italiana that year and the French Légion d'honneur in March 1993. The University of Pisa awarded her an honorary degree in 2002 for "her great contribution to European culture." Freni continued to add to her repertory well into the 1990s with Italian verismo, taking on the title roles of Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur in Milan, Paris, Barcelona and New York and Giordano's Fedora in London, Milan, New York, Torino, Barcelona and Zürich. In 1998, she performed Giordano's Madame Sans-Gêne in Catania. During this time she also ventured into the Russian operas of Tchaikovsky, appearing as Tatiana in Eugene Onegin, Lisa in The Queen of Spades, and Ioanna in Orleanskaya Deva. In 2005, the Metropolitan Opera celebrated the 40th

"Tu, tu piccolo iddio" Madama Butterfly (Puccini)
anniversary of her Met debut and her 50th anniversary on the stage with a special gala concert conducted by James Levine. Freni ended her professional career on stage with Orleanskaya Deva at the Washington National Opera on 11 April 2005, performing the teenager Ioanna (Joan of Arc) at 70 years of age. She was awarded the Italian Cavaliere di Gran Croce and the French Légion d'honneur in March 1993. The University of Pisa awarded her an honorary degree in 2002 for her 'great contribution to European culture.' In 2005, the Metropolitan Opera celebrated the 40th anniversary of her Met debut and her 50th anniversary on the stage with a special gala concert conducted by James Levine." [Source]

"Pace, pace mio Dio!" La Forza del Destino (Verdi)

Tatiana's Letter Scene Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky)

"Io son l'umile ancella Adriana Lecouvreur (Cilea)

"Ernani, Ernani involami" Ernani (Verdi)

"Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore" Tosca (Puccini)

"Si, mi chiamano Mimì" La Bohème (Puccini)

September Vier Letzte Lieder (Strauss)

"Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" La Rondine (Puccini)

"Selva opaca, deserta brughiera" Guillaume Tell (Rossini)

"Oh Dieu! que de bijoux" Faust (Gounod)

"Prendi...prendi, per me sei libero" L'elisir d'Amore (Donizetti) with Nicolai Gedda

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