Two American divas that forged careers singing the same celebrated roles of Violetta in La traviata, Madame Lidoine in Dialogues of the Carmelites, Mimì in La bohème, Micaëla in Carmen, Nedda in Pagliacci, and the title role in Puccini's Manon Lescaut. Both also fearlessly crossed over into more popular idioms of vocal music without compromising their vocal integrity. With itineraries that spanned the globe, both sopranos were primarily based in America with a special affinity for the San Francisco Opera. Ms. Racette will even be venturing into one of the roles that Ms. Kirsten is best-remembered (thanks to a riveting pirate recording): Minnie in La Fanciulla del West. Read more about the many similarities between the two sopranos, and listen to more audio clips, after the jump.
Vissi d'arte" from Tosca (Puccini) as sung by Dorothy Kirsten
Vissi d'arte" from Tosca (Puccini) as sung by Patricia Racette
Born: Montclair, New Jersey, in 1910
Pedigree: Mother was an organist and music teacher, her grandfather was a conductor, and her great-aunt, Catherine Hayes, was also an opera singer.
Marriage: She was married three times. Her first marriage was to Edward MacKayes Oates, with a divorce in 1949; the second to Eugene Chapman in 1951, who died three years later; and the third to neurosurgeon Douglas French, who died in 1989.
Early break: Joined the roster of principal sopranos at the Philadelphia La Scala Opera Company (PLSOC) in 1943.
First professional debuts: Chicago Grand Opera Company (1940), San Carlo Opera Company (1942), New York City Opera (1943), San Francisco Opera (1945), and New York Philharmonic (1945).
Crossover potential: Sang on the radio with Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Nelson Eddy, and Perry Como.
Metropolitan Opera role highlights: Mimì in La bohème, Violetta in La traviata, Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly, and the title role in Tosca
American premieres: William Walton's Troilus and Cressida and Francis Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites in San Francisco.
Trivia: Sang with Richard Tucker at the Metropolitan Opera from 1947-1972.
"In quelle trine morbide" from Manon Lescaut (Puccini)
"Laggiù nel Soledad" from La Fanciulla del West by Giacomo Puccini
"Light Up Time" with Frank Sinatra
Born: Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1965
Pedigree: Her father was a union representative and distributor of Pepsi products in southern New Hampshire, while her mother was a part-time bank employee and homemaker.
Marriage: Married mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton in 2005.
Early break: Joined the Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera in 1988.
First professional debuts: San Francisco Western Opera Theater (1988), San Francisco Opera (1989), New York City Opera (1992), Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (1993), San Francisco Opera, Vienna State Opera (1994), Welsh National Opera (1994), and the Metropolitan Opera (1995).
Metropolitan Opera role highlights: Mimì in La bohème, Violetta in La traviata, Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly, and the title role in Tosca.
American premieres: Paul Moravec’s The Letter, Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy and Emmeline, and Carlisle Floyd’s Cold Sassy Tree.
Crossover potential: Created a cabaret act in 2013 titled Diva on Detour that included such hits as "I Got Rhythm," "Come Rain or Come Shine," and "The Man That Got Away."
Trivia: In 1998 Racette was the recipient of the coveted Richard Tucker Award which is given annually by the Richard Tucker Music Foundation to an American-born opera singer on the threshold of a major national and international career.
"L'altra notte" from Mefistofele (Boito)
"Un bel di vedremo" from Madama Butterfly (Puccini)