Rose Bampton as Armide

Cleveland’s Rose Bampton was trained as a mezzo-soprano at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She made her professional debut with the Chautauqua Opera in 1929 and then sang supporting roles with the Philadelphia Grand Opera. Bampton began at the Metropolitan Opera in 1932 as Laura in La Gioconda and she sang mezzo-soprano roles until making her debut as a soprano as Leonora in Il Trovatore in 1937. She sang also with companies in Chicago, San Francisco, and Cincinnati, and with the New York City Opera in 1950. Abroad she was heard in London, Munich, Vienna, Prague, and other European cities. Bampton was a great favorite in Buenos Aires where she performed works by Gluck, Mozart, Strauss, and Wagner. Bampton was known as an intelligent actress and a dedicated musician. #opera

Rose Bampton (1908–2007). Photographer: Lazar Sudak. Buenos Aires, Argentina. Gelatin silver print, 1943. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (022.00.00)

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Celestina Boninsegna as Elena in Mefistofele

This dramatic soprano is something of a mystery. Celestina Boninsegna’s operatic career began with seasons in France, Russia, and Italy (including at La Scala) and appearances at the Metropolitan Opera in 1906–1907 and in the Boston Opera Company in 1909–1910. However, her subsequent career found her almost always at secondary theaters, until she disappeared from the opera world around 1920. Boninsegna received excellent reviews in New York and even more enthusiastic ones in Boston and on tour, yet these were her only ones in America. Her voice was described as not large, yet sweet, pure, and in tune, but her acting commonplace. Boninsegna’s voice recorded well and her records are prized by collectors. #opera

Celestina Boninsegna (1877–1947). Photographer: Ermini. Milan, Italy. Gelatin silver print, 1905. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (023.00.00)

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Emmy Destinn as Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera

After her 1898 debut as Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana in Berlin and subsequent appearances in Bayreuth and London, Czech dramatic soprano, Emmy Destinn, was engaged by the Metropolitan Opera to sing Aïda in 1908. The warmth and bright richness of her voice made her an immediate favorite. During the First World War, her patriotic stance against Germany and Austria resulted in her imprisonment by the Austrian government. She returned to the Met in 1919 for two seasons, but by that time she had lost much of her vocal prowess. Destinn, the original Minnie in La Fanciulla del West, was also a painter, sculptor, translator, librettist, writer, and poet. #opera

Emmy Destinn (1878–1930). Photographer: Gerlach. Berlin, Germany. Gelatin silver print, 1908. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (024.00.00)

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Tito Gobbi as Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Trained initially as a bass, Tito Gobbi made his debut in La Sonnambula in 1935. Two years later, he went to Rome and then to Milan as a dramatic baritone. From there he travelled the world, appearing in San Francisco in 1948, Chicago in 1954, and finally at the Metropolitan Opera in 1956. This sovereign singing actor was the logical successor to baritone Lawrence Tibbett. Unfortunately, his appearances in America were sporadic. It is true that his vocal range was somewhat restricted, but he was irreplaceable in all that he did. Late in life Gobbi became a successful stage director, instructing others in the proper interpretation of the role of Scarpia (Tosca), one of his finest roles. #opera

Tito Gobbi (1913–1984). Photographer: Samaritani. Florence, Italy. Gelatin silver print, 1947. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (025.00.00)

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Charles Kullman as Rodolfo in La Bohème

Charles Kullman was an American romantic tenor. A debut as Pinkerton in an English-language production of Madame Butterfly in 1929 launched his career. He then went to Europe in 1931, singing in Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg, and London for four years. He returned to America when the Metropolitan Opera engaged him from 1935 to 1960. Kullman’s voice was full and dark, and he excelled in light heroic parts. With age, his voice thickened, and he assumed character roles as well as the title role in Parsifal. #opera

Charles Kullman (1903–1983). Photographer: Willinger. Vienna, Austria. Gelatin silver print, 1935. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (026.00.00)

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Giovanni Martinelli as Otello

After his 1910 debut in Verdi’s Ernani, beloved Italian tenor Giovanni Martinelli rose rapidly to the top. His work was admired in Rome and London, before he made his American debut in Baltimore opposite Mary Garden in Tosca. Martinelli made his musical home at the Metropolitan Opera, singing 926 performances of thirty-eight operas between 1913 and 1945. He also performed with many other American companies, notably those in Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston. His voice, somewhat hard and tight, was not to everyone’s taste, but Martinelli was a consummate musician, stylist, and actor, usually performing heroic roles. #opera

Giovanni Martinelli (1885–1969). Photographer: M. Camuzzi. Milan, Italy. Gelatin silver print, 1936. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (027.00.00)

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Zinka Milanov as Manon Lescaut

Dramatic soprano (vocal range of Middle C to high D) Zinka Milanov was a pupil of Milka Ternina, among others. Her 1927 debut as Leonora in Il Trovatore in Ljubljana, Slovenia, launched her career. Milanov sang in Czech and Yugoslav theaters until 1937, when she was invited to perform in Dresden, Vienna, and Salzburg. The Metropolitan Opera engaged her that same year to replace Rosa Ponselle, who had just retired. Early in her career, she had a tendency to sing sharp and much of her work lacked discipline. In later years she was a more controlled singer in the grand manner of the Old Italian school, her pianissimo (very soft) singing being especially notable. Milanov performed with the major American opera companies as well as at La Scala and Covent Garden. #opera

Zinka Milanov (1906–1989). Photographer: Tonka. Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Gelatin silver print, 1934. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (028.00.00)

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Rosetta Pampanini as Madama Butterfly

A lovely Italian lyric soprano, Rosetta Pampanini made her 1920 debut in Rome as Micaëla in Carmen. She was soon heard in Naples and Bologna, and in 1925 was engaged by Toscanini to sing Madama Butterfly in the revival of the work at La Scala before performing internationally. Pampanini sang Puccini roles in Chicago for the 1931–1932 season, and from 1925 until 1940 she was considered perhaps the world’s leading Puccini singer. In 1935 the Metropolitan Opera’s newly-appointed general manager, Herbert Witherspoon, had intended to hire her, but he died suddenly, only a month after taking office, and the planned offer was not made. The soprano had a limpid (clear, bright) voice of fine quality, and she was an affecting artist. #opera

Rosetta Pampanini (1896–1973). Photographer: Daguerre. Chicago, Illinois. Gelatin silver print, 1931. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (029.00.00)

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Aureliano Pertile as Nero in Mascagni’s Nerone

Aureliano Pertile was Toscanini’s favorite tenor, and his reputation in Europe was enormous. Following Enrico Caruso’s death in the summer of 1921, the Metropolitan Opera hoped that Pertile would be able to take the late star’s place. But Pertile was of a different school, specializing in a verismo style that relied on vigor and force. He sang honorably but was considered a failure, and his first season at the Met, 1921–1922, was also his last. He remained popular at La Scala, where he created the title role of Nero in works by both Boito (in 1924) and Mascagni (in 1935). #opera

Aureliano Pertile (1885–1952). Photographer: M. Camuzzi. Milan, Italy. Gelatin silver print, 1935. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (030.00.00)

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Lily Pons as Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia

A press agent’s dream, Lily Pons came to the Metropolitan Opera in 1931, an absolute unknown, and continued to perform there for nearly three decades. Her tiny figure and her faintly tremulous voice with its exceptionally high range made her an instant favorite. Her best roles were not the ones requiring finished singing, but comic ones such as Marie in The Daughter of the Regiment, Queen Shemakana in The Golden Cockerel, and Olympia in The Tales of Hoffman. In late career her voice became increasingly uncertain, although her popularity never waned. Pons also sang in Chicago and San Francisco. #opera

Lily Pons (1898–1976). Photographer: Lorelle. Paris, France. Gelatin silver print, ca. 1928. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (031.00.00)

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Tito Schipa

The finest Italian bel canto tenor (a tenor specializing in the operas of Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini) of the first half of the twentieth century, Tito Schipa first appeared in 1910 as Alfredo in La Traviata. He sang at La Scala during the 1915–1916 season and was soon performing in major opera houses around the world. He was a fixture at the Chicago Opera from 1919 until 1932, in San Francisco from 1940, and at the Metropolitan Opera from 1932 until 1935, and again in 1941. His first teacher kept him on vocal exercises for three years, and the result was the extreme flexibility and control of his exquisitely delicate voice. Sometimes a bit reedy, his voice was not large but it carried in the largest auditoriums. Schipa sang his last New York concert in 1962, at age seventy-one. #opera

Tito Schipa (1886–1965). Photographer: Lumiere. New York. Gelatin silver print, undated. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (032.00.00)

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Ebe Stignani as Amneris in Aïda

If ever a singer belonged at the Metropolitan Opera, it was Ebe Stignani. Following her 1925 debut in Naples, Toscanini engaged her to sing at La Scala the following year, where she sang many leading mezzo roles. Stignani was in the United States for performances with the San Francisco opera in 1938 and 1948, and toured the U.S. widely after the Second World War, yet she was never invited to sing at the Met. Stignani was a pushed-down soprano (singing in the range of a mezzo) rather than a true mezzo (G below Middle C to B) and her voice was powerful, as was her acting, especially in the role of Azucena (Il Trovatore)—where she was authoritative in the extreme. #opera

Ebe Stignani (1903–1974). Photographer: Lumiere. New York. Gelatin silver print, undated. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (033.00.00)

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Kerstin Thorborg as Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice

A superb Swedish mezzo-soprano, Kerstin Thorborg made her debut with the Swedish Royal Opera, singing small roles in 1923 and moving to larger parts the next year. She went next to German theaters and then to Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, London, and to the Metropolitan Opera where she sang from 1936 until 1950. Tall and willowy, Thorborg was a mistress of gesture and could emphasis a word with the lifting of an arm or the opening of a palm. Very different from singer Maria Olszewska, she was in her own way equally imposing and impressive. #opera

Kerstin Thorborg (1896–1970). Photographer: Alfredo Valente. Gelatin silver print, 1939. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (034.00.00)

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Eva Turner as Turandot

Dame Eva Turner was one of the last surviving singers of the First World War period. A dramatic soprano, she made her debut with England’s Carl Rosa Company in 1914. In 1924 she went to Italy and was engaged at La Scala and became a favorite of Italian audiences. She also sang in Buenos Aires and Lisbon and with the Chicago Opera from 1928 to 1930 and again in 1938. Turner was conventional in her interpretations, but her voice, extremely clear, was one of a handful of comparably powerful sopranos of the age. She sang Turandot for the first time in 1926, and would be associated with that role for the next two decades. #opera

Eva Turner (1892–1990). Photographer: Fernand de Gueldre. Chicago, Illinois. Gelatin silver print, 1936. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (035.00.00)

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Leonard Warren as Rigoletto

American baritone Leonard Warren entered the Metropolitan Opera in 1938 as a beginner by singing in duets and ensembles during Sunday night concerts. Soon he was awarded small roles and then larger ones. His large voice was woolly; it was only after studying with Giuseppe de Luca that Warren learned the secrets of bel canto (characterized by beautiful, even-note singing) that rendered his voice so distinctive. Additionally, his pronunciation of Italian was immaculate. His dramatic death from a cerebral hemorrhage suffered onstage at the Metropolitan during a performance of La Forza del Destino robbed the Met of one of its most valued performers. #opera

Leonard Warren (1911–1960). Photographer: Erio Piccagliani. Milan, Italy. Gelatin silver print, 1954. Charles Jahant Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (036.00.00)

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