Mirella Freni

Beloved Italian soprano Mirella Freni celebrates her birthday today.  Born in Modena, Italy in 1935, she has had one of the more spectacular singing careers of the last half of the Twentieth Century and continues teaching her art to young singers to this day.

Championed by Herbert von Karajan among others, she became one of the most popular exponents of Verdi and Puccini heroines with a large recorded and filmed legacy.

My first complete Madama Butterfly was the classic Karajan recording for Decca with Freni and Pavarotti.  I saved all school term to buy it when I was 15 and still have the original LP.  The first time I heard her sing Butterfly's entrance I was blown away by the sheer beauty of that top D.  She portrays Butterfly's vulnerability like no one else, the final scene is emotionally shattering.  

Mirella Freni has been in my collection ever since, her portrayals of Butterfly, Mimi, Manon Lescaut, Aida and Desdemona are pure joy to listen to.  She's featured in many filmed operas, one of the more famous being Otello with Jon Vickers in the early 70's and Susanna in Ponnelle's film adaptation of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.

My favourite film of hers though is Herbert von Karajan's 1960 La Scala production of La Boheme.  It's filmed on the stage set by in a cinematic style.  She is a most gorgeous Mimi as you will see below.