Antonietta Stella (March 15, 1929- )
|Antonietta Stella as Maddalena|
When I was fourteen I was a huge fan of Verismo opera, instantly attracted to the drama of the genre, not to mention the great lyricism of these ever popular operas. I purchased a copy of the EMI/Angel recording of Andrea Chenier with Franco Corelli and Antonietta Stella second hand, from the only Classical Music specialist record store in Perth for about six dollars from memory. I still have the LP set, worth it for the artwork alone (the above photo was from the same shoot as the one on the back cover of the LP).
It was my first introduction to Antonietta Stella. Admittedly I was impressed by the beauty of tone and her characterization of Maddalena and while her interpretation does stand up to repeated listening and the test of time, she stood forever in the shade of the monumental recording by Renata Tebaldi for Decca with Mario Del Monaco. Unfortunately the same could be said for the rest of her career, while she features in a number of notable recordings (her Verdi recordings are the stand outs) and was a very popular singer both in Europe and America, she will always remain overshadowed by the media inflated hype that surrounded the rivalry of Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi.
She was chosen by Tulio Serafin to record Violetta as a replacement to Callas for his EMI recording of Traviata in the late 50's with Di Stefano and Gobbi (Callas couldn't for contractual reasons) and she recorded with Serafin on a number of other occasions, especially Il Trovatore, Linda di Chamonix, and Tosca during the 50's and 60's. Other recordings include Don Carlo (Santini), Simon Boccenegra, La Boheme (both for Francesco Molinari-Pradelli) and Un Ballo in Maschera (Gianandrea Gavazzeni).
During her career she was renowned for her versatile, accomplished acting and was an elegant, glamorous singer worthy of the title Diva. She remains today a most undervalued singer, though her recordings and filmed performances are probably more accessible today than ever before. I've chosen three scenes as a musical tribute, in order to show just how remarkable she was onstage. Her Maddalena, Aida and Minnie from Puccini's La Fanciulla del West.
They are all filmed (Maddalena filmed in the RAI studio but Minnie and Aida live from Tokyo) and show her at her very peak. Do take some time to check out the below videos, they are fine examples of a singing style longed for by many aficionados who were lucky enough to see her in her prime and sadly one we hear all too infrequently these days. Happy birthday Diva, may your recorded legacy live on for future generations to enjoy.