Anna Moffo (June 27, 1932 – March 9, 2006) was an American opera singer, television personality, and actress. One of the leading lyric-coloratura sopranos of her generation, she possessed a warm and radiant voice of considerable range and agility. Noted for her physical beauty, she was nicknamed "La Bellissima".
Winning a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Italy, Moffo became popular there after performing leading operatic roles on three RAI television productions in 1956. She returned to America for her debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on October 16, 1957. In New York, her Metropolitan Opera debut took place on November 14, 1959. She performed at the Met for over seventeen seasons. Moffo's earliest recordings were made for EMI Records; she signed an exclusive contract with RCA Victor in 1960, recording for the company until the late 1970s. In the early 1960s, she hosted her own show on Italian television and appeared in several operatic films along with other non-singing roles.In the early 1970s Moffo extended her international popularity to Germany through operatic performances, TV appearances, and several films, all while continuing her American operatic performances.
After graduating from Radnor High School, Anna turned down an offer to go to Hollywood and went instead to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she studied with Eufemia Giannini-Gregory, sister of soprano Dusolina Giannini. In 1954, on a Fulbright scholarship, she left for Italy to complete her studies at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome where she was a pupil of Mercedes Llopart and Luigi Ricci. She later studied voice privately in New York City with Beverley Peck Johnson.
Moffo made her official operatic debut in 1955 in Spoleto as Norina in Don Pasquale. Shortly after, still virtually unknown and little experienced, she was offered the challenging role of Cio-Cio San in an Italian television (RAI) production of Madama Butterfly. The telecast aired on January 24, 1956, and made Moffo an overnight sensation throughout Italy. Offers quickly followed and she appeared in two other television productions that same year, as Nannetta in Falstaff and as Amina in La sonnambula. She appeared as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, at the Aix-en-Provence Festival and made her recording debut for EMI as Nannetta under Herbert von Karajan, and as Musetta in La bohème with Maria Callas, Giuseppe Di Stefano and Rolando Panerai. The following year (1957) saw her debut at the Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival, at La Scala in Milan and the Teatro San Carlo in Naples.
Moffo returned for her America debut at Lyric Opera of Chicago, as Mimì in La bohème next to Jussi Björling's Rodolfo on October 16, 1957. Moffo had three other roles at the Lyric that season: Philine in Mignon with Giulietta Simionato and William Wildermann, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Tito Gobbi, Simionato, Eleanor Steber, Walter Berry, conducted by Georg Solti and the title character in Lucia di Lammermoor with Giuseppe di Stefano/Brian Sullivan, and Aldo Protti. On at least one occasion her performance of Lucia's Mad Scene earned Moffo a ten-minute standing ovation. She opened the following Chicago season as Nannetta with Gobbi, Renata Tebaldi, Cornell MacNeil, Simionato, and Ardis Krainik (as Alisa), followed by Liù Turandot with Birgit Nilsson and Di Stefano, and Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi with Gobbi, all led by Tullio Serafin, and Gilda in Rigoletto with Gobbi/MacNeil, and Björling.
Her Metropolitan Opera debut took place on November 14, 1959, as Violetta in La traviata, a part that would quickly become her signature role. She performed at The Met for seventeen seasons in roles such as Lucia, Gilda, Adina, Mimì, Liù, Nedda, Pamina, Marguerite, Juliette, Manon, Mélisande, Périchole, and the four heroines of Les contes d'Hoffmann. Alfred Lunt's production of La Traviata as part of the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House in the Lincoln Center in 1966 was mounted especially for her.
In the late 1950s, she recorded Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, opposite Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Giuseppe Taddei, conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini; and recitals of Mozart arias with EMI. She then became an exclusive RCA Victor artist.
Moffo was also invited to sing at the San Francisco Opera where she
made her debut as Amina on October 1, 1960. During that period she also made
several appearances on American television, while enjoying a successful
international career singing at most major opera houses around the world
(Stockholm, Berlin, Monte Carlo, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, etc.).
At the Metropolitan Opera in March 1961 with Nilsson and Franco Corelli
she performed in Turandot as Liù, conducted by Leopold Stokowski.
She made her debut at the Royal Opera House in London, as Gilda, in a Franco Zeffirelli production of Rigoletto. Shortly after the Italian tenor Sergio Franchi joined RCA Victor, they recorded a popular album of operetta duets, The Dream Duet, which peaked at number ninety-seven on the Billboard 200 in 1963. Later that year Franchi and Moffo collaborated in recording The Great Moments From Die Fledermaus with The Vienna State Orchestra and Chorus, Oskar Dannon conducting.Moffo remained particularly popular in Italy and performed there regularly. She hosted a program on Italian television "The Anna Moffo Show" (two series: the first in 1964; the second in 1967) and was voted one of the ten most beautiful women in Italy. She appeared in film versions of La traviata (1967) and Lucia di Lammermoor (1971), both produced with the Italian TV director Sandro Bolchi, and directed by her first husband Mario Lanfranchi, as well as non-operatic films, including Menage all'italiana (1965), the then controversial Una storia d'amore (1970), The Adventurers (1970), A Girl Called Jules (1970), and The Weekend Murders (1970). In the early 1970s, she began appearing on German television and in operetta films such as Die Csárdásfürstin and Die schöne Galathée. She also recorded with Eurodisc a lieder album, and the title roles in Carmen and Iphigenie in Aulis, as well as the role of Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel.
== Names which are links in this box and below refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website. BD
Tullio Serafin (September 1, 1878 - February 2, 1968) was a leading Italian opera conductor with a long career and a very broad repertoire, who revived many 19th-century bel canto operas by Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti to become staples of 20th-century repertoire. He had an unparalleled reputation as a coach of young opera singers and famously harnessed and developed the talents of both Renata Tebaldi and Maria Callas.
Born in Rottanova (Cavarzere), near Venice, and trained in Milan, he played viola in the Orchestra of La Scala, Milan under Arturo Toscanini, later being appointed Assistant Conductor. He took over as Music Director at La Scala when Toscanini left to go to New York, and served 1909–1914, 1917–1918, and returned briefly after the Second World War, 1946 -1947.
He joined the conducting staff of the Metropolitan Opera in 1924, and remained for a decade, after which he became the artistic director of the Teatro Reale in Rome. During his long career he helped further the careers of many important singers, including Rosa Ponselle, Magda Olivero, Joan Sutherland, Renata Tebaldi,and most notably, Maria Callas, with whom he collaborated on many recordings.
Maestro Serafin was very appreciated in Buenos Aires. During nine seasons at the Teatro Colón between 1914 and 1951, he conducted 368 opera performances of 63 different operas. This included many operas that are seldom performed, by composers such as Alfano, Catalani, Giordano, Massenet, Montemezzi, Monteverdi, Pizzetti, Respighi, Rimsky Korsakov, and Zandonai.Serafin was instrumental in expanding the repertory, conducting the Italian premieres of works by Alban Berg, Paul Dukas, and Benjamin Britten. He also conducted important world premieres by both Italian and American composers, such as Franco Alfano, Italo Montemezzi, Deems Taylor, and Howard Hanson.
© 1990 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded in Chicago in November of 1990. Portions were broadcast on WNIB the following year, and again in 1992 and 1997. This transcription was made in 2020, and posted on this website at that time.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.