Ponselle, Rosa

American soprano, 1897 - 1981

Biographical notes:

She was born in the United States to Italian parents. Her real name was Rosa Ponzillo. She sang in American film theatres and cabarets opposite her sister Carmela (a mezzo) as the “Ponzillo Sisters.” The Met Impresario Gatti-Casazza was so impressed that he immediately invited her to the Met. Caruso was enthusiastic about her, and she made her early debut in the presence of the tenor star in 1918! She became the first American-born artist to sing a major role at the Met without the benefit of prior European training or experience. She was born with a natural gift for singing and acting. The performances with Caruso brought her world-wide fame. She enjoyed extraordinary success in a variety of roles (no Puccini and Wagner!). She was also a guest star at the opera houses of Chicago and Covent Garden. She had also a brilliant career as a concert-singer. For private reasons she retired from the opera stage at the age of 39. In 1954 she made recordings at her home (Villa Pace). Her voice was still in superb condition.


Studio pose, 1918


    “I think we all know that Ponselle was simply the greatest singer of us all!”

Maria Callas


As Norma


“I have encountered three miracles - Enrico Caruso, Tita Ruffo and Rosa Ponselle...”

Tullio Serafin


As Leonora in “La Forza del Destino”


“In playing her records, I find myself repeatedly commenting: This is ultimate perfection!”

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf


As Rachel in Halévy’s “La Juive”


“There are two singers you must put aside, one is Enrico Caruso, the other is Rosa Ponselle. Then you may begin to discuss all the others!”

Geraldine Farrar


As Gioconda


“She turned into the purest gold everything she touched. We shall never hear her like again...”

Walter Legge


Studio pose, 1918


Recordings: (selection)

The Victor Recordings 1923 - 1925


The Victor Recordings 1926 - 1929


Columbia Acoustic Recordings


The 1939 Victor and 1954 “Villa Pace” Recordings


On the Air Vol. 1 and Vol. 2


Les Divas Américaines


Legends of Opera in Live Performance


Met - 100 Singers


Covent Garden on Record Vol. 4


Rosa Ponselle in Concert 1936 - 1952


Bizet - Carmen (Panizza/Maison, Pinza, Votipka, Burke)


Verdi - La Traviata (Panizza 1935 live/Jagel, Tibbett)

Naxos Historical

Mike Richter’s Opera Page: The Record of Singing Vol. 2 and 3



 O nume tutelar (Julia in La Vestale / Spontini / Victor 1926)