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Thursday, 26 October 2017

Giuditta Pasta – soprano

The first singer to perform the roles of Anna Bolena and Norma


Giuditta Pasta was a mezzo-soprano much in demand among 19th century composers
Giuditta Pasta was a mezzo-soprano much in
demand among 19th century composers
Singer Giuditta Pasta, whose voice was so beautiful Gaetano Donizetti wrote the role of Anna Bolena especially for her, was born on this day in 1797 in Saronno in Lombardy.

Her mezzo-soprano voice was much written about by 19th century opera reviewers and in modern times her performance style has been compared with that of Maria Callas.

Indeed, Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma, which Callas would turn into her signature role, was actually written for Pasta in 1831.

Pasta was born Giuditta Negri, the daughter of a Jewish soldier. She studied singing in Milan and made her operatic debut there in 1816.

Later that year she performed at the Teatre Italien in Paris as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, but it was not until 1821 that her talent was fully recognised when she appeared in Paris as Desdemona in Gioachino Rossini’s Otello.

Giuditta married another singer, Giuseppe Pasta, in 1816 and as well as being her regular leading man he handled her business affairs and identified likely roles and composers who might wish to work with her.

An illustration of Giuditta Pasta in the  premiere of La Sonnambula
An illustration of Giuditta Pasta in the
premiere of La Sonnambula
She sang regularly in Milan, Naples, Paris and London and her unique voice attracted a lot of attention.

The French writer Stendhal wrote about her: ‘She can achieve perfect resonance on a note as low as bottom A and can rise as high as C sharp or even to a slightly sharpened D, and she possesses the rare ability to be able to sing contralto as easily as she can sing soprano.’

He argued for a score to be composed expressly for Pasta. Donizetti responded with the role of Anna Bolena in the opera of the same name and Pasta performed it at Milan’s Teatro Carcano in 1830, giving the composer the greatest success of his career to that point.

Bellini wrote for her the part of Amina in La Sonnambula and the protagonist’s part in Norma and these were also major successes for Pasta in 1831. She retired from the stage in 1835 when her voice began to deteriorate.

After her husband’s death, she taught singing and among her pupils were contralto Emma Albertazzi, soprano Marianna Barbieri-Nini, and the English soprano Adelaide Kemble. Another pupil, Carolina Fermi, who also became a noted Norma, taught the soprano Eugenia Burzio, whose recordings are known for their passionate expression.

Pasta died in Blevio in the province of Como at the age of 67.

The Sanctuario della Madonna dei Miracoli in Saronno
The Sanctuario della Madonna dei Miracoli in Saronno
Travel tip:

Saronno, where Giuditta Pasta was born, is a large town in Lombardy in the province of Varese. It is well known for the production of amaretti di Saronno, small almond-flavoured biscuits, and the liqueur, amaretto. One of the town’s most beautiful buildings is the Santuario della Madonna dei Miracoli, built in 1498, which has a stunning fresco, The Concert of Angels, by Gaudenzio Ferrari.

The Teatro Carcano is in Corso di Porta Romana on the  south-east side of Milan city centre
The Teatro Carcano is in Corso di Porta Romana on the
south-east side of Milan city centre
Travel tip:

The Teatro Carcano in Milan, where Giuditta sang the role of Anna Bolena for the first time in 1830, is still a working theatre and can be found in Corso di Porta Romana. Although it now presents mainly plays and ballets, it was an opera house for most of the 19th century. It was built in 1803 on the site of a former convent for Milanese aristocrat and theatre-lover Giuseppe Carcano. The world premiere of Anna Bolena took place at the theatre on December 26, 1830 and the world premiere of La Sonnambula on March 6, 1831.




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