Lester Dequaine collection on Rosa Ponselle
Scope and Contents
The collection contains photographs, correspondence, clippings, recordings, concert programs, and personal items related to Rosa Ponselle's countless recitals and performances in the United States and Europe. Included also are photographs, clippings, and programs related to Rosa's sister Carmela. The bulk of the materials relate to Rosa Ponselle's career from 1918 to approximately 1938. The collection also includes materials related to her retirement and legacy.
- Creation: 1907 - 2013
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1918-1938
- Dequaine, Lester (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for use at the Peabody Archives.
Conditions Governing Use
Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright. All requests for permission to publish or perform materials in this collection must be submitted in writing to the archivist of the Arthur Friedheim Library.
Biographical / Historical
The most sought-after soprano of the 1920s and 1930s, Rosa Ponselle (née Rosa Ponzillo, 1897–1981) began her musical career in a vaudeville act with her sister Carmela Ponselle. Upon hearing Rosa Ponselle for the first time, Enrico Caruso took her under his wing and they appeared on the Metropolitan Opera stage together in La Forza del Destino and La Juive, which was Caruso’s last opera before his retirement. She would go on to sing the title role in the Metropolitan's revival of Norma, Violetta in La Traviata, the title role in Carmen, and many more principal roles. After her retirement from performing, Ponselle moved with her husband to Baltimore, where they built an Italian-style home they named Villa Pace as an homage to her debut role at the Metropolitan Opera as Leonora in La Forza del Destino. In Baltimore, she taught lessons in her home and became the Artistic Director of the Baltimore Lyric Opera, aiding the careers of singers such as James Morris and Lili Chookasian.
13 Cubic Feet (28 containers)
Language of Materials
The most sought-after soprano of the 1920s and 1930s, Rosa Ponselle (née Rosa Ponzillo, 1897–1981) began her musical career in a vaudeville act with her sister Carmela Ponselle. Upon hearing Rosa Ponselle for the first time, Enrico Caruso took her under his wing and they appeared on the Metropolitan Opera stage together in La Forza del Destino and La Juive. She would go on to sing the title role in the Metropolitan's revival of Norma, Violetta in La Traviata, the title role in Carmen, and many more principal roles. Materials in the collection include photographs, concert programs, recordings, and other ephemera related to Rosa Ponselle's career, as well as some of her personal correspondence and other belongings.
The collection is arranged in 11 series.
Other Finding Aids
A PDF finding aid exists offline. Please contact the Peabody Archives for more information.
After Ponselle's death in 1981, her home near Baltimore, Villa Pace, became a museum. When the museum closed in the late 1980s to provide funding for the Rosa Ponselle International Vocal Competition, many of her belongings were transferred to her hometown of Meriden, Connecticut, to be displayed in the town's public library. These items formed the basis for the Rosa Ponselle Museum in Meriden, owned by the Lester Dequaine/Frank Chiarenza Foundation. After this museum closed in 2004, the collection was combined with the personal collection of Lester Dequaine, who donated these materials to the Arthur Friedheim Library in 2015.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of the Lester Dequaine/Frank Chiarenza Foundation in 2014-2015.
Existence and Location of Copies
Most photographs, clippings, and other documents have been digitized and are available online in the Rosa Ponselle digital collection: http://cdm16613.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16613coll22.
Processed by Claire Weber in 2016-2017.
Lester Dequaine assigned "RP" numbers to items of the collection in the order in which they were acquired. His extensive notes on the origin and acquisition of the items are in a catalog of index cards (Series 11).
For items in the collection that did not have existing RP numbers, the processing archivist assigned "RPF" numbers in the order in which they were processed. These items probably once belonged to either the Rosa Ponselle Foundation in Maryland or the Rosa Ponselle Fund in Connecticut.
- Guide to the Lester Dequaine collection on Rosa Ponselle
- Matt Testa
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note