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Lester Dequaine collection on Rosa Ponselle

 Collection
Identifier: PIMS-0004
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

Dates

  • 1907 - 2013
  • Majority of material found within 1918-1938

Creator

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.

Extent

13 Cubic Feet (28 containers)

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.

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.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in 11 series.

Other Finding Aids

A PDF finding aid exists offline. Please contact the Peabody Archives for more information.

Custodial History

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.

Related Materials

The Peabody Archives at the Arthur Friedheim Library contains several other special collections related to Rosa Ponselle and the history of opera in the early 20th century:

Collection on Enrico Caruso Dragi Jovanovski collection on Rosa Ponselle Rosa Ponselle Foundation records (including gowns worn by Ponselle) PIMS.0005: Rosa Ponselle Museum records (Meriden, Connecticut) Andrew S. Pope collection of opera memorabilia

For more information on these collections, contact the Peabody Archives.

Additional materials related to Rosa Ponselle, including biographies and recordings, are available in the library catalog. A list of Opera News and Opera issues containing articles related to Ponselle is available upon request.

Processing Information

Processed by Claire Weber in 2016-2017.
Processing Information 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.

Repository Details

Part of the Peabody Archives Repository

Contact:
Peabody Institute
1 E. Mount Vernon Place
Baltimore MD 21202 USA