Erminia Frezzolini


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(b Orvieto, 27 March 1818; d Paris, 5 Nov 1884). Italian soprano. She is identified with Romantic opera and especially with Giuseppe Verdi, two of whose heroines she created: Giselda in I Lombardi and Giovanna d᾽Arco, at La Scala, Milan (in 1843 and 1845 respectively). Trained mainly by her father, Giuseppe Frezzolini, a noted bass, and Domenico Ronconi, she had bel canto skills but sang in the new manner called for by Verdi's works, uniting smooth legato and dramatic power. Her sensational début, at Florence in 1837, was in the title role of Vincenzo Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda; this remained one of her most effective parts, along with Gaetano Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia (in which she caused another sensation, at La Scala in 1840), Bellini's Elvira (I puritani), and Verdi's Giselda, Gilda (Rigoletto) and Leonora (Il trovatore). She also created the title role in Carlo Coccia's Giovanna II, regina di Napoli (1840, Milan). She was compared to Maria Malibran for boldness, intensity and pathos, with an added sweetness of timbre; F. -J. Fétis wrote of her beauty and nobility on stage. After an early London season (1841) and many Italian engagements, she spent the years between 1847 and 1857 in St Petersburg, Madrid, London and Paris. Vocal decline and financial extravagance led her during the years 1857–60 to tour, at times hazardously, in the USA and Cuba and, as late as 1874, to appear in minor Italian theatres; Mark Twain records a concert in Naples in 1867 greeted with both applause and hisses. Her brief marriage in 1841 to the tenor Antonio Poggi ended in legal separation; her letters show her aware of the difficult position of women in a male-dominated world. After Poggi died (1875) she married a French doctor.

From The Grove Book of Opera Singers in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Opera.

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