The Arthur Friedheim Library has launched an exhibit and digital collection about Rosa Ponselle featuring memorabilia from her career on the Metropolitan Opera stage and her opulent Villa Pace estate in Baltimore, where she spent her retirement years. After starting on the vaudeville circuit with her sister Carmela, Rosa Ponselle captured the attention of Enrico Caruso, who secured her an audition at the Metropolitan Opera and performed beside her in her debut in La Forza del Destino in 1918. For the next 19 seasons, she was a true prima donna for the Metropolitan Opera in New York and on tour, performing lead roles in beloved operas such as Norma, La Traviata, and Carmen.
The Friedheim Library’s physical exhibit, opening January 22, presents items from Ponselle’s home, including a piano and formal gown, as well as corresponding images from her career. The story of her remarkable career is told through a web exhibit featuring rare concert programs, photographs, advertisements, and other ephemera from the collection. More than 1,400 scanned items are now online as part of the Rosa Ponselle digital collection.
The collection was donated to the Peabody Institute in 2014 by the Lester Dequaine/Frank Chiarenza Foundation, which had operated a museum dedicated to Ponselle in her Connecticut hometown. More information about the collection and exhibit is available at http://musiclibrary.peabody.jhu.edu/rosaponselle.