Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mafalda Salvatini

Mafalda Salvatini (17 October 1888 - 13 June 1971) was an Italian opera singer who was primarily active in Germany during the first half of the 20th century. She excelled in the dramatic soprano repertoire of the Italian language and was one of the leading operatic sopranos in Berlin from 1908-1932. Although she performed as a guest artist in other German cities and in Austria, Belgium, France, Holland, and Latvia, she never performed at theatres in her native country. She made several recordings for the Deutsche Grammophon and Odeon record labels.

Born in Baiae, Salvatini was the daughter of an officer of the Italian Army. She was orphaned at the age of 4 and thereafter was raised in boarding schools operated by the Sacred Heart in Portici and Paris. Her musical talents were evident at an early age and she was encouraged to pursue a singing career. She studied voice in Paris with Pauline Viardot-Garcia and Jean de Reszke. She later studied with Julius Lieban in Germany.

Salvatini made her professional opera debut in 1908 at the age of 19 at the Berlin State Opera in the title role of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida. She remained active at that theatre through 1914, singing such roles as Leonora in Verdi's Il trovatore and the title role in Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly. In 1912 she appeared as a guest artist at the Bavarian State Opera and in 1913 she made her debut with the Paris Opera as Valentine in Giacomo Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots.

In 1914 Salvatini joined the roster of singers at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, remaining committed there through 1923. Among the roles she sang there were Aida, Amelia in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, Marta in Eugen d'Albert's Tiefland, Myrtocle in d'Albert's Die toten Augen, Rachel in La Juive, Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, Senta in The Flying Dutchman, Valentine, and the title roles in Georges Bizet's Carmen and Puccini's Tosca. She was committed again to the Berlin State Opera from 1924-1926 where she was heard in the title role of Puccini's Turandot for the work's Berlin premiere in 1926. She then returned to the Deutsche Oper Berlin where she was active until her retirement from the stage in 1932.

After retiring from the stage, Salvatini lived in retirement in the Swiss canton of Ticino. From 1908 until his suicide in 1918, she was the mistress of Adolphus Frederick VI, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg with whom she had two sons: Horst Gérard and the set and costume designer Rolf Gérard. She later was married to the Lithuanian ambassador to Germany. She died in Lugano in 1971 at the age of 82.

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