52032-2 (2 CDs)  | $ 36.00


Note: Original CD set is Sold Out; you will receive a CDR Version

Rosa Ponselle (1897-1981) was arguably this century's greatest soprano. Artists such as Callas and Caruso acknowledged her vocal supremacy. Ponselle's voice had volume, beauty, emotion, sure intonation and remarkable flexibility. This two-CD set chronicles the second volume of her on the air recordings from 1936-1937. By Ponselle's own account, her broadcasts captured her true voice and she preferred these performances to her numerous commercial recordings. This set has been produced in association with the Rosa Ponselle Foundation and a portion of the sales will go to the Rosa Ponselle Scholarship Fund.
CD 1 (78:34)

25 March 1936

1.Ave Maria (Sandoval) 4:19
2.Ich liebe dich (Grieg)2:10
3.The Night Wind (Farley)1:47
4.CARMEN: Habanera (Bizet)4:38

1 April 1936

5.LA VESTALE: Tu che invoco (Spontini)4:36
6.Good-bye (Tosti)4:31
7.Cuckoo Clock (Griselle and Young)1:26
8.El Morenito (Buzzi-Peccia)2:33

24 May 1936

9.SEMIRAMIDE: Bel raggio (Rossini)5:10
10.LA TRAVIATA: Addio del passato (Verdi)5:08
11.CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA: Voi lo sapete (Mascagni)3:24
12.Marechiare (Tosti)3:00
13.Carry Me Back to Old Virginny (Bland)4:08

31 May 1936

14.Ave Maria (Schubert) missing orchestral closing4:51
15.Annie Laurie (Traditional)3:26

15 June 1936

16.Wiegenlied (Brahms)2:18
17.Home, Sweet Home (Bishop)5:05

27 September 1936

18.AIDA: Ritorna vincitor (Verdi) missing one bar7:34
19.Dicitencello vuje (Falvo)3:33
20.OTELLO: Ave Maria (Verdi)4:48
CD 2 (74:56)

27 September 1936

1.Ouvre ton coeur (Bizet)2:46
2.Homing (Del Riego)2:46

10 December 1936

3.Moonlight Bay (Madden-Wenrich)2:27
4.Carme (arr. De Curtis)3:51
5.LA FORZA DEL DESTINO: La Vergine degli angeli (Verdi)4:30
6.MADEMOISELLE MODISTE: Kiss Me Again (Herbert)4:43

25 April 1937

7.Ave Maria (Kahn)4:25
8.THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER: My Hero (O. Straus) with Frank Forest4:33
9.The Old Refrain (Kreisler)4:39
10.Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (Tchaikovsky)4:00
11.The Night Wind (Farley)1:50

2 May 1937

12.FEDRA: O divina Afrodite (Romani)4:50
13.Carry Me Back to Old Virginny (Bland)3:38
14.MADEMOISELLE MODISTE: Kiss Me Again (Herbert)4:35
15.My Old Kentucky Home (Foster)4:12
16.Home, Sweet Home (Bishop)4:24

15 November 1933

17.Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes (Traditional) 3:52

13 April 1936

18.Rosa Ponselle Conversation2:56
19.CARMEN: Habanera (Bizet)1:59
20.CARMEN: Chanson bohème (Bizet)3:52


CD 1:
Tracks 1-8 and 18-20 originally broadcast from New York City.
Tracks 1-8 orchestra conducted by André Kostelanetz; tracks 18-20 conducted by Erno Rapee.
Tracks 9-13 and 16-17 originally broadcast from Los Angeles; tracks 9-13 orchestra conducted by Erno Rapee.
Tracks 14-15 originally broadcast from San Franciso; orchestra conducted by Erno Rapee.
Languages: Italian [1,5,9-11,18-20]; English [2-3, 6-7, 13, 15,17,]; French [4]; Spanish [8]; Neapolitan [12]; Latin [14] and German [16]

CD 2:
Tracks 1-6, 12-16 originally broadcast from New York City
Tracks 1-2 conducted by Erno Rapee; tracks 3-6 orchestra and chorus conducted by Kelsey; tracks 12-15 orchestra conducted by Frank Black and track 16 piano by Rosa Ponselle
Tracks 7-11 originally broadcast from Cinncinnati; orchestra conducted by Eugene Goossens.
Tracks 18-20 recorded in Hollywood
Languages: French [1,19-20]; English [2-3,6,8-9,11,13-18]; Italian [4-5,12]; German [10] and Latin [7]


Photographs: Enrico Aloi and The Rosa Ponselle Foundation
Producer: Bill Park
Audio Conservation: Ward Marston
Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi


Marston would like to thank Elayne Duke, Robert Fazio, Raymond Horneman, Lawrence F. Holdridge, Peter Lack, Leigh Martinet and William Shaman for their help in the production of this CD release.

For more information on Rosa Ponselle, or to order any of Enrio Aloi's beautifully illustrated books on Rosa Ponselle, please visit the Rosa Ponselle Website.


Rosa Ponselle

Rosa Ponselle, that admirable artist who, both as a dramatic prima donna soprano and as a concert singer has impressed her art and her personality so powerfully on present-day American audiences, holds well-defined and positive opinions on some of those important points which are of interest to the girl who hopes to attain the higher rungs of the ladder of vocal success. The views and ideas which Miss Ponselle has been kind enough to express to the writer are the outcome of a vocal experience which has justified itself beyond all shadow of doubt.

“First of all,” said Miss Ponselle, “I regard singing purely as a mental operation—that is, the art of singing. For the girl who is a student of opera in the higher sense, mechanical exercises cannot well be advised, because vocal mechanics do not enter into singing as an art. Too many students, I think, definitely fix their ambitions on opera, when they begin to study singing, before they find out whether or not they are fitted for it. When you begin to study singing, let your first thought be to learn how to sing. And then, if later you feel drawn to opera, make sure that you possess the requisite qualifications for an operatic career. I know that in my own case I began to study singing without any fixed determination to become an opera singer.

An American Training

“Yes, my own training has been altogether American—one hundred per cent, as the phrase is—and if you insist that this is proof of the fact that a prima donna can be developed in the United States I do not very well see how I can contradict you. I cannot honestly say that I have ever regretted not having studied with European teachers. William Thorner was my teacher, and all that I may have gained in the way of voice production and flexibility, singing poise and tone development, I owe to him. There seems little advantage to the student in recommending this, that or the other set of vocalises or exercises for study use. After all, if you get down to the gist of the matter, it is altogether a question of the proper use of the exercises selected; how to study what you study and not what you study.

Some Lessons of Prima Donna Experience

“I spent less than a year preparing for opera, but when you ask me how I managed to accomplish so much in a time so comparatively short, the answer is simple. I was studious—working with my mind as well as with my throat—and I had had correct teaching from the very beginning, and therefore no faulty teaching to undo. One thing in which I am a great believer is the avoidance of vocal overexertion. During the opera or concert season I use daily vocal exercises to keep my voice flexible; but I practice them only a few minutes each day—and during my vacation I give myself a complete rest. Even while I was preparing to sing in opera, I did not practice more than fifteen or twenty minutes a day; unless, of course, I was studying a new rôle. The pronouncedly coloratura rôles, as I see it, do not properly lie within the range of the dramatic soprano voice; but there is no earthly reason why the dramatic soprano cannot sing purely lyric rôles, and sing them well. As regards the actual dramatics of the stage, the singer’s dramatic action, I do not think it can ever be prepared, that is completely prepared, before stage presentation; though, of course, it should be studied. My own belief and practice is to allow stage action to depend to a great extent on spontaneous interpretation. If the artist thoroughly identifies herself with her rôle in an opera, her stage action will be the natural outcome of her impersonation. It will express itself with a sincerity and conviction which the most painstaking study will not give.

“No, I would not attempt to draw comparisons, as regards to difficulty, between one and another operatic rôle of the dramatic soprano repertory. Technical as well as musical difficulties are so largely individual. I could not say that Leonora, for instance, is a rôle more difficult to sing than that of Elvira. My own experience is that all rôles require the same mental exertion in order to render the motif in its best light!

“For the student who wishes to become a dramatic soprano one first requisite is absolutely essential. She must have dramatic talent as a basis. No particular line of study will develop a dramatic soprano if this natural aptitude and instinct be missing. On the other hand, I am so strong a believer in individuality in art, and especially in the art of song, that I do not think it possible to specify limitations as regards vocal and dramatic interpretation where the dramatic soprano is concerned. Each singer has her own natural limitations, and another cannot specify them for her. She must do so herself, and be her own judge as to how far she may go and what she may do. As regards the studying of soprano rôles or songs which the singer, for some one reason or other, may be doubtful of carrying to success, there is a very simple and logical rule, one which I follow myself: I have never studied any rôle to which I did not believe I could do justice.

Singing in Concert

“There is, basically, no difference—so far as I can see—in the way the voice is used or projected on the boards of the opera and on the recital platform. I sing on the concert stage just as I do in opera. I use my voice in the same manner, always, and with no mental reservations in projecting it.

“As for programs, I study my audiences and give what their applause indicates they would like to have by way of encore numbers. I always include at least two operatic arias in my programs, because I believe that in cities where grand opera is not presented, my audiences desire to hear me in the rôles I sing during the opera season. Yet I believe that, after all, it is the old heart-to-heart ballads, the simple emotional songs, which any audience loves best. I have noticed that there is always more feeling in the response to these songs.

“The great essential in concert singing, and the one without which the singer cannot succeed, is the ability to render a song in a convincing manner. Unless the concert singer can convince, can move her audience, make it feel that her art is genuine and whole-souled, her other more purely vocal gifts, no matter how great they may be, will not count. And, if you wish me to give a message to the ambitious girl students of singing as—to use your own words—‘a successful prima donna,’ the best I can give them is this: Be sure of proper guidance in the initial stages when you study singing! And this applies to every student, whether she have the opera or the concert stage ultimately in view.”

From the book, The Art of the Prima Donna, Frederick H. Martens, D. Appleton & Co., 1923

Today, anyone who owns a cassette or VCR recorder has probably taped programs off the radio or television. It has become as simple as inserting a tape into the machine and pressing a button. Prior to the advent of magnetic tape however, recording off the air was not such an easy matter.

By the mid-1920s, radio and recordings had become competing forms of home entertainment, and all but the poorest households could boast a radio and a record player. The development of the electrical recording process made it feasible to record radio broadcasts, but this could only be accomplished by cutting a wax master and having it plated and pressed, in exactly the way that commercial recordings were produced. There was, as yet, no method for making recordings that could be immediately played back. During this period, the major record companies made recordings of broadcasts of important events yet few of these were actually issued to the public. There are also cases of individuals or corporations hiring record companies to make custom recordings of particular broadcasts. Because of the expense involved in such an undertaking, occurrences of this sort were very few.

During the early 1930s, two methods for making instantaneous playback disc recordings were developed. The first utilized pre-grooved discs and a special cutting head that attached to an ordinary record player. This method produced very poor results and was only meant for home-use. Radio stations and recording studios specializing in instantaneous recording used a more sophisticated process that involved cutting groves into an aluminum disc. The quality of sound on these discs was not as high as a commercial recording but was quite remarkable for the time, and by 1934, musical artists were beginning to request radio stations to provide them with recordings of their broadcasts. This type of disc was soon replaced by an improved aluminum disc coated with acetate, which was capable of capturing much higher frequencies. Owing to the novelty of these recordings, most were completely ruined by repeated playback with blunt needles, and relatively few broadcasts from this early period exist in listenable sound.

The recordings contained in this set were transferred, whenever possible, from original aluminum and acetate discs. Only when absolutely necessary have I used secondary sources. The only source for the 24 May 1936 General Motors Hour is a set of severely damaged discs. I have included this material with my apology for the poor sound for the sake of completeness. I have also included all available introductory announcements in order to convey the atmosphere of the original broadcast. The sound track for Rosa Ponselle’s MGM Screen Test was taken directly from the original 16 MM print.