Dusolina Giannini

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Though her voice lacked the plushness of Rosa Ponselle's magnificent instrument, Dusolina Giannini was a true dramatic soprano of rare incisiveness and histrionic fire. Indeed, many preferred her voice…
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Though her voice lacked the plushness of Rosa Ponselle's magnificent instrument, Dusolina Giannini was a true dramatic soprano of rare incisiveness and histrionic fire. Indeed, many preferred her voice for its blending of dark timbre, cutting edge, and strong top register. Hers was a musical family: Her father Ferruccio was an operatic tenor of some note (he had sung with the famous Adelina Patti) and her brother Vittorio was destined to become a composer both accomplished and well-known to the public. Giannini's first lessons came from her father, who managed a theater in Philadelphia. On that stage, she sang small parts and, by her early teens, was heard performing a few arias. Not until she was heard by the famed Polish soprano Marcella Sembrich, however, were serious lessons begun. Sembrich believed that the young singer had strong potential and accordingly, taught for four years in New York. In March 1923, Giannini was thrust into the spotlight when Anna Case was unable to keep an engagement with the Schola Cantorum and Sembrich suggested that her pupil be assigned the task. Critics were impressed and more than three dozen offers followed. One of them eventually led to her debut in Hamburg, where she sang Aida in 1925, displaying a powerful soprano entirely at home in the great dramatic roles. In 1928, she sang at Covent Garden, where British critics appreciated her voice while finding her interpretations of Aida, Santuzza, and Cio-Cio-San not yet fully formed. Although she was well-received, no long-term relationship was formed with the house. By the early '30s, however, she had made successful appearances in Berlin, Geneva, Vienna, Prague, Zurich Nuremburg Oslo, and Monte Carlo, in addition to touring Australia and New Zealand. In 1934, Giannini sang Donna Anna at the Salzburg Festival under the direction of Bruno Walter, an interpretation hailed by The New York Times' European critic as "...Mozart singing such as is rarely heard these times, admirably encompassing the grand manner and essential style of the music." Subsequently, she sang Alice Ford in the legendary Falstaffs led by Arturo Toscanini. Vienna was conquered entirely, as Giannini's appearances invariably met with packed houses as well as comparisons with Adelina Patti and references to the singer's hypnotic hold on her public. At last, the soprano made her American debut at the Metropolitan Opera in a February 12, 1936, performance of Aida. While some felt that the bloom was already off her voluminous voice, W.J. Henderson praised her "true Verdian manner" and Olin Downes expressed enthusiasm for her generous temperament and "passionate feeling." Giannini remained at the Metropolitan until 1941, assigned only 11 other performances as Donna Anna, Tosca, and Santuzza, and once more, her fervent Aida. In 1938, the soprano sang the role of Hester Prynne in the Hamburg premiere of her brother Vittorio's The Scarlet Letter. Beginning in 1939, she sang in San Francisco, essaying an October 21 Santuzza for her only performance, returning in 1943 to sing the same role in two performances and performing the Il trovatore Leonora in Los Angeles. In 1944, Giannini sang Tosca in the very first performance (February 21) given by the New York City Centre Opera. For the new company's spring season, Giannini returned in May for Carmen, another Tosca, and Santuzza.