A member of the coloratura sorority that enjoyed ascendancy before the emergence of Maria Callas, Lina Pagliughi represented the best of that breed. Declared "my successor" by Luisa Tetrazzini, Pagliughi possessed a clear, beautifully formed instrument that was flexible in passagework and flowing in legato. Unlike the slenderized edition of Callas, however, she was a woman of enormous girth and continued to gain weight during the course of her career. Thus, while vocal display was present in abundance, dramatic verisimilitude was not. On recording, however, Pagliughi's art can be enjoyed without the distraction of physical appearance. Born to Italian immigrant parents in New York, Pagliughi moved to San Francisco before her second birthday. There, she began making public appearances at age seven. Luisa Tetrazzini sought to adopt her, but her parents declined the offer. When Pagliughi moved to Italy at age 15 to study with Manlio Bavagnoli, however, the legendary singer oversaw her training and became close to the young student. Having already graduated from a San Francisco conservatory before her move to Italy, Pagliughi was well prepared musically and could concentrate on vocal polish and learning repertory. For her 1927 debut at Milan's Teatro Nazionale, Pagliughi presented herself as Gilda, a role with which she was closely identified thereafter (and which she recorded twice). After an experiment with the role of Mimi, Pagliughi vowed to concentrate on the coloratura repertory, even though her voice was substantial enough for lyric roles. Thus, she kept her instrument supple and trim for the duration of her career, even with having included Violetta among her roles, a part that grows progressively heavier with each passing act. Pagliughi's equable personality no doubt also contributed to her longevity. A good colleague, one to whom jealousy was an alien emotion, she admired fellow artists of quality and saw in them no threat to her own reputation. In addition to appearances at Italy's major houses, Pagliughi sang at London's Covent Garden in 1938 (her Gilda was regarded as having been beautifully sung) and performed with success at Brazil's São Paulo Municipal Theatre and in Buenos Aires, where she undertook her first Rosina and her first Violetta. Following her formal retirement in 1957, the soprano became a respected teacher.
Share this page