Born in 1858, the dramatic soprano Emma Calvé was an artist of tremendous reputation dominating the stages of the greatest opera houses of her time. She was particularly regarded for her interpretation of Carmen and was a favorite of Pietro Mascagni who had her create the lead roles in his two most famous operas, L’Amico Fritz and Cavalleria Rusticana. She made her debut at age 23 and soon after sought vocal instruction from Matilde Marchesi, herself a student of Garcia, who had developed a world famous voice studio in Paris and attracted many of the leading female singers of the time to study with her. We hear Calvé as Santuzza in the audio presented here, a role that like Carmen was to be her most acclaimed.
Although not a mezzo-soprano, her stunning technique and prodigious lower register enabled her to convincingly portray these roles, and do so with exceptional purity of tone and sparkling acuti. No doubt, the recording technology of 1907, when this recording was made, does not adequately capture the full harmonic richness of her voice. Calvé was regarded as one of the finest dramatic stage actors of her time and this is evident through her recordings where her fiery and intense personality clearly dominates the artistic sensibilities, in a refreshingly honest and