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I can name that diva in six notes

In this clip from an Italian quiz show of the 1950s, Toti dal Monte requires not even a whole phrase to identify the unique voice of Magda Olivero.


  • 1
    Joe Conda says:

    before Pipo was Pipo, he was the Kathie Lee Gifford of his day on this very same show.

  • 2
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Close your eyes and name this pianist!

    • 2.1
      Buster says:


      • 2.1.1
        Quanto Painy Fakor says:

        No -- it’s actually Lehar playing Lehar !

      • 2.1.2
        papopera says:

        Oscar Levant.

          Camille says:

          What about Oscar Levant, papsy? Do you also like him? When I was very young he had a talk show, I think with his wife June, on local T.V., in Los Angeles. I loved Levant and used to watch him when I could.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

            Dear Camille, are you really the late Lloyd Riegler?

          • Camille says:

            No, QPFster, I am the Real Cameal!

            Who is this person, Lloyd Riegler, and why would you imagine me being anyone other than the sweet little old unassuming shiksa that I am, Blanche?

            Oh, and I did LOVE Oscar Levant. A mass of neuroses but one of the original founding fathers of parterre box, j’en suis sûre!

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

            The late Lloyd Riegler, founder (with his long-time partner) of a famous meat tenderizer) was one of the major angels of the New York City Opera -- especially concerning it’s presence in Los Angeles. His lasting gift to America was the creation of Classics Arts Showcase.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

          • Camille says:

            O stelle! Lloyd E. Riegler, as I have always seen his name on the Classic Arts Showcase, which I dearly love. Yes, a great humanitarian and a name to be blessed in sempiternum! Yes, indeed!

            I wonder if that was “Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer”? I remember it back then.

            Now I must excise myself as I run out the door to buy Freezone.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

            Yes, it was ADOLPH’S, but I did not want to plug a meat tenderizer on a gay sensitive site like this.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

            PS: Lloyd had great taste in meat.

          • Camille says:

            O thank you so much for The Oscar Levant Show!!! It has been centuries since I last saw it and this clip is much as I remember it. June deserves some kind of an award in the Patient and Understanding Wife category.

            Very sweet of you and I am greatly obliged to you for the clip. What a showman—Johann Sebastian “Bop” segues right into George Gershwin. Tonight I think I’ll drag oit “Humoresque” and watch it again.

            Wasn’t “Adolph’s” mostly MSG anyhow, and has long since disappeared after people figured it out?

          • Camille says:

            Oscar Levant, for all the opera teens out there who have never heard tell of this brilliant man.

            May he not be forgotten.


            Hope it pastes.

  • 3

    That’s because back then they made them with voices that are distinctive and recognizable; as opposed to the million a dime that conservatoires throw out these days. But who asked me?

    • 3.1
    • 3.2
      SacredMonster says:

      Sorry but Oliviero in today’s world couldn’t get hired. Good Luck! Singers are under much more scrutiny to be perfect in every way. She, particularly on this clip, sounds squally, strained ,and with a distinctive bleat. I disagree with the dime a dozen theory…totally disagree…singers are trying to be so perfect they don’t dare give individuality…..even though many of them are…

      • 3.2.1

        We don’t necessarily disagree.

      • 3.2.2
        Bluevicks says:

        I agree to some extent but then , how do you explain the fact that Nadja Michael (to take just one example) is still hired ? Is she really attempting to be ”perfect in every way” ? I don’t think so. Do the spectators who cheer her after every woeful Macbeth performance she gives expect ”perfection” ? Hardly. Are singers today necessarily more accomplished than let’s say 40 years ago ? Under a musical point of view probably yes, but under a technical point of view certainly no (it’s terribly hard to find a spinto tenor with a good mezza voce for instance).

        So, if Olivero couldn’t get hired in today’s world it’s certainly not because of her perceived shortcomings. It’s because the singing culture has deteriorated to some extent (and no, I’m not necessarily of the ”it was better before” school).

      • 3.2.3

        I’m sorry but anyone who can sing like this will always rise to the top and get hired:

  • 4
    arepo says:

    Wherever you got that outtake, I am supremely jealous.

    I am the proud owner of her Prison scene from “Mefistofele” — a grainy black and white video taken in Newark, which is the prize of my collection and purchased on E-bay over 10 years ago for a mere $40.

    How old was she in this blurb? She’s still got it.
    Amazing lady.
    I believe she will be 102 on March 25th — perhaps the oldest living opera singer today.

    • 4.1
      Feldmarschallin says:

      I love the way dal Monte motions over the moderator with her hands and then says ‘si, si’. Priceless.

      • 4.1.1
        Quanto Painy Fakor says:

        It is indeed a fabulous video and La Cieca’s title for this page is very clever. Anyone who experienced Madga live in the theater would have the same reaction as the renown dal Monte. Both divas were unique.

    • 4.2
      Will says:

      Our own Rise Stevens is just a kid by comparison — 100 this June. :-)

      • 4.2.1
        Feldmarschallin says:

        Hilde Zadek is also still alive and was born 1917 so she is going to be 96 this year.

      • 4.2.2
        Ruxxy says:

        Along with the other kid right behind her -- Licia Albanese who will turn the ton July 23rd!

          Tamino says:

          A music historian colleague of mine talked to Stevens briefly on the phone last year about her career, and had a much longer interview with her son. I guess she is doing OK for her age, though she is somehwat hard of hearing and mostly stays in her apartment.

          It’s amazing to think that Stevens and Albanese were born only a few weeks apart. Then I remembered that Gigli and Melchior were born on the exact same DAY!

    • 4.3
      Camille says:

      Does anyone know for sure how old La Divina Olivero shall be? I have always had the impression, since discovering her in 1971 and reading material written about her since that point in time, that she was born in 1910. Now, I have also seen the date of 1912 crop up in the last 15-20 years or so. So she would be either 103(!) or 101 years of age on this year’s birthday.

      I certainly hope the lady is as well as she can be at this age and not suffering terrible pains of old age and sickness. What an extraordinary life. I thank her with all my heart for what she revealed to me about the art of opera lirica.

      • 4.3.1
        Belfagor says:

        I would have thought most parterriani could identify their favourite diva/divo in much less than six notes……..two or three should suffice.

      • 4.3.2
        papopera says:

        She was 102 when interviewed (You Tube) in March 2012. She should be 103 on March 25 then (1910).

          Camille says:

          Merci, papsy. This is my understanding as well, but had recently begun to question the date.

          And speaking of dates—I plan on taking the train to Montreal in the merry month of May to see and hear Manon with the young Mlle. Marianne Fiset, about whom I have read again recently another good notice. So, if you go, look around the salle for Camille, in her usual Chanel jacket avec perles. We can go have a drink and an aperitif and chase down Rufus Wainwright for his autograph! O joie!

    • 4.4
      Quanto Painy Fakor says:

      You mean these?

  • 5
    messa di voce says:

    Any chance of getting La Toti as a Saturday afternoon quiz panelist (yes, I know she’s long gone, but she’d still be an improvement over the history-ignorant crowd they use these days)?

  • 6
    arepo says:

    I send a birthday card to her every year and always receive a reply. Last year someone else responded for her — I imagine her handwriting is not up to it.
    Anyway, she will be 103 (I lost a year).

    BTW: Speaking of identifying singers from the first few notes, I have a rather strange talent in that I never miss identifying “Che gelida manina” from the very first note. Weird, eh?

    • 6.1
      Tamino says:

      Many of you may know this already, but Olivero is on Facebook.

      Her secretary/assistant apparently reads her the postings (English or Italian is fine), and often he posts her replies.

      I would suggest that those of us who have gotten great pleasure from her singing should post something on her page. We won’t have her around forever, although she seems to be defying the aging process better than just about anyone. How amazing to be able to send “fan mail” to one of the greats--whose career began in 1932!

      • 6.1.1
        kashania says:

        Thanks for this heads-up. I didn’t know that La Olivero is on facebook. Cossotto is also on facebook and accepts all friend requests from fans. She occasionally posts some old photos.

  • 7
    Constantine A. Papas says:

    I saw Magda Olivero, in Tosca, in 1979 with the touring Met; and I met her after the performance at a reception on the stage. She was 69, and Cavaradossi was a kid named Pavarotti. Glossop was Scarpia. Her singing was still moving, albeit her slim physique. In decades of attending opera, that was the night to never forget.

    • 7.1

      I saw her in the same tour at the cavernous Hynes Auditorium in Boston. The local critic, Richard Dyer proclaimed it the Pav and Mag show.I lofted her 2 dozen roses at the bows with a note attached. I cherish the hand written note she sent back to me on Ritz Carlton Stationary. It was the beginning of a lovely penpal-ship culminating with a meeting after her Carnegie Hall Recital in the 80’s.(BTW, I have the entire performance of Tosca recorded from a small cassette player that I had hidden in the sleeve of my suit) I still get chills at “egli vedi ch’io piango” and the spontaneous ovation afterwards.

  • 8
    arepo says:

    I know the feeling. I envy you that special evening.
    I will just have to be content with her lovely notes to me each year. I wonder who will respond to her birthday card this year.

  • 9
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Lina craves attention

  • 10
    Poison Ivy says:

    A number of years ago I wrote to Magda a letter of appreciation after I heard her demented Adriana Lecouvreur from Naples. Imagine my surprise when a few weeks later I got a beautiful personalized autographed picture from her.

    • 10.1
      Batty Masetto says:

      Years ago a friend wrote a similar note to Ebe Stignani and received a similarly warm reply. It’s hard to imagine how much some performers must miss their public after they retire. We just saw an interesting movie on Turkish music (“Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul”) in which a woman of 89 performs with joy and abandon, not to mention professionalism -- obviously thrilled to be in front of an audience again -- and afterwards says “I used to be Müzeyyin Senar.” (As though one of our divas were to say, “I used to be Giulietta Simionato.”)