A few months ago a friend alerted me to a Facebook group called “Forgotten Opera Singers.” I subscribed and have been enjoying its frequent audio and photo posts, many featuring performers I’d never heard or even heard of before. Mulling over the group’s name got me to digging through a stack of live performances and rediscovering today’s sopranos who only briefly appeared in the US. Perhaps they too have been forgotten by many, though Chiara made several commercial recordings that may continue to win her fans.

Chiara, Mauti-Nunziata and Orlandi-Malaspina sang at the Met: Chiara just four performances of La Traviata in 1977, the same year she was Chicago Lyric’s Manon Lescaut opposite Giorgio Merighi, another infrequent Met visitor. He’d spread 26 performances over 21 years, ending with Radames in 1998, the only occasion I heard him.

Giorgio Casellato-Lamberti, another Italian tenor and Santunione’s Dick Johnson, also had a 21 year Met run, but he sang over 50 times during his tenure. His Enzo Grimaldi was featured in my first-ever La Gioconda, Opera Orchestra of New York’s hot-blooded concert starring Ghena Dimitrova and Piero Cappuccilli.

Mauti-Nunziata also performed Violetta (nine times) with the Met in 1977. She made her debut as Mimi in a one-off La Bohème earlier that year and would soon do 16 Pagliacci Neddas before vanishing.

Today’s recording of Boccanegra documents Orlandi-Malaspina’s actual Met debut. She performed her role just twice more followed by a single Don Carlo. Eleven years would pass before she returned as Aïda which she often did in the house and on tour that single season.

The closest Santunione got to the Met seems to have been in 1972 when she sang the title role in Tosca for the Philadelphia Lyric. Veriano Luchetti, a favorite tenor of mine and her Philly Cavaradossi, is also Mauti-Nunziata’s Mefistofele Faust today. He made it to the Met 16 years after that Tosca in the unlikely role of Don José for five performances, one of which featured the Met debut of his wife Mietta Sighele as Micaela. However, the Micaela for his debut was Ilona Tokody, another considerable soprano scarcely used by the Met and then mostly for Nedda.

Despite their relatively few US appearances, today’s soprano quartet had, for a time at least, considerable European careers. Those who scour archives, however, may find mention of even more performances by the four on this side of the Atlantic. The Met’s long neglect of Giuseppe Taddei, who stars in both Fritz and Fanciulla and appeared locally in concert with the American Opera Society, is well known.

Non-Italian Adelaide Negri who sings Elena in Mefistofele also made a brief splash at the Met appearing in nine performances of five roles in just two years. The Argentinian singer debuted as Norma on a Saturday broadcast replacing Renata Scotto, followed by the Trovatore Leonora, Lucia, Elvira in Ernani and, finally, Lady Macbeth. She remains a bit of a cult figure thanks to the survival of many live performances that have been issued on CD.

Other “forgotten” singers will surely crop up on future Chris’s Cache installments.

Mascagni: L’Amico Fritz

Suzel: Maria Chiara
Beppe: Elena Zilio
Fritz Kobus: Giacomo Aragall
David: Giuseppe Taddei
Federico: Piero De Palma

Conductor: Maurizio Arena

Teatro Massimo Vincenzo Bellini, Catania
21 March 1973
In-house recording

Boito: Mefistofele

Margherita – Elena Mauti Nunziata
Elena – Adelaide Negri
Marta – Flora Raffanelli
Mefistofele – Nicola Ghiuselev
Faust – Veriano Luchetti
Wagner – Giampaolo Corradi
Pantalis – Luisa Gallmetzer
Nereo – Giuliano Ansalone

Conductor: Maurizio Arena

Arena di Verona
2 August 1979
In-house recording

Verdi: Simon Boccanegra

Amelia: Rita Orlandi-Malaspina
Simon Boccanegra: Cornell MacNeil
Gabriele Adorno: Richard Tucker
Jacopo Fiesco: Nicolai Ghiaurov
Paolo Albiani: Sherrill Milnes
Pietro: Paul Plishka

Conductor: Francesco Molinari-Pradelli

Metropolitan Opera
17 October 1968
In-house recording

Puccini: La fanciulla del West 

Minnie: Orianna Santunione
Wowkle: Rita Bezzi Breda
Dick Johnson: Giorgio Casellato-Lamberi
Jack Rance: Giuseppe Taddei
Nick: Angelo Marchiandi
Ashby: Gianfranco Cesarini
Sonora: Ettore Nova
Trin: Augusto Vicentini
Sid: Luigi Risani
Bello: Alberto Carusi
Harry: Dino Formichini
Joe: Ottavio Taddei
Happy: Aldo Reggioli
Larkens: Giorgio Giorgetti
Billie Jackrabbit: Guerrando Rigiri
Jake Wallace: Alessandro Cassis
José Castro: Augusto Frati
Un Postiglione : Luigi Baruffi

Conductor: Gianandrea Gavazzeni

Maggio Musicale Firenze
1 June 1974

Each of today’s operas can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a cloud with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.