Alexander Campbell writes... Adelaida Negri, a versatile soprano born in Buenos Aires of Italian parentage had a distinguished career that concentrated largely on bel canto repertoire and the more dramatic Verdi and Puccini roles. She studied at the Teatro Colon and made her debut in that large house singing in Lehár’s Merry Widow, soon being heard in a variety of coloratura roles in various theatres in South America and in Germany. Roles at this juncture included the Queen of the Night, Donnas Anna and Elvira, Lucia di Lammermoor and Semiramide. In 1982 she made an impromptu debut under Levine as Bellini’s Norma at the Metropolitan Opera leading a cast including Tatiana Troyanos and Plácido Domingo, returning subsequently as Elvira in Ernani and as Lady Macbeth. Critics thought her vocalism exciting but some expressed concerns about possible vocal recklessness for her mixing of the lighter florid roles with heavier ones such as Elisabetta in Don Carlo. However, she continued to have an impressive career singing in major houses. Although she studied briefly in London whilst learning her craft, she made very few appearances in the UK.

Negri's Verdi roles also included Violetta, Abigaille, Amelia and Amalia, and she was a notable Tosca, Manon Lescaut and Butterfly. Her Bellini parts included Beatrice di Tenda and Amina and her Donizetti ones encompassed the Tudor queens, although she was also keen on exploring some of the lesser-known works by these composers as well as some verismo roles. Her true artistic home was the Teatro Colon however, and she was regarded for her efforts to promote works by Italian composers by founding La Casa de la Opera de Buenos Aires in 1997. She was also a notable supporter of younger talent. Sadly, there is a lack of commercial recordings of her art when in her prime; although many ‘off the air’ extracts captured in imperfect sound do provide evidence of a rich and agile voice harnessed to strong dramatic instincts.


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