B0195. THE LAST OF THE PRIMA DONNAS (Lanfranco Rasponi). New York, Knopf, 1982. 633pp. Index; Photos; DJ. Duly fascinating incisive interviews with many operatic artists, incl. Rethy, Lubin, Flagstad, dalla Rizza, dal Monte, Carosio, Pagliughi, Galli-Curci, Mazzoleni, Cigna, Milanov, Caniglia, Tebaldi, Laurenti, Bori, Oltrabella, Bellincioni, Corradetti, Pons, Sayao, Pederzini, Carteri, Callas, Cerquetti, Roman, Eva Turner, Kirsten, Moore, Mödl, Swarthout, Streich, Jurinac, Seefried, Lotte Lehmann, etc; great reference source. Long out-of-print, Final hardbound copy! - 0-394-52153-6
“Interviews with 56 sopranos and mezzos of bygone decades - a few (dating from the '30s and '40s) caught in mid-career, most in retirement, many no longer alive. Rasponi, a veteran PR-man and opera-world correspondent who's distressed over the un-starry state of today's singers, begins with a solid yet crammed introduction to the variations in female voices, the nuances of the repertoire. Then come the interview/profiles, most of them quite short, grouped by voice type - but also sometimes by more subjective pigeon-holes: ‘The Huge Voices’, ‘The Wagnerian Enchantresses’, ‘The Great Creators’, ‘The Great Coloraturas’, ‘The Great Dramatics’, ‘The Great Spintos’, ‘The Great Lyrics’, ‘The Great Artists’, ‘The Great Interpreters of Verismo and Realismo’, ‘The Late Bloomers’, ‘The Money-Makers’ (Swarthout, Moore, Pons - all very brief), ‘The Italian Beauties’,’The Opera-and Lieder Singers’, ‘The Small Voices that Traveled Far’ (e.g., Bidú Sayão), ‘The Switchers’, ‘The Meteors’....and in-their-own-category, spots for Lucrezia Bori and Maria Callas. Students and aficionados will browse rewardingly - for the comments on rôles, voice problems, conductors, stage directors, training, and teaching. Those interested in opera history will especially welcome a 1936 interview with Galli-Curci (who eloquently defines the coloratura challenge - ‘to give palpitations of the heart to the sort of instrument that is almost an abstraction’), as well as testimony by the creators of many 20th-century rôles, including Maria Carbone. (‘I spent my life creating operas that never saw the light again’.) There's a bit or two about gossip and feuds--Renata Tebaldi denying the Callas emnity, Viorica Ursuleac detailing her Lotte Lehmann problems. And, un-surprisingly, there's a slew of attacks on Opera Today - the money-mindedness, the bizarre productions, the over-reaching singers, the lack of true glamour and tradition. Not for the casual opera fan, then, but career after career for nostalgic buffs - along with more than a few passages of wider musical interest.”
- Kirkus Reviews
“Mr. Rasponi, who had the inherited title of Count, was a well-known figure in New York society in the 1940s and '50s. He represented such singers as Renata Tebaldi, Franco Corelli, Cesare Siepi and Licia Albanese as well as two popular restaurants, the Colony and Quo Vadis. He was the author of three books, THE INTERNATIONAL NOMADS and THE GOLDEN OASES - about socialites - and THE LAST OF THE PRIMA DONNAS, which was published in 1982."
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 April, 1983