1997 Rosa Ponselle – Opera Singers
American Music Series
- Honors famous female opera singer Rosa Ponselle
- One of the four Opera Singers stamps, the ninth set in the Legends of American Music Series
Legends of American Music
32¢, First Class Mail Rate
First Day of Issue:
September 10, 1997
First Day City:
New York, New York
Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd.
Panes of 20
11.1 x 11
Why the stamp was issued:
To commemorate the career and legacy of opera singer Rosa Ponselle.
About the stamp design:
Pictures a portrait of Ponselle by artist Mark English of Liberty, Missouri. Also included on the stamp is a smaller image of a figure in the costume of a character from an opera.
Special design details:
English’s work has also been pictured on the four American Arts commemoratives of 1973. Art director Howard Paine said of the earlier stamps, “They were sophisticated, moody, and very interesting.” That’s why he sought English out for the Opera Singers stamps.
First Day City:
The Opera Singers stamps had their First Day of Issue Ceremony at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City’s Lincoln Center.
About the Opera Singers set:
The ninth set of stamps in the Legends of American Music series. The set pictures two female (Lily Pons and Rosa Ponselle) and two male singers (Lawrence Tibbett and Richard Tucker) that made a lasting impact on American Opera.
About the Legends of American Music Series:
The Legends of American Music Series debuted on January 8, 1993, and ran until September 21, 1999. More than 90 artists are represented from all styles of music: rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and pop, opera and classical, gospel and folk. In addition to individual singers and Broadway musicals, subjects include band leaders, classical composers, Hollywood songwriters and composers, conductors, lyricists, and more. The Legends of American Music Series was a huge advancement for diversity because it honored many Black and female artists.
History the stamp represents:
Rosa Ponselle (1897-1981) was born in Meriden, Connecticut. As a teenager, she played piano accompaniment for silent motion pictures, and at age 16 began singing in vaudeville with her sister Carmela. The two performed under their real name, the Ponzillo Sisters.
Ponselle’s transition from vaudeville performer to opera singer is undocumented, but at age 21 she came to the attention of opera legend Enrico Caruso. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Leonora in Giuseppe Verdi’s La forza del destino
. She studied for the role with Romano Romani, who remained her vocal coach throughout her career.
Most of Ponselle’s career was spent at the Metropolitan, where she sang 22 dramatic roles. Many of these were coloratura parts – that is, marked by ornamental vocal trills and runs. She also sang one season at the Covent Graden in London in 1929, and another at the Maggio Musicale in Florence in 1933.
Classified by experts as a coloratura soprano, Ponselle’s voice was one of the greatest every produced by America. It had an extremely rich tone, especially in its lower notes – almost like a contralto (the lowest female voice part). Her most noted performance is considered to be the title role in Vincent Bellini’s Norma