Giannina Arangi-Lombardi, "Te Vergin santa invoco", Verdi: I Lombardi (1933)

The great Italian dramatic soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi (1890-1951) in "Te Vergin santa invoco" from Verdi's little-known early opera I Lombardi, recorded for Columbia in 1933.

Arangi-Lombardi began her career as a mezzo-soprano in the early 1920s. With growing awareness of her brilliant middle-upper vocal capabilities, she made an important transition to become a dramatic soprano in the mid 1920s and enjoyed great success as Gioconda, Santuzza, Elena in Mefistofele, the Trovatore and Forza Leonoras and in particular Aida.

In fact, she became the most famous Aida of her day in Italy. Such was her prominence in the role that the Teatro alla Scala mounted several performances of Aida with her leading the cast in the late 1920s. On top of that, she undertook a prestigious central European trip with the La Scala Ensemble and Toscanini in January 1929 and performed the role in Berlin and Vienna. Together with Giuseppina Cobelli and Bianca Scacciati, she ruled Teatro alla Scala as its co-prima donna in the mid to late 1920s. She also went on a five-week tour to perform in various cities in Australia in 1928 in the company of other distinguished colleagues including Toti Dal Monte, Hina Spani, Francesco Merli and Apollo Granforte.

With the departure of Toscanini from La Scala in early 1929, she ended her career at Milan's "Temple", but continued to sing in Rome and elsewhere in Italy. She retired in 1937 after growing vocal difficulties from the mid 1930s.

From 1939 onwards, she assumed a teaching career in Milan. In 1947, she accepted a lucrative offer by the Turkish government to become the director of the Music Conservatory in Ankara.

During her stint in Turkey, Arangi-Lombardi discovered a budding young soprano named Leyla Gencer and took great interest in her training and development as an artist. Gencer was to remember her teacher with great fondness. In an interview with OPERA NEWS (published in the November 2003 issue), Gencer recalled: "Every morning at ten, she would put on her most elegant dress, with pearls, and her diamonds on her fingers, sat at the piano, and we studied. I learned my first opera arias, from Ballo, Aida, Forza del destino, and when I sang them my whole life, I sang them just as she taught them to me."

For reasons of health, Arangi-Lombardi returned to Milan in 1951 and passed away in July of the same year.

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