• Vaudeville days


    Rosa Ponselle


    The first paid job of Rosa Ponselle was as singer in a small theater in Meriden, CT, called The Star. She was 15 years old, and was already an acomplished piano player. She was instantly succesful and was hired to sing in a bigger house, in the nearby town of New Haven, the San Carlino, that seated 1,000 people.

    Ponselle's oldest sister Carmela was already a vaudeville singer and, after listening to Rosa, his agent came up with the idea of setting up a number with the two siblings. It was really a good one, and the "Ponzillo Sisters", in just a couple of years, were singing in the best vaudeville theaters in New York: 'The Riverside' and 'The Palace'. While performing in 'The Riverside', Rosa met Caruso and received the proposal to sing for the Metropolitan.

    Rosa and Carmela were making one thousand dollars per week in the vaudeville, and in her first year with the Metropolitan she was actually losing money, but preferred to launch her operatic career. Their fellow vaudeville artists were people like Al Jonson, Eva Tanguy, Nora Bayes, Belle Baker,....

    Let's listen to Rosa Ponselle in some of the songs she was singing in the number with the "Ponzillo Sisters":


    Rosa Ponselle - Goodbye

    Rosa Ponselle - Keep the Home Fires Burning

    Rosa Ponselle - Maria Mari


    Carmela Ponselle

    Carmela Ponselle was also a good singer, and she was hired years later by the MET, singing some seasons there as a mezzosoprano.

    In those years before the microphone, of course it was easier for vaudeville singers to move into opera, as they needed to fill with their voices some big houses anyway. However, the case of the Ponzillo sisters is rather an exceptional one.

    Rosa and Carmela Ponselle - Comin' thro the rye


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