Antonietta Stella is one of the great Italian sopranos of all time. Known for her potent and elegant vocal artistry, she was a heralded interpreter of the dramatic repertoire.
During a time when such greats as Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi were dominating the opera world, Stella held her own, making several high-profile recordings that remain among favorites, especially in the Verdian repertoire. Here is a look at some of the greatest recordings by the diva, born on March 15, 1929, in the repertoire that she excelled at.
Don Carlo – Gabrielle Santini
The soprano was a noted Verdi soprano and her interpretation as Elisabetta in Verdi’s seminal masterwork was among one of her trademarks. In a recording that features the tortured Boris Christoff, elegant Ettore Bastiani, passionate Fiorenza Cossoto and forceful Flaviano Labo, Stella stands out for her regal and calming presence throughout the opera. Don’t get me wrong, she carves out a tragic dimension to her Elisabetta, particularly in her mournful “Tu che la vanita,” but there is a soothing nature to her performance that makes her the proverbial adult in a room full of emotionally unstable children.
Il Trovatore – Tullio Serafin
Yet another star-studded cast that includes Bastianini, Carlo Bergonzi, and Cossotto, Stella’s Leonora retains her detailed vocal refinement though she definitely pushes her voice to its dramatic edge in that third act, particularly the confrontation with Bastianini’s fierce Conte di Luna.
La Traviata – Tullio Serafin
This recording is as famous for the controversy surrounding it (Stella stepping in for Maria Callas after the great soprano feuded with Serafin) as it is for its musical merits, of which there are many. The two men, Giuseppe Di Stefano and Tito Gobbi, usually draw the greatest accolades, but Stella is particularly heart-wrenching throughout the final two acts, her vocal polish and dramatic timing lending her Violetta with pathos and dignity that makes her tragedy all the more painful.