Italian soprano Herva Nelli, born on Jan. 9, 1909, may not be a major household name the way other sopranos of the early 20th century have become, but she surely had an adventurous and prolific career that kicked off in the United States.
Born in Italy, her family moved to the States when she was but 10, eventually studying at the Pittsburgh Music Institute. She would go on to be Arturo Toscanini’s choice for his famed “Otello” recording and would later join the maestro in a number of other recordings. She had a prominent career around the US and here are a few companies where she made a massive mark.
New Orleans Opera Association
The soprano first appeared with this organization in 1949 and would perform with them all the way through 1958 in such operas as “Aida” and “Il Trovatore,” the latter production showcasing her alongside Leonard Warren.
Nelli sang with the company between 1946 and 1959 in a plethora of operas that includes “Aida,” “La Gioconda,” “Cavalleria Rusticana,” “Norma,” “Il Trovatore,” “Otello,” “Tosca,” “La Forza del Destino,” and “Un Ballo in Maschera.”
The Metropolitan Opera
The soprano made her Met debut in 1953 as “Aida (of course)” and would go on to appear with the organization 39 times until 1961, performing the role of Leonora in “Il Trovatore.” She would appear in other operas such as “Don Giovanni,” “Un Ballo in Maschera,” “Andrea Chénier,” and “La Forza del Destino.” She also toured extensively with the company to Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta, and Toronto.
She appeared with this company between 1953 and 1956 as a leading soprano. She took on “Aida,” “La Traviata,” “Andrea Chénier,” and “Madama Butterfly” during her time with the company.