Licia Albanese was one of the leading Madama Butterflies of her time while Anja Harteros has become one of the go-to spinto Sopranos, performing a wide range roles from the Strauss, Verdi and Wagner repertoire. The two sopranos, while coming from different fachs and specializing in different repertoire, still had a number of roles in common.
This was one of Albanese’s signature roles as she performed the work 88 times at the Metropolitan Opera between 1942 and 1963. She also sang more performances of the role at the San Francisco Opera than any other soprano in the company’s history. She would leave two famous recordings of the work and numerous radio broadcasts. Meanwhile, Harteros dominated the role of Violetta in the early part of her career, first singing it in 2004 and later going to perform it at the Bayerische Staatsoper. Her final Met appearances were in the role of Violetta, when she sang the Zeffirelli production in 2009.
Albanese was a signature for Mimì, performing the work 64 times at the Metropolitan Opera between 1940 and 1966. The Met recently released a historical performance of her interpretation alongside Carlo Bergonzi, allowing audiences to relish her immaculate phrasing. There is also a recording with Giuseppe Di Stefano and another with Arturo Toscanini. Meanwhile, Harteros performed Mimì in 2012 at the Bayerische Staatsoper and at many other venues. She was scheduled to perform it at the Royal Opera and San Diego Opera but was forced to cancel. Since then, Harteros has moved on from the heroine.
The iconic role has been a signature for Harteros, who performed it at the Vienna State Opera, Deutsche Berlin, and Opéra National de Paris. She is slated to take it to the Salzburg Easter Festival and Zurich Opera. Albanese was not as recognized for her portrayal but she still did it 17 times at the Met.
The role of Desdemona gets a bad wrap, sometimes for its weak character but that did not stop Harteros or Albanese from taking on the work. Albanese interpreted the work 11 times at the Met with Ramon Vinay. Meanwhile, Harteros has sung the opera at the Vienna State Opera, the Bayerische Staatsoper, and the Royal Opera House. She has performed the role of Desdemona alongside such notable interpreters as the late Johan Botha and Aleksandrs Antonenko.