Artist Profile: Fedora Barbieri & One of the Longest Careers in Opera History

By David Salazar

There were a plethora of great Italian mezzo-sopranos dominating the repertoire of Giuseppe Verdi in the mid-1900s.

Fedora Barbieri was among those. Born on June 4, 1920 in Trieste, she quickly made her debut in Florence at age 20. She debuted at La Scala at age 22 but marriage derailed her career for two years. She re-emerged in 1945, becoming one of the first champions of the early operas of Monteverdi and Pergolesi.

At age 30, she appeared at the Met Opera in “Don Carlo” and would follow that with a noted career around the world. She never officially retired from the stage, but her singing career ended around the 1990s; the 50-year career is one of the longest in the history of the art form.

At the time of her death on March 23, she left behind a number of audio and video recordings.

Signature Roles

Barbieri was renowned for her work in the Italian repertoire, dominating the operas of Verdi. Surprisingly, one of her finest roles was that of Mistress Quickly in “Falstaff,” though her lush sound made her perfect for low-lying roles like Ulrica in “Un Ballo in Maschera” and Azucena in “Il Trovatore.”

Watch and Listen 

Check out her famed Azucena in the opening two arias from “Il Trovatore.”

Now listen to Barbieri go head to head with none other than Maria Callas in “Aida.”


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