Artist Profile: Katia Ricciarelli, A Verdi & Puccini Champion

By David Salazar

The story of soprano Katia Ricciarelli is one of rags to riches.

Born on Jan. 16, 1946, the Italian soprano grew up with a poor family, working during her time as a student at the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory in Venice.

Upon graduation, she kickstarted her career as Mimì in “La Bohème” in Mantua and from there she had a major success in Cherubini’s “Anacréon” and won the Parma Verdi Competition and Voce Verdiane Competition.

She made her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in 1972 and Rome Opera debut, both in early Verdi operas. In 1974, she appeared at the Royal Opera House in London for the first time, followed by a debut at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan and Metropolitan Opera; at all three sites she appeared in a Puccini opera.

She also enjoyed a lengthy association with the Rossini Opera Festival, starting in 1981.

Once her stage career had come to an end she established the Accademia Lirica di Katia Ricciarelli and also became artistic director of the Macerata Opera Festival. She also appeared on the reality TV show “La Fattoria.” She also appeared in Franco Zeffirelli’s film version of “Otello” alongside Plácido Domingo.

Her discography is replete with works by Verdi and Puccini.

Signature Roles

The soprano was a renowned interpreter of many of the early Verdi operas, though her most famed interpretation is likely that of Desdemona in “Otello,” which she recorded on film with Domingo and Zeffirelli.

She was also a major interpreter of “Luisa Miller” and Mimì in “La Bohème,” the latter opera serving as her vehicle for her Met and ROH debuts.

Read More on Ricciarelli

A Look At Operas Roles She Shared With Fellow Birthday Girl Pilar Lorengar

Watch and Listen

Here is a famed recording of “Luisa Miller” with Ricciarelli in the title role.

And here she is in “La Bohème” with frequent stage partner José Carreras.


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