American soprano Margaret Roberts, better known as Margherita Roberti, has passed away at the age of 95. With a career spanning four decades, she is remembered for her interpretation of Verdi heroines throughout the stages of Italy.
Born in 1925, Roberts grew up on her father’s cattle-breeding farm until they moved to Muscatine, Iowa when she was 12. The following year, she would begin vocal lessons with Herald Stark at the University of Iowa, and after graduating high school, studied voice at Hunter College, where she would meet her husband, Thomas Nobis.
Her professional debut took place in 1948 with the Saint Louis Opera, and three years later became a regular on the Chicago radio program “Chicago Theater of the Air.” In 1956 she moved to Italy and studied opera under Antonio Narducci among others. Her European debut came in 1957, performing the role of Leonore in Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” at the Teatro Alfieri in Turin. Around this time she would also adopt the “Italianized” version of her name which she would use for the rest of her career.
In 1958, she became a regular at La Scala for the next ten seasons after playing Abigaille in “Nabucco.” That same year, she also performed the titled role in “Tosca” at the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, as well as her debuts with the Arena di Verona Festival and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, opposite Tito Gobbi and Richard Tucker in “Simon Boccanegra.”
Her Metropolitan Opera debut was in 1962 as Tosca, opposite Franco Corelli, with whom she would also sing at the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company that same year.
In 1970, Roberti was knighted by the Italian government for artistic achievement. After retiring, Roberti would give her final performance in 1988, as a soloist with the Quad-City Symphony Orchestra.
She is survived by a daughter, athlete Jennifer Figge.