About Cerquetti's last performances
a correction. It has always been said that her last performances (Cerquetti,
that is) were as Abigaile in Holland in 1960. Not true; my research
indicates that that performance took place in April of 1960, the 24th,
to be exact and that she sang in Un Ballo in Maschera at Lucca, Italy
in Sept of the same year, and then closed the book.
Now, Cerquetti had a very limited career, never exceeding 50 performances
in a year, and only exceeding 40 in one. Her opera debut was in Sept
of 1951 at Spoleto in Aida, a performance in which she also sang the
Priestess. In 52 she sang Trovatore at Milan's Teatro Nuovo, and her
next opera engagements were at Verona (Arena) in August of 1953. The
career went on sort of like that for several years, a few good engagements
and lots of rest. It peaked in 1957, with 49 performances at Rome, Florence,
Palermo, Verona, Caracalla, Mexico City, Philadelphia, New York (concert),
Callas and Cerquetti are forever intertwined in legend because of Norma
at Rome in Jan of 1958. Callas left the opening night performance after
act 1 and was replaced in subsequent performances by Cerquetti. The
Rome Opera sued Callas, and lost, after many colleagues, including Giulietta
Simionato, came to her defense. From this event, has grown a legend
of conflict between to the two "C"divas. Not true!
After the Rome Norma engagement, Cerquetti sang at Palermo, Scala, Mexico,
Philadelphia and Barcelona and then left the stage to have a child.
There was no cabal; there was no intrigue. She did the natural thing,
had a baby. The Barcelona engagement was in late 1958, November or December.
Sixteen months later, she appeared in Nabucco in Holland, then 2 concerts
at La Scala, including Rossini's Stabat Mater, and, finally the farewell
at Lucca in "Ballo". Her choice, for whatever reason. I played
some of the "Nabucco" yesterday, and I find a tired though
still thrilling voice. It was not the same voice that we hear in 1957.
Especially in the bottom half of the range.
Stories of rivalries and intrigue are fun, they engender interesting
anecdotes, but they are often untrue. That is not to say that some people
didn't favor one over the other. But, to even imply that Callas and
her legions had anything to do with Cerquetti leaving the stage is unfounded,
and unneeded, in my opinion.
To end it, the wonder is that Cerquetti's career was as limited as it
turned out to be. 200 performances in 10 years, seventeen roles, counting
the Priestess,and as much work in provincial Italian towns as in major
theaters. But, don't blame it on anyone. It just ain't true. In fact,
it was exactly during that period that Callas was having the biggest
problems of her own career, fired from Scala, sued by the Rome Opera,
fired from the Met, the breakup of her marriage and what else, everything