On February 1, 1893, Giacomo Puccini’s third opera, Manon Lescaut
, premiered at the Teatro Regio, Turin. Three years later to the day, his next stage work, La bohème
, had its illustrious premiere at the same theater. In addition to the date and location, there was one other common thread linking those two productions: Cesira Ferrani, the Turinese soprano who created the roles of Manon and Mimi. Although she is almost completely forgotten today, Ferrani clearly impressed the composer–he said of her Manon that it was “ideal in appearance, talent, and voice,” and the day after La bohème
opened, he praised her as his “true and splendid” Mimi.
Cesira Ferrani as Manon Lescaut
A student of the Austrian dramatic soprano Antonietta Fricci, Ferrani made her local debut in 1887 as Micaela in Carmen
; over the next two decades she would appear as Gilda, Juliette, Suzel (L’amico Fritz
) Charlotte (Werther
), Amelia (Simon Boccanegra
), Elisabeth (Tannhauser
), Elsa (Lohengrin
), Eva (Die Meistersinger
), and, in 1908, as Melisande in the first La Scala performance of Pelléas et Mélisande
. After retiring the following year she spent much of the remainder of her life in Turin, where she established a a salon. She died in 1943.
In 1903, Ferrani recorded several arias for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company, including the following selections from today’s anniversary operas.