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Notes from the Past: Amelita Galli-Curci and the WMC

Amelita Galli-Curci was a star when she came to Winnipeg on June 3, 1920, under the auspices of the Women’s Musical Club. Born in Milan in 1882, she had studied piano and composition at the Milan Conservatory, but it was Pietro Mascagni, the composer of Cavalleria Rusticana, who is given credit for encouraging her to take up singing as a career. Largely self-trained, she was internationally famed for her agile and thrilling coloratura soprano voice, widely regarded, even today, as one of the great soprano voices of the 20th Century.1 One contemporary critic, obviously an admirer, said of her, “She is the messenger of the Goddess of song.” 2 The Winnipeg concert was a triumph. “Thanks and honour must be accorded to the Women’s Musical Club for giving Winnipeg the opportunity this week of listening to a singer acclaimed by critics and public as one of the finest now living. In spite of the lateness of the season … the Women’s Musical Club, with admirable pluck and enterprise accepted the onerous financial responsibility and the large amount of organizational work entailed by such a concert. One hopes that this resounding success will encourage the Women’s Musical Club to do as much and more next season.” 3

Galli-Curci’s voice was at the height of its powers when she sang in Winnipeg. Sadly, by 1930, throat problems and uncertain pitching of top notes began to plague her. She underwent surgery for a thyroid goiter in 1935 but, in spite of the extreme care that was taken, her voice never fully recovered. By good fortune Galli-Curci’s early career coincided with the advent of recordings 4, allowing us still to hear her voice in its prime, as did those fortunate concert­ goers in Winnipeg on June 3, 1920.

1. 2. Winnipeg Tribune May 15, 1920 p.12 3. Winnipeg Free Press June 5, 1920 p.20 4. Mary Lynn Duckworth, WMC Chair of Archives March 2022


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