Virginia Zeani

Biography

Born: October 21, 1925; Solvastru, Romania  
An exceptionally beautiful woman with dark, lustrous hair, Romanian-born soprano Virginia Zeani became one of Italy's most-appreciated artists during the 1950s. Initially specializing in lyric/coloratura roles, she moved in the 1970s to more dramatic parts, maintaining nearly all of her vocal allure while adding a dimension of larger-scaled authority. Celebrated most of all for her touching Violetta, she made her career primarily in Europe. Read more Beginning in the early '80s, however, she moved to the U.S. with her husband, Italo-Russian bass Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, to become a faculty member at Indiana University and continued to teach there following his death in 1991.

Zeani, born Zehan, pursued her interest in singing despite parental opposition. Encouraged by an endorsement from her chorus director when she was 12, the girl located a teacher and paid for her own lessons with money earned from church performances and part-time work. By the following year, her family had capitulated and she was able to undertake lessons in earnest from a new instructor. Luise Anghel, a noted Romanian singer of the German and French repertories, believed Zeani to be a mezzo. Uncomfortable in that voice register, it was not until she became a student of Russian coloratura soprano Lydia Lipkowska (who had sung Violetta at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1909 - 1910 season) that Zeani was prepared to sing in her correct range. After work on Violetta, Mimi, Massenet's Manon, and Gounod's Marguerite, Zeani left Bucharest in 1947 to study with the celebrated Italian tenor Aureliano Pertile in Milan. His response was highly favorable as he informed her that she needed only additional coaching in pronunciation and style. Zeani also sought the counsel of Luigi Ricci in Rome and several of Toscanini's former coaches at La Scala.

By the time of her debut at Bologna in 1948, Zeani had been thoroughly prepared. The role, not surprisingly, was Violetta, the signature characterization that would carry her through several other important debuts: London (1953), Vienna (1957), Paris (1957), New York (1966), and Moscow (1969). In 1956, Zeani appeared for the first time at La Scala when her Cleopatra (Handel) appeared together with the Cesare of Rossi-Lemeni. Zeani had encountered the bass several times before, beginning with her Milanese student days. On-stage, they had met previously in Florence during Zeani's debut in I Puritani when the soprano replaced Callas at a late hour. When Zeani and Rossi-Lemeni connected in Giulio Cesare, he proposed even before rehearsals were over and marriage followed three months later.

In 1957, Zeani created the role of Blanche in Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites at La Scala. In contrast to her involvement with works of the bel canto composers and later, operas derived from the verismo movement, Zeani was keenly interested in contemporary works. In addition to Poulenc's Dialogues, she participated in the world premieres of Raffaello de Banfield's Alisa and Barbara Giuranna's Mayerling. Zeani was assigned roles in notable revivals as well. In 1965, she took the title role in a Neapolitan production of Donizetti's Maria di Rohan, in 1968 portrayed Desdemona in Rossini's Otello at Rome and in 1970 sang Verdi's Alzira also at Rome. By the 1970s, Zeani began to move to such spinto roles as Aida, Tosca, Fedora, and Magda Sorel. There, her histrionic mastery and command of style matched the expertise that had made her earlier work in the coloratura repertory so distinctive. Read less
Browse 1-17 of 17 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Verdi:  La Traviata / Questa, Zeani, Dabandi, Bonelli, Raimondi
    Label: Gall (Formerly Gallo)   Catalog: 100816 Release Date: 05/20/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Gianni Raimondi,  Anna Maria Bonelli,  Anna Dabandi,  Virginia Zeani  ... 
    Conductor:  Angelo Questa
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Naples Teatro San Carlo Chorus,  Naples Teatro San Carlo Orchestra
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  • 2.
    Label: Gala   Catalog: 7704303 Release Date: 05/24/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Vincenzo Bellini
    Performer:  Saverio Porzano,  Carlo Cava,  Mario Rinaudo,  Virginia Zeani  ... 
    Conductor:  Franco Capuana,  Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
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  • 3.
    Dream Ticket To La Traviata
    Label: Preiser Records   Catalog: 21004 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Richard Tucker,  Anna Moffo,  Virginia Zeani,  Dame Joan Sutherland  ... 
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  • 4.
    Label: Bongiovanni   Catalog: 1224 Release Date: 03/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Vincenzo Bellini,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Amilcare Ponchielli,  Giacomo Puccini  ... 
    Performer:  Nicola Martinucci,  Virginia Zeani
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  • 5.
    Puccini: Manon Lescaut / Zeani, Labo, Rinaldi, Bergamonti
    Label: Bongiovanni   Catalog: 1212/3 Release Date: 09/29/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini,  Vincenzo Bellini
    Performer:  Flaviano Labň,  Virginia Zeani,  Leonida Bergamonti,  Luigi Baruffi  ... 
    Conductor:  Umberto Cattini
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  • 6.
    Lebendige Vergangenheit - Virginia Zeani
    Label: Preiser Records   Catalog: 89720 Release Date: 05/12/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gaetano Donizetti,  Vincenzo Bellini,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Virginia Zeani,  Nicola Rossi-Lemeni
    Conductor:  Gianandrea Gavazzeni,  Alfredo Simonetto
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
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  • 7.
    The World of Puccini / Freni, Pavarotti, Sutherland, Tebaldi
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 433865 Release Date: 09/02/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Giuseppe Di Stefano,  Virginia Zeani,  Bruno Prevedi,  Maria Chiara  ... 
    Conductor:  Giuseppe Patané,  Edward Downes,  Nello Santi,  Tullio Serafin  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  Vienna Volksoper Orchestra  ... 
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  • 8.
    Rossini: Zelmira / Franci, Zeani, Tagger, Limarilli, Rota
    Label: Opera D'oro   Catalog: 1455 Release Date: 06/13/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Gioachino Rossini
    Performer:  Paolo Washington,  Anna Maria Rota,  Guido Mazzini,  Giuseppe Moretti  ... 
    Conductor:  Carlo Franci
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Naples Teatro San Carlo Orchestra,  Naples Teatro San Carlo Chorus
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  • 9.
    Puccini: Opera Arias / Pavarotti, Freni, Sutherland, Et Al
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000122702 Release Date: 10/14/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Bruno Prevedi,  Leona Mitchell,  Virginia Zeani,  Michel Sénéchal  ... 
    Conductor:  Edward Downes,  Kurt Herbert Adler,  Franco Patanč,  Herbert von Karajan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  National Philharmonic Orchestra,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra  ... 
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  • 10.
    Menotti: Il Console / Schippers, Zeani, Colmagro, Et Al
    Label: Opera D'oro   Catalog: 1386 Release Date: 05/06/2003   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Gian Carlo Menotti
    Performer:  Gianfranco Casarini,  Bibiana Goldenthal,  Flora Rafanelli,  Giuliana Matteini  ... 
    Conductor:  Thomas Schippers
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Florence Maggio Musicale Orchestra,  Florence Maggio Musicale Chorus
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  • 11.
    The Ultimate Puccini Divas Album / Caballe, Fleming, Et Al
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 467382 Release Date: 11/14/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Franco Corelli,  Birgit Nilsson,  Giuseppe Di Stefano,  Leontyne Price  ... 
    Conductor:  Lorin Maazel,  Herbert von Karajan,  Nello Santi,  Riccardo Chailly  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Volksoper Orchestra  ... 
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  • 12.
    Jewel Song - 20 Great Soprano Arias / Crespin, Freni, Et Al
    Label: London/Decca Opera Gala Series   Catalog: 458230 Release Date: 09/12/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Richard Wagner,  Giacomo Puccini,  Antonín Dvorák  ... 
    Performer:  Sumi Jo,  Kirsten Flagstad,  Kathleen Battle,  Virginia Zeani  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti,  Hans Knappertsbusch,  Franco Patanč,  Giuseppe Patané  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 13.
    25 Opera Favorites
    Label: Vox Cameo Classics   Catalog: 8838 Release Date: 07/01/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ruggero Leoncavallo,  Pietro Mascagni,  Giacomo Puccini,  George Frideric Handel  ... 
    Performer:  John Oakman,  Elvira Cirje-Druica,  Eugenia Moldoveanu,  Ludovic Spiess  ... 
    Conductor:  Julian Bigg,  Mircea Popa,  Constantin Petrovici,  Rudolph Palmer  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Symphony Orchestra,  Romanian Opera Chorus of Bucharest,  Romanian Opera Orchestra of Bucharest  ... 
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  • 14.
    Puccini: Tosca / Trailescu, Zeani, Fanateanu, Herlea
    Label: Vox Box   Catalog: 5153 Release Date: 03/26/1996   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Virginia Zeani,  Corneliu Fanateanu,  Nicolae Herlea,  Gheorghe Crasnaru  ... 
    Conductor:  Cornel Trailescu
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bucharest State Opera Orchestra,  Bucharest State Opera Chorus
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  • 15.
    Il Mito Dell'opera - Virginia Zeani Vol 2
    Label: Bongiovanni   Catalog: 1112 Release Date: 06/20/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Francesco Cilča,  Giacomo Puccini,  Jules Massenet,  Arrigo Boito  ... 
    Performer:  Virginia Zeani
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  • 16.
    Virginia Zeani - Opera Recital
    Label: Bongiovanni   Catalog: 1060 Release Date: 04/18/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Franz Lehár,  Gaetano Donizetti,  Vincenzo Bellini
    Performer:  Virginia Zeani,  Agostino Lazzari,  Alfredo Kraus,  Nicola Rossi-Lemeni
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  • 17.
    Il Mito Dell'opera - Mario Filippeschi Vol Ii
    Label: Bongiovanni   Catalog: 1084 Release Date: 02/01/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ruggero Leoncavallo,  Giacomo Puccini,  Umberto Giordano,  Pietro Mascagni  ... 
    Performer:  Mario Filippeschi,  Salvatore Catania,  Afro Poli,  Rosetta Noli  ... 
    Conductor:  Giuseppe Morelli,  Vincenzo Bellezza,  Umberto Mugnai,  Argeo Quadri  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Naples Teatro San Carlo Orchestra,  Mexico City Palacio de Bellas Artes Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $17.99
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