Mafalda Favero


Born: January 6, 1903 Died: September 3, 1981
One of many Italian artists whose American careers were cut short by pre-WWII anxieties, lyric soprano Mafalda Favero sang only two performances at the Metropolitan Opera in November 1938, both as Mimi. For those who heard her there, however, the experience was indelible. Her voice, lovely appearance, and dramatic gifts proclaimed her an ideal interpreter of Puccini's much beset heroine, and her gift for creating electricity on-stage marked her as one of the most sympathetic artists of her era. Despite of, or because of, a generous use of vibrato (common to the Italian singers of the day), she managed vocal realizations with rare completeness. After studies at the Bologna Conservatory, Favero became convinced to seek a career in the lyric theater rather than confining herself to concert work. The opportunity to sing Liù at Parma's Teatro Regio persuaded her that her voice, though small, had sufficient presence to justify her making the change. Successes in Turandot and Faust drew praise from critics who found in her a born actress. The public likewise embraced her, and by 1929, she had been engaged by La Scala. Following her successful debut there as Eva in a Die Meistersinger production conducted by Toscanini, she remained at La Scala for 26 years. When the house reopened in 1946, Favero was a part of the gala, singing the third act of Manon Lescaut. Although Milan remained her home theater, Favero sang in other major Italian cities such as Naples and Rome and at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. At Covent Garden, she was regarded as a positive Liù to the indomitable Turandot of Eva Turner and a charming Norina in 1937, and in 1939, an attractive (though overactive) Zerlina and once again a moving Liù. At San Francisco, just before her two Metropolitan performances, Favero sang Zerlina, Lady Harriet, Norina, and Mimi, earning praise except for those moments during which she pushed her voice into harshness. In addition to her lyric roles, Favero regularly ventured into spinto territory with such parts as Adriana Lecouvreur, Iris (Mascagni), and Madama Butterfly. The latter role, the singer claimed, had shortened her career by five years.