Pace^ PacernMio Diornby ].0. TaternRosa Ponselle: American Divarnby Mary ]ane Phillips-MatzrnBoston: Northeastern University Press;rn557 pp.; $29.95rnThe outpouring of emotion causedrnby the recent death of Frank Sinatrarnmay remind us of the power of music,rnand the particular power of the voice, tornget under our skin. Sinatra hypnotizedrnthree generations with his smoothness,rnhis rhythm, and his matchless enunciationrn—a notable achievement in English.rnBut though the bobbysoxers called himrn”The Voice,” Sinatra, whatever his accomplishments,rnnever deserved that sobriquet.rnHe didn’t have the chops. Andrnthere have been a lot of other admirablernsingers who didn’t altogether have whatrnit takes in the vocal department, strictlyrnspeaking. So —who was “The Voice,”rnthen?rnThere are legitimate contenders forrnthat htle, a number of whom have beenrndead for well over a century. Then therernare some 19th-century legends whorncome into view—or earshot—as their careersrnended and the era of recording began.rnWe can talk about some of the oldrnbel canto singers, artists of the stature ofrnMattia Battistini, Fernando di Lucia,rnand others. But the old 78’s really startedrnspinning with Enrico Caruso, whoserntenor still resounds. Titta Ruffo, thernLion of Baritones, was perhaps the onlyrnsinger of his range with such charismarnthat he could sell out an opera house byrnhimself. There were basses then, beforernand after the Great War, who left imposingrnevidence of their command: Plancon,rnJournet, Pinza. But when we lookrnin the soprano range, some think, as Irndo, that we find The Voice —and thisrnin competition, mind you, with ElizabethrnRethberg, Frieda Leider, KirstinrnFlagstad, Maria Callas, Zinka Milanov,rnMontserrat Caballe —in Rosa Ponsellern(1897-1981), the subject of Phillips-rnMatz’s biography.rnWriting a quarter of a century ago,rnHarold C. Schonberg did not mincernwords about the Ponselle effect, whichrnhe experienced many times:rnWhen Rosa Ponselle was singing,rnthe vast distance between stage andrnupstairs standing room seemed diminished.rnThat big, pure, colorfulrngolden voice would rise effortlessly,rnhitting the stunned listener in thernface, rolling over the body, slidingrndown the shoulder blades, makingrnone wiggle with sheer physiologicalrnpleasure. There are voices andrnvoices, and the MetropolitanrnOpera in the 1930’s had manyrngreat ones. But there was nothingrnlike the Ponselle sound, ever. Tornmany of us it was the greatest singlernvoice in any category. She hadrnthe low notes of a contralto, and arnknockout high C; and there werernno artificial registers to the voice —rnit went from bottom to top in thernsmoothest, most seamless of scales,rnwith no shifting from chest tornhead.rnThat sounds about right. Ponselle wasrnThe Voice if anyone was. But for thosernof us who couldn’t be there in the 1920’srnand 30’s, there are compensations.rnMary Jane Phillips-Matz’s new biographyrnof Rosa Ponselle is one of those compensations.rnIn telling the story of Ponselle’srnlife, she has filled in the details of arnlegend. Of course, in Ponselle’s case, thernlegend is true. Ponselle was a prodigy,rnand had the most auspicious and unlikelyrndebut in operatic history. When shernstood on the Metropolitan stage in LarnForza del Destino with Caruso and Mardonesrnjust a few days after the end of thernGreat War, she had never had a formalrnmusic lesson or ever performed in operarnbefore. She was the daughter of Italianrnimmigrants named Ponzillo —an exuberantrngirl, tall, dark, striking. She wasrnalso blessed with humility and courage,rnboth of which she would need.rnPonselle decided early to drop out ofrnschool, because she wanted to sing. Thisrndecision was one of those things that releasedrnher. She sang with her sisterrnCarmela for the pleasure of it, and thenrnthe}’ decided to sing for monev, defyingrntheir family to do it. Rosa said thatrnsinging was the only thing she wanted torndo, and that singing was the only thingrnshe could do. Carmela and Rosa ap-rnThe College of Saint Thomas MorernTHE CLASSICAL COLLEGE OF TEXASrnAnnounces Fall RegistrationrnStudy at the College begins with a carefulrnreading of the great works of Homer, Aristotle,rnDante, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Faulkner, andrnother authors of western civilization. Using therngreat texts, students and professors explore greatrnideas through a curriculum organized accordingrnto the classical disciplines of Philosophy,rnLiterature, Theology, Mathematics, History, andrnthe Classical Languages, Latin and Greek.rn3013 LubbockrnFort Worth, TX 76109rn800-583-6489rnWWW.CSTM.EDU • MORE-lNFO(a>CSTM.EDUrnAUGUST 1998/33rnrnrn