Fiorenza Cossotto (Mezzo-Soprano)
Born: 22nd April 1935, Crescentino
Widely recognised as one of the great mezzos of the mid-twentieth century, Fiorenza Cossotto was born in Crescentino, northern Italy, in 1935 and studied singing in nearby Turin. She made her debut at La Scala in 1957 in a small role in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites; her first appearance at Covent Garden took place two years later when she sang Néris opposite Maria Callas as the eponymous heroine in Cherubini’s Médée. It was the beginning of a long association between the two singers, who appeared opposite one another as Iphigénie/Diane (Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride), Gioconda/Laura, Amina/Teresa (La sonnambula), and most controversially Norma/Adalgisa: Cossotto was widely (though not unanimously) criticised for supposedly upstaging an ailing Callas during her final performance of the role in Paris in 1965, though the mezzo maintained that she was simply trying to support her colleague by providing a strong foundation in their duets. Cossotto’s wide-ranging, flexible voice won her success in bel canto roles such as Bellini’s Romeo, Giovanni (Anna Bolena) and the title-role in Donizetti’s La Favorita, though she also had sufficient power to take on heavier roles such as Eboli, Santuzza, the Princess in Adriana Lecouvreur and (towards the end of her career) Mistress Quickly. She continued to sing professionally until her seventies.