Giuseppina Cobelli : la Donna del Lago
By Maurizio Righetti

(all photos below courtesy Charles Mintzer collection)

Euro 15, FCB fondazione civiltà Bresciana 207 pp , 2011
ISBN 978-88-559-0036-2


For more than a decade Giuseppina Cobelli (1898 – 1948) belonged to the reigning soprano divas of the Italian peninsular. Maria Caniglia considered her a most exceptional person both as an artist and as a woman and told Lanfranco Rasponi that Cobelli’s unforgettable “Isolde was the barrier that precluded her from ever accepting this divine role”. Augusta Oltrabella considered Cobelli the most superb of all the artists she heard, and stated Cobelli had a sumptuous voice  and the warmest timbre she could recall , with a splendid b-flat. But there it stopped . Oltrabella also said Cobelli’s  C never came despite every effort on her part and that she was exceedingly intelligent and learned to live with it. “And it couldn’t have mattered less, for she never went near roles that demanded it.”   
Towards 1944 Cobelli had to end her career due to deafening and four years later cancer took her life.


This very welcome book on Giuseppina Cobelli - the title is a reference to the place where she was born near Lake Garda- is not a biography in the chronological sense though it does start with a –well researched -  biographical outline.

 From page 33 onwards the chapters are devoted to her specific roles illustrated with reviews often annotated by the author. There’s a repertory list and about 20 pages with excerpts from letters to her mother. This chapter may well be the most interesting part of the book for the reader as it contains first witness accounts of theatrical life in the 20-ies and 30-ies with also many telling comments on her colleagues from Slezak to  Maria Jeritza.
There’s a bibliography and a  “discography”  (Cobelli only recorded Santuzza’s aria and Suicidio in 1925) and a reference to Henry Pleasants's article “Record or perish  : Giuseppina Cobelli -  a personal memoir” (1) in which he discusses his meeting with the soprano just after WWII.

Click here to listen to her Suicidio

Click here to listen to her Santuzza

Click here to listen to her Isolde live at la Scala in 1930 under De Sabata

The book is lavishly illustrated with photos both private and in her roles,  playbills, contracts, facsimiles of some letters etc.
At 15 euros a real bargain and a must-have for devoted ‘appassionati’ of the history of singing.


(1) Henry Pleasants “Opera in Crisis” (1989)