MARIA CALLAS – Part 4
Elvira de Hidalgo (1891–1980) was a prominent Spanish coloratura soprano, who later became a pedagogue. Her most famous pupil was Maria Callas. She was born in Valderrobres, Teruel Province (Spain), as Elvira Juana Rodriguez Roglan.
She made her debut at the age of sixteen, at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, as Rosina in The Barber of Seville, which would become her best-known role. Following her debut, de Hidalgo was quickly engaged for Paris. Her debut with the New York Metropolitan Opera occurred in 1910, as Rosina. With that company, de Hidalgo sang in Rigoletto (with Enrico Caruso) and La sonnambula (with Alessandro Bonci) in the same season. In 1916, she made her debut at La Scala, Milan, as Rosina.
In 1924, she appeared in London with the British National Opera Company, at Covent Garden, in Rigoletto.
After she married the manager of a casino, in 1933 she retired to begin a career as a vocal coach and teacher, although she continued to give occasional concerts until 1936 and made a few last recordings. She became a professor at the Athens Conservatory and then, in 1940, the young soprano Maria Callas became her student.
De Hidalgo said of Maria Callas: “I knew when I met her first that she was unique. Her dark penetrating eyes and her wide, full mouth. She would come to my studio first thing each morning and stay right through my teaching day, listening to all the other lessons. She was inquisitive and wanted as much knowledge as I could give her. If I gave her a new aria one day she had it learned and memorized by the next lesson – often a day or two later. Her dedication was complete … I was always able to relax when Callas performed, unlike the anxiety I would experience in listening to my other students. I always felt at ease and comfortable, knowing she would sing beautifully.”
In 1957, Callas wrote of the woman who had an “essential role” in her artistic formation: “De Hidalgo had one method, which was the real bel canto way, where no matter how heavy a voice, it should always be kept light, it should always be worked on in a flexible way, never to weigh it down. It is a method of keeping the voice light and flexible and pushing the instrument into a certain zone where it might not be too large in sound, but penetrating. And teaching the scales, trills, all the bel canto embellishments, which is a whole vast language of its own… It is to this illustrious Spanish artist, whom the public and the old subscribers at La Scala will certainly recall as an unforgettable and superlative Rosina and as a splendid interpreter of other important roles, it is to this illustrious artist, I repeat, with a moved, devoted, and grateful heart, that I owe all my preparation and my artistic formation as an actress and musician. This elect woman, who, besides giving me her precious teaching, gave me her whole heart as well…”
Mme de Hidalgo died, aged 88, in Milan.
Sources/More to Read:
Wikipedia: Elvira de Hidalgo
Great Voices of Opera: A Lost Identity – Elvira de Hidalgo