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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Anna Moffo

Anna Moffo (1932-2006), an Italian-American girl from Wayne Pennsylvania, ignored her mother's suggestion that she become a nun and nearly ran off to work in Hollywood after High School graduation. But she decided to study opera at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and in 1954 Moffo received a Fulbright to study in Italy where she worked with the renowned vocal coach Luigi Ricci at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. To help support herself in Rome she found employment as an X-ray technician and as a typist.

Here is Moffo in 1963 singing the "Jewel's Song" (Ah! je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir) in the role of Marguerite from Charles Gounod's opera Faust in a televised concert performance. (Disregard the first 5 seconds of the video clip).

She hosted The Anna Moffo Show in Italy, where she reigned as a pop-star Diva from 1960 to 1973. She was voted one of the ten most beautiful women in Italy, and she continues today to be something of a cult figure among many U.S. opera enthusiasts. For example Wayne Koestenbaum composed a book-length poem Ode to Anna Moffo (Dr. Koestenbaum is a Harvard and Princeton-educated American poet and cultural critic who also wrote the libretto for Jackie O - a two act chamber opera composed by Michael Daugherty).

Moffo recorded several opera and pop albums, including La Traviata, La Bohème (with Maria Callas), La Rondine, and Madama Butterfly. She was on the roster of the MET, and sang the title role in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande in 1962. She had successful art-film career, including Una storia d'amore, which won the Griffo d'Argento award, but the movie also created a huge scandal.

Here is Moffo with Italian heart-throb Gianni Macchia in a scene from Una storia d'amore (1969 Italy) - also known as "Love Me, Baby, Love Me!" The controversial film is directed by Michele Lupo. Unfortunately this video except is dubbed into English with Spanish subtitles inserted. There was enormous controversy in Italy centered around Moffo appearing "nude" in this scene - which by today's standards hardly rates as PG-13.

In 1974 Moffo married executive Robert Sarnoff who was the eldest son of broadcasting mogul David Sarnoff. It was her second marriage. David Sarnoff had founded RCA and NBC, and placed his son Robert in the role of President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of RCA's recording division.

Robert and Anna toured the world together. But in the view of some members of the RCA Board, he was spending too much time on cultural activities rather than on the corporation's looming financial crisis. While accompanying his wife on a three week concert tour of the Far East in October 1975, the Board voted to oust Robert Sarnoff as CEO and Chairman of the Board, although he was allowed to keep his position of President.