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Vivacity – Conchita Supervia

“Her gaiety, good temper, sympathy, and charm cloaked a keen intelligence and adamantine will power. To be with her was to inhabit a land of cloudless happiness”

“Her rich penetrating tone varies constantly with the changing moods of the music and her contrasts seem quite as natural and appropriate … the acme of melancholy tenderness and pathos followed by the very spirit of the intoxicating dance—nothing could be more striking”.

Conchita Supervía (1895 – 1936) was born María de la Concepción Supervía Pascual in Barcelona, Spain. She was educated in a local convent and at age 12 she entered the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu in Barcelona to study singing. She made her stage debut in Buenos Aires, Agentina at only 15 and the next year she was in Rome, singing Octavian in “Der Rosenkavalier” – a rare case of a singer actually being younger than the character she was portraying.

She sang her first Dalilah and her first Carmen in Barcelona at the age of 17 and the next year added Rosina in The Barber of Seville – her most famous role – to her repertory. Critics and audiences were enchanted, both with her voice and with her acting. Her career became worldwide at that time, based mainly in Italy and Spain. She gave her only American opera performances in Chicago during the 1915 – 1916 season.

She had very flexible, distinctive, mezzo-soprano voice with a range of more than two octaves, from low G to high B, together with a powerful chest register and a very distinct vibrato or tremolo in the lower part of her voice that one critic described as: “strong as the rattle of ice in a glass, or dice in a box.” She had a delightful, radiant, personality and sang with great flair and an enthusiasm that made her extremely popular throughout the world.

Supervia made only one motion picture , “Evensong,” in which she played a young singer looked upon with disapproval and jealousy by an older diva (clearly based on Dame Nellie Melba) who finally succumbs to the her youth and talent. In the picture she sings marvelous version of “Musetta’s Waltz” from La Boheme – a role which she apparently never played on stage. She would have been wonderful in it, but it is, after all, not a starring part.

In the last phase of her career she concentrated on recitals and concerts, especially in Paris and London, although she did continue appearing in operas – especially Carmen and La Cenenterola. Married in 1930, she was at her peak in 1934 when she debuted at Covent Garden in London.

In 1936 at the age of 41, Supervia entered a London clinic to give birth to a baby girl (she already had a teenage son) but the baby was stillborn. A few hours later, Conchita Supervia died from complications of childbirth. She is buried in London alongside her child.

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