Supervia, Conchita (1895–1936)

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Supervia, Conchita (1895–1936)

Spanish mezzo-soprano. Name variations: Lady Rubenstein. Born on December 9, 1895, in Barcelona, Spain; died in childbirth on March 30, 1936, in London, England; studied at the Colegio de las Damas Negras in Barcelona; married Sir Ben Rubenstein, in 1931; children: two, including son George.

Debuted in Buenos Aires in Bretón's Los amantes de Teruel (1910); sang with the Chicago Opera (1915–16); debuted at Teatro alla Scala (1924); made London debut at Covent Garden in Rossini's La Cenerentola (1934).

Conchita Supervia, born of an old Andalusian family in Barcelona in 1895, began studying singing at age 10. At 15, she made her operatic debut with a traveling Spanish company in Buenos Aires, singing the part of an old woman, and she was the youngest singer ever to have professionally sung Octavian, in the Rome premiere of Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. Supervia assisted the conductor Vittorio Gui in reviving Rossini's bel canto operas. Known especially for her Carmen, Supervia was the first contralto, as opposed to a soprano, to be regarded as a prima donna. She possessed a kind of magnetism which would not be seen again on opera stages until the arrival of Maria Callas , and her singing and acting were both superb. Supervia could also be volatile; she once sued Covent Garden (1934) for omitting one of her performances and made her point, settling out of court. Supervia became Lady Rubenstein after her marriage in 1934 and had one son, George. She died at age 40, at the height of her powers, giving birth to a second child. Supervia appeared in the screen version of La Bohème and in the British film Evensong, starring Evelyn Laye (1934).

John Haag , Athens, Georgia