Novelli studied singing in Rome before making her professional opera debut in that city in 1875 as Pierotto in Gaetano Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix. In the 1880s she had a very successful career at an international level. She performed at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo (1884), at the Teatro di San Carlo, Naples (1888, 1891), at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (1888), at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro and at the Liceu in Barcelona.
In 1888 she Novelli sang the role of Reggio Emilia in the world premiere of Alberto Franchetti's Asrael at La Scala in Milan. In 1891 she sang the role of Loretta in the premiere of Pietro Platania's Spartaco at the Teatro di San Carlo. In 1892 she took the role of Anacoana in the world premiere of Franchetti's Cristoforo Colombo at the Teatro Carlo Felice. Her other operatic roles included Leonora in Donizetti's La favorita, Maddalena in Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto, Azucena in Verdi's Il trovatore, Amneris in Verdi's Aida, Eboli in Verdi's Don Carlos, Ulrica in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, Laura in Amilcare Ponchielli's La Gioconda, and Pamela in Daniel Auber's Fra Diavolo.
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