Santa Biondo

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Santa Biondo, 1929.

Santa Biondo (December 3, 1892, San Mauro Castelverde, Sicily – February 15, 1989, Stamford, Connecticut) was an American opera star whose career spanned from 1927 to 1938.

Early life and career[edit]

Santa Biondo was born on December 3, 1892 on Via Serra, San Mauro Castelverde, Sicily.[1] She immigrated to 106 Wallace Street, New Haven, Connecticut with her father Mauro, her mother Giuseppa, her sister Angela, and her brother Mauro Jr. on October 2, 1907 [2] They were received by Santa's older brother, Domenico Biondo, who was already living at Wallace Street at that time.[3]

Three years later, in 1910, the United States Census shows the family living in New Haven at the same address. The census indicates that Biondo was 18 years old and working in a tailor's shop.[4] By 1920, the family had moved to Saint John Street in New Haven, and Santa Biondo was married to her first husband, Salvatore Mazullo.[5] Mazullo was the proprietor of a tailor shop, perhaps the same one where Santa Biondo worked before.

However, Biondo's destiny was in music. Encouraged by her brother in-law, Biondo was tutored by professional opera teachers in New Haven and New York, including Enrico Rosati, whose other famous students include Beniamino Gigli and Mario Lanza. Biondo began her professional career in 1927, when she went on tour with the San Carlo Opera Company and the American Opera Company.[6]

Metropolitan Opera Company[edit]

Santa Biondo appears in a newspaper story printed in the May 12, 1929 edition of The Hartford Courant, where she is stated to have been preparing for her debut with the Metropolitan Opera Company ("Met") in New York City after separate auditions with Arturo Toscanini and the Met staff.[7] A copy of her Met employment contract indicates that her starting pay was $75 a week with a year-by-year renewal provision through 1933.[8]

The author of The Hartford Courant article described Biondo's voice as a "lyric-dramatic soprano, lyric for its 'facility of emission' and dramatic for its power and fullness of expression. It is a rare and much sought after combination." Biondo sang in Italian, French and English.[7]

Biondo sang for the Met from November 23, 1929 to March 26, 1932 in 31 different performances. After her debut as Nedda in Pagliacci, Biondo sang in a number of other operas for the Met, including Cavalleria Rusticana, La Bohème, Iris, Peter Ibbetson, and La Notte di Zoraima, in which she performed in the role of Manuela with Rosa Ponselle.[9]

Disappearance[edit]

During the Great Depression, opera companies were hit financially, and both Biondo and the Met fell on hard times. In December 1931, Santa Biondo lost $19,000 in the stock market, and she disappeared from New York, leaving three suicide notes behind. Biondo went missing for only three days, from December 11 to December 14, but detectives launched a manhunt, and the search for Biondo was reported in newspapers all across the United States.[10][11] One article, published in The Coshocton Tribune, claimed that the New York Police Department dredged the lake in Central Park, looking for her body.[12] Contrary to her notes, however, she did not in fact attempt suicide but instead went into seclusion outside of the City.[13][14][15][16][17][18]

With the aid of friends and family, Santa Biondo snapped out of it and went back to work. When newspapers asked her why she left, she offered conflicting explanations, but it was clear that she was depressed about her financial situation.[19][20] And although she didn't say it, she may have been aware that her career at the Metropolitan Opera Company was drawing to a close.[21] She performed her last engagement at the Met just three months later, in March 1932.[9]

At that point in time, Santa Biondo was still married to Salvatore Mazullo, but they had been apart for three years. Biondo lived at the Plaza Hotel Annex, in New York City, while Salvatore Mazullo continued to live in New Haven.[22]

Performances with other opera companies[edit]

By September 1932, Santa Biondo was back on stage, singing in the title role in Aïda at Bryant Park for the Puccini Grand Opera Company.[23] And the very next month, she sang in the role of Musetta in "La Bohème" at the New Amsterdam Theatre for the San Carlo Opera Company.[24] Biondo continued to sing for the San Carlo Opera Company, Hippodrome National Opera Company, and the Franz Philipp Opera Company from 1932 through 1937.[25] Her retinue included La Traviata, Faust, Manon (title role), Pagliacci, and Tosca (title role, 1937).[26][27]

These were no small concerts. The New York Times states that, in 1934, she sang in the role of Mimi in "La Bohème" for a throng of 5,000 at a Hippodrome National Opera Company event.[28] And in 1934, she sang for 5,200 as Tosca, again for the Hippodrome National Opera Company.

The June 14, 1936 issue of The New York Times states that she also performed with the Cincinnati Opera at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden with other opera singers such as Rosemarie Brancato, Anna Leskaya, Jean Pengelly, Norma Richter, and others.[29]

Biondo continued to perform until February 1938, but there isn't any mention of her career thereafter.[30] She apparently retired from singing at the professional level around that time.

Radio performances, recitals[edit]

At the height of her career, Santa Biondo performed at least one radio broadcast. The September 22, 1929 edition of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper announced, "Santa Biondo, soprano with the Metropolitan Opera Company, will be the featured artist with an orchestra under the direction of Josef Pasternack in the broadcast of the Atwater Kent concert on the N.B.C. coast-to-coast system tonight at 7:15 o'clock."[31][32]

In January 1930, she sang at a duet with Beniamino Gigli in an "Artistic Morning" recital at the Plaza Hotel in New York.[33]

On April 29, 1934, she sang in the role of the Angel in the premier performance of Pietro Yon's "Triumph of Saint Patrick" at Carnegie Hall in New York City.[34] Biondo continued to perform in this role at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York for Patrick Cardinal Hayes. [35][36][37] In December 1934, she sang for the Italian Ambassador, Augusto Rosso, in Newark, New Jersey, at the Shubert Theater, with other Italian-American performers.[38]

Retirement[edit]

After retiring from her career, Santa Biondo married Dr. Philip Giordano, advertising director of Il Progresso Italo-Americano newspaper and editor of Bolletino della Sera.[39][40]

Santa Biondo died on February 15, 1989, in Stamford, Connecticut. She is buried in the Biondo family plot in Saint Lawrence Cemetery located adjacent to the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut.[39]

Photos[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Atti di Nascita", Ufficio dello Stato Civile, San Mauro Castelverde, Palermo. 1892. Record 194.
  2. ^ "Santa Biondo name search at ellisisland.org". ellisisland.org. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  3. ^ Ellis Island ship passenger manifest for Santa Biondo and family, 1907.
  4. ^ United States Population Census, 1910, New Haven, Connecticut.
  5. ^ United States Population Census, 1920, New Haven, Connecticut.
  6. ^ "New Haven Woman To Sing in Opera". The Hartford Courant. December 3, 1929. 
  7. ^ a b Older, Julia S. "Connecticut Gives Opera a New Star. Santa Biondo, New Haven Soprano, Chosen for Principal Roles by Metropolitan Opera Company." The Hartford Courant. May 12, 1929: Page E5.
  8. ^ Employment Agreement between the Metropolitan Opera Company New York and Miss Santa Biondo, dated April 20, 1929.
  9. ^ a b "Santa Biondo name search at archives.metoperafamily.org". Metropolitan Opera Association. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Suicide? Opera Singer Thought Suicide.". Oakland Tribune. December 11, 1931. p. 1. 
  11. ^ "Hold Young Singer Vanished Over Debt. Police Reveal Santa Biondo Owed $19,000 as Hunt Goes On Throughout the East." The New York Times. December 12, 1931.
  12. ^ "Young Soprano of Metropolitan Believed Suicide." The Conshocton Tribune. December 11, 1931.
  13. ^ "Suicide Theory Out. Police Now Think Singer Is Hiding Self." The Sunday Messenger. Sunday, December 13, 1931. Page 1 of this Athens Ohio newspaper.
  14. ^ "Young Opera Star Hunted. Police Believe Santa Biondo, Who Disappeared Wednesday, May Be Kidnapped." Oakland Tribune. December 13, 1931.
  15. ^ "Miss Biondo Safe; In Care of Friends. Opera Soprano's Attorney Says She Is Stopping Somewhere." The New York Times. December 14, 1931.
  16. ^ "Missing Opera Star Is Found With Her Friends." Oswego-Palladium Times. December 14, 1931.
  17. ^ "Missing Singer Is Found With Friends." Oakland Tribune. December 14, 1931. (Page 1 article of this Oakland, California newspaper).
  18. ^ Parton, Lemuel. "Who's News Today." Oakland Tribune Daily Magazine. December 14, 1931. Includes a paragraph attributing Santa Biondo's depression to the death of her mother on the eve of her first public performance in 1927.
  19. ^ "Santa Biondo Returns to Her Hotel Quarters." Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. December 16, 1931.
  20. ^ "Singer Sought Debtor. Miss Biondo Says man owes Her $70,000, but She Failed to Find Him." The New York Times. December 16, 1931.
  21. ^ "Biondo's Job In Doubt. Metropolitan Opera Holds Singer Who Vanished Broke Contract." The New York Times. December 15, 1931.
  22. ^ "Drop Suicide Theory." Reading Eagle. December 13, 1931. (Reading, Pennsylvania newspaper.)
  23. ^ "Activities of Musicians Here and Afield. Two Operas in Bryant Park." The New York Times. September 4, 1932.
  24. ^ "Boheme Well Received. San Carlo Company Sings to Its Largest Audience of Week." The New York Times. October 29, 1932.
  25. ^ "Reviews and Previews: Opera House." The Tech. December 8, 1936. The Tech, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gives a favorable review of The San Carlo Opera Company's performance of "Carmen", in which Santa Biondo starred as Micaela.
  26. ^ "Hippodrome Troupe in 'Manon Lescaut', Puccini's Third Opera Revived After an Absence From Active List Here." The New York Times. June 15, 1934.
  27. ^ "5,200 See La Tosca. Barber of Seville Presented in the Afternoon at the Hippodrome." New York Times. March 7, 1937.
  28. ^ "'La Boheme Is Sung to Throng of 5,000; Well-Prepared Production." The New York Times. May 7, 1934.
  29. ^ "Cincinnati Zoo Opera." The New York Times. June 14, 1936. Page X5.
  30. ^ "Programs of the Week; Return of 'Man Without a Country." The New York Times. February 13, 1938.
  31. ^ "Radio program announcements.". Atlanta Constitution. September 22, 1929. 
  32. ^ "The Microphone Will Present-." The New York Times. September 22, 1929.
  33. ^ "Sing at Artistic Morning - Gigli and Santa Biondo Are Heard at the Plaza." New York Times. January 17, 1930.
  34. ^ "World Premiere of Yon's Oratorio at Carnegie Hall -- Toscanini's Final Wagner..." The New York Times. April 30, 1934. p.
  35. ^ "Other Cities to Hear Yon's New Oratorio, Tour for 'The Triumph of St. Patrick' Planned After It's Premiere on April 29." The New York Times. April 19, 1934. p. 11
  36. ^ "Music: St. Patrick's Triumph." Time Magazine. May 7, 1934.
  37. ^ "The Oratorio - Triumph of St. Patrick." The Caecilia Monthly Magazine of Catholic Church and School Music. August 1937. Volume 164. Number 9. Page 290.
  38. ^ "5,000 Greet Rosso at Newark City Hall." New York Times. December 3, 1934.
  39. ^ a b Unpublished letters of Mauro Biondo, Maryland. October, 2007.
  40. ^ "Dr. Giordano Dead; Advertising Man. Director of Il Progresso Italo-Americano Had Been Official of Publication Since 1929." The New York Times. March 9, 1947.