Mary Curtis Verna

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Mary Virginia Curtis Verna (May 9, 1921 – December 4, 2009) was an American operatic soprano, particularly associated with the Italian repertory.

Born in Salem, Massachusetts, she studied at Abbot Academy and Hollins College, and later in Italy with Ettore Verna, whom she married.[1][2] She made her stage debut at the Teatro Lirico in Milan, as Desdemona, in 1949. She sang widely in Italy, as Maria Curtis Verna, and made guest appearances at the Vienna State Opera and the Munich State Opera.

Verna made her American debut at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia with the Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company on May 14, 1952 in the title role of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida with Ramón Vinay as Radamès, Claramae Turner as Amneris, and Giuseppe Bamboschek conducting. Later that year she portrayed the same role for he debut at the San Francisco Opera. She made her debut at the New York City Opera, as Donna Anna, in 1954, and at the Metropolitan Opera in 1957, as Leonora in Il Trovatore. Her other roles at the Met included Aida, Leonora (La forza del destino), Elisabetta (Don Carlo), Santuzza (Cavalleria rusticana), Tosca and Turandot. She also appeared in Cincinnati and Baltimore, and at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. She became well-known and acclaimed at the Metropolitan in the 1950s and '60s for stepping into roles of indisposed divas at the last minute on only a few hours notice.[3]

She can be heard in a few Cetra recordings; Don Giovanni, opposite Giuseppe Taddei, Italo Tajo, Cesare Valletti, Un ballo in maschera, opposite Ferruccio Tagliavini and Giuseppe Valdengo, Aida, opposite Franco Corelli, Miriam Pirazzini and Giangiacomo Guelfi.

When the old Metropolitan Opera House closed in 1966 and the company relocated to Lincoln Center, Verna decided to take the position of Head of the Voice Department at the University of Washington School of Music in 1969. She retired from the University of Washington in 1991.[2]

Verna died at her home in Seattle, Washington on December 4, 2009.[3]


  1. ^ "Notable Alumni: Short List". Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
  2. ^ a b Marmor, Jon (March 2010), Mary Curtis-Verna, 1921–2009: A Voice of Beauty, Columns Magazine
  3. ^ a b Fox, Margalit (December 22, 2009), "Mary Curtis-Verna, Opera's Champion Pinch-Hitter, Dies at 88", The New York Times