Licia Albanese, Madama Butterfly
Licia Albanese did not merely sing the role of Cio-Cio-San_ in Madama Butterfly-she lived the role through he1 performance. Even every non-musical sound, be it a breath, sigh, laugh/giggle, crying, etc. sounded not as if it was acted or planned, but as if it was happening in re al life, at that moment. Although she was a lyric soprano with a relatively small voice, I remember, that she was able to make her voice soar. The best example that I can think of is when I first saw her Butterfly at the "old " Met (more about that later). In the second act, Butterfly sees Pinkerton's returning ship, and the passage culminates in her telling Suzuki ei torna e m'ama This passage, slowed down/stretched (allargando) is over powering as the m'a of m'ama is held for the entire measure (plus a fermata) on a high A. In this phrase, despite a "small" voice, Albanese soared over the full orchestra - and I mean full - including four French horns, three trumpets, and for part of the measure, the third trombone all playing forte. During this she walked closer to the front of the stage and on the end of the phrase (the second ma of m'ama), she sank to her knees, bringing down not just her body, but also the house with thunderous applause .
"Remembering Licia Albanese,"
Newsletter of the Jussi Björling Societies of the USA & UK: Vol. 26
, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/jussibjorlingsocietynl/vol26/iss1/4