PORTRAIT OF ROSA POUSELLE (1897-1981) JOHN DA COSTA (1867 - 1931)
Painted Circa 1928 Oil on canvas 30 x 25 inches Framed size 39 x 34 inches
John da Costa was a painter of portraits, landscapes and figure subjects. He was born in Teignmouth, Devon and went on to study in Paris and with the Newlyn School in Cornwall. His success in portrait painting encouraged him to visit America in 1905. During his visit he received many commissions and returned regularly throughout his career.His work was exhibited at the Royal Academy, Grosvenor Gallery, New Gallery and elsewhere in London also in the provinces, Europe and the USA. His style of painting portraits and figures reflect the influence of his friend and contemporary, John Singer Sargent.In 1974 an exhibition of his work was held at Leighton House. Rosa Ponselle was born to an Italian immigrant family in Meriden, Connectiat.She received little formal training in her early life having the gift of an exceptionally mature voice.She and her sister Carmela who was a cabaret singer soon formed a double act securing bookings at prestigious local theatres.In 1918 Rosa demanded a substantial fee increase so her act was dropped. Her sister Carmela was studying in New York at that time, with influential voice coach, William Thorner who agreed to take on Rosa as well. Thorner persuaded the great Enrico Caruso to hear the sisters sing which he did and was impressed with Rosa’s voice that he arranged an audition for her at the Met and she was given a contract for the 1918/19 season.Her debut at the Met was in Verdi’s, La Forza del Destino singing opposite Caruso, to great critical acclaim.It was the beginning of one of the greatest operatic careers of the 20th Century and her voice is often considered as the greatest of her time.She constantly suffered from stage nerves and took artistic criticism to heart.After a poor review in 1935 for her performance in Carmen and continuing disagreements with the management at the Met, added by exhaustion from a non-stop career, she unofficially retires with her husband to a quitter life near Baltimore.Rosa still gave recitals for friends and in 1954 she did a number of recordings for RAC Victor.She was a major force behind the development of the Baltimore Civic Opera Company. Rosa died at her estate, Villa Pace near Baltimore in 1981 aged 84.
Provenance: From Da Costas Studio Collection; Private Collection U.K