About Anna Sarnoff (Moffo)
Anna Moffo (June 27, 1932 - March 9, 2006) was an Italian-American opera singer and one of the leading lyric-coloratura sopranos of her generation. She possessed a warm and radiant voice of considerable range and agility, and was an affecting singing-actress of great physical beauty.
She was born in Wayne, Pennsylvania to Italian parents, Nicola Moffo (a shoemaker) and his wife Regina Cinti. After graduating from Radnor High School, she turned down an offer to go to Hollywood and went instead to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where she studied with Eufemia Giannini-Gregory, sister of soprano Dusolina Giannini. In 1954, on a Fulbright Program scholarship, she left for Italy to complete her studies at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome where she was a pupil of Mercedes Llopart and Luigi Ricci. Moffo made her official operatic debut in 1955 in Spoleto as Norina in Don Pasquale.
Shortly after, still virtually unknown and little experienced, she was offered the challenging role of Cio-Cio-San in an Italian television (RAI) production of Madama Butterfly. The telecast aired on January 24, 1956, and made Moffo an overnight sensation throughout Italy. Offers quickly followed and she appeared in two other television productions that same year, as Nannetta in Falstaff and as Amina in La Sonnambula. She appeared as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, at the Aix-en-Provence Festival and made her recording debut for EMI as Nannetta (Falstaff) under Herbert von Karajan, and as Musetta in La Bohème with Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano and Rolando Panerai. The following year (1957) saw her debut at the Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival, at La Scala in Milan and the Teatro San Carlo in Naples.
Moffo returned to America for her debut there, as Mimì in La Bohème next to Jussi Björling's Rodolfo, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on October 16, 1957. Her Metropolitan Opera of New York debut took place on November 14, 1959 as Violetta in La traviata, a part that would quickly become her signature role. She performed at The Metropolitan Opera for seventeen seasons in roles such as Lucia, Gilda, Adina, Mimi, Liù, Nedda, Pamina, Marguerite, Juliette, Manon, Mélisande, Périchole, the four heroines of Les contes d'Hoffmann, etc.
Moffo was also invited at the San Francisco Opera where she made her debut as Amina on October 1, 1960. During that period she also made several appearances on American television, while enjoying a successful international career singing at most major opera houses around the world (Stockholm, Berlin, Monte Carlo, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, etc.). She made her debut at the Royal Opera House in London, as Gilda, in a Franco Zeffirelli production of Rigoletto, in 1964.
In the late 1950s, she recorded Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, opposite Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Giuseppe Taddei, conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini, and recitals of Mozart arias and coloratura arias with EMI, and then became an exclusive artist with RCA Victor with whom she recorded most of her best operatic roles.
Moffo remained particularly popular in Italy and performed there regularly. She hosted a weekly program on Italian television "The Anna Moffo Show" from 1960 until 1973 and was voted one of the ten most beautiful women in Italy. She appeared in film versions of La traviata (1968) and Lucia di Lammermoor (1971), both directed by her first husband Mario Lanfranchi, as well as a few non-operatic films. In the early 1970s, she began appearing on German television and in operetta films such as Die Csárdásfürstin and Die schöne Galathee. She also recorded with Eurodisc the title roles in Carmen and Iphigenie in Aulis, as well as the role of Hansel in Hänsel und Gretel.
Such a heavy workload however led to physical exhaustion and a serious vocal-breakdown in 1974, from which she never fully recovered. Although she was able to resume her career in 1976, she appeared only sporadically. Her last appearance at the Met was during the 1983 Centennial celebrations, where she sang the Sigmund Romberg duet "Will You Remember?" with Robert Merrill. After retiring from singing Moffo remained active in the opera community as a Board Member of the Metropolitan Opera Guild and by hosting several tributes and giving occasional masterclasses.
Moffo was married twice, first to stage and film director Mario Lanfranchi, on December 8, 1957. The couple divorced in 1972. Her second marriage was to RCA executive Robert Sarnoff, on November 14, 1974. Sarnoff died on February 22, 1997.
Anna Moffo spent the last years of her life in New York City, where she died at the age of 73, of a stroke following a decade-long battle with breast cancer.