Mirella Freni became one of the leading stars of opera, known for her lyric voice but with a surprising ability to extend it to the higher spinto roles. She has also been one of the most durable of singers, retaining vocal freshness and attractive stage presence through a career lasting over forty years.
She was born Mirella Fregni. She came from a working class backgrounds. Her mother and Luciano Pavarotti were co-workers in the same cigarette factory in Modena and even had the same wet nurse. She studied voice from her uncle, Dante Arcelli. At the age of ten she entered a singing competition, and at twelve won another, singing "Un Bel Di." Beniamino Gigli, hearing her, advised her to undertake serious vocal studies.
Her teacher was Ettore Campogalliani in Bologna. She debuted in 1955 in Modena as Micaela in Carmen, won the G.B. Viotti International Competition in 1957, sang a season at the Netherlands operas, and began regular appearances at Glyndebourne in England. She made a major impression in Franco Zeffirelli productions of Elisir d'Amore and Falstaff (as Ninetta). She married a childhood friend, Leone Magiera, who accompanied her in some of those early recital appearances in Modena.
He formed a major musical partnership with Herbert von Karajan, and once claimed that she could sense an unplanned change in his tempo with her back turned. He said that he if had been a singer, he would want to be Freni. She created some of the most memorable portrayals of Puccini¹s Mini, Mozart's Susanna, and Micaela, and recorded all these roles in video productions for Unitel. She has, naturally, sung with the leading opera companies of the world. Her major debuts were: La Scala (1962) the Metropolitan (1965), and Covent Garden (1962).
Some of the more dramatic roles she has undertaken are Elisabetta (Don Carlo), Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly), Desdemona (Otello), Aîda, (Tatiana Evgeny Onegin), and Lisa (Queen of Spades).
She continued to add to her repertory well into the 1990s with the title role of Giordano's Fedora and, for 1998, in the same composer¹s Madama Sans-Gêne.
She remarried, in 1981, to the singer Nicolai Ghiarov. Together they have made numerous concert tours and joint operatic appearances. He voice is notable for its purity, strong and warm tone, and evenness of tone and focus. In 1994, the New York Times wrote, "Ms. Freni is nowhere near the end of her [career]." ~ Ann Feeney