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"She defies description, crushes competition, transcends taste. In short, a born Diva!"
This quote from a recent review of Galupe-Borszkh's triumph in Traviata sums up the sentiments of a generation of opera lovers, spellbound by the awesome, yet modest, Russian soprano. She was born in Cernomorskoye, just across from the Karkinitskiy Bay from Odessa. For seven years little Verina swam the bay daily, to and from each voice lesson. This may account for her phenomenal breath control. After singing with various regional Slavic opera companies the young Vera Borszkh decided to go to Italy. She was weary of singing Aida in languages with no vowels. On her way to Rome she supported herself by performing wherever there was an offer, gaining particular attention as Bess in a production of Porgy and Bess sung in Serbo-Croation (Pirogi and Bess). Arriving in Rome, the young soprano met and later married the much older bel canto expert Manuel Galupe, rumored to have been the last living castrato ("I loved what was left of him")Galupe died on their honeymoon, but Vera - now Mme. Galupe-Borszkh - found the doors of every major opera house open to her after her Mad Scene from Lucia at Galupe's funeral. But it was Borszkh's startling underwater Tosca at the baths of Caracalla which put her on the map. Defecting from the USSR and moving to New York ("I am a defective Russian"), the diva founded La Gran Scena.For the past years she had led the troupe in more than three hundred and fifty performances. The video La Gran Scena Live In Munich is a favorite with opera lovers. Not one for pop "crossover" recordings, nor jet-setting, Mme. Galupe-Borszkh is one of the old school of singing actresses. In fact she may be the only one still registered at that school. As one critic described the "traumatic" soprano: "She reminds one of Maria Callas, but with Renata Tebaldi's hair!" .

MAESTRO LORENZO COSTALOTTA-DENARO was born in the Italian province of Formaiccha. His musical gifts were discovered at an early age, when he constructed a harp out of bread and stretched mozzarella and woke the entire village with his startling version of La Fille du Cadix, sounding eerily like his matinee idol Milizia Korjus. It was at this time that the townspeople felt it was imperative to take a collection and send him somewhere. Arriving in Rome with his somewhat moldy harp, Lorenzo called up bel canto expert Manuel Galupe. Showing his enormous potential, the young Denaro was welcomed at Casa Squittire, where he learned the Italian tradition in Galupe's hands and first commenced to worship Galupe-Borszkh, a buxom young student of the maestro. Galupe and Borszkh were wed, but the aged maestro did not survive the honeymoon and at the funeral Denaro accompanied the young widow in a marathon concert attended by the whole music world. With both their careers launched, the two went their separate ways until, despairing of the state of opera on today’s stage, they reunited in order to take opera back at least 50 years. Known for his extravagances both musical and personal, the still young Maestro seems to be the perfect match for the still-singing soprano as he joins La Gran Scena for these performances.

SYLVIA BILLS is America's Most Beloved Retired Diva and the general director of her own opera company. She has traversed all worlds of entertainment, beginning at the age of three in vaudeville with her parents where she was known as Baby Sylvia. Her first break came when she sang "I Want To Be A Prima Donna" on Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour, accompanying herself on the clarinet. Miss Bills caused a brouhaha in the world of opera during her debut at the now defunct Kalamazoo Opera House, when, in La Fille du Regiment, she included a tap dance in her rendition of "Il Faut Partir". The rest is history.

PHILENE WANNELLE. Born in Texas, of French-Canadian extraction, the young Wannelle caused her first musical sensation at the Miss America Pageant. Although she lost her title to a contestant whose talent was packing a suitcase, Miss Wannelle was immediately snapped up by the world's leading opera houses and major recording companies. Although she is a high priestess of the traditional mezzo repertoire with her legendary Carmen, Rosina, and Cenerentola all over the record stores, Philene Wanelle is a champion of contemporary works. Most notably, she recently created the "pants role" of Stanley Kowalski in Pasmaitiara's Un Tram si Chiama Desiderio. An avid athlete, Miss Wannelle is well- known in the world of sport through her association with the women's tennis champion Edith May Grubb, with whom she shares a flat.

ALFREDO SORTA-PUDGI began singing as a boy soprano, always in great demand in the churches of his native Palermo. Finally, a wealthy Sicilian patron made him an offer he couldn't refuse and the young Costa-Plenti found himself supported in regal style through the difficult change from boy soprano to boy basso and eventually tenor. After his patron made La Scala an offer it couldn't refuse, Costa-Plenti made a triumphant debut in the controversial updated "homage to the Mafia" production of Cavalleria Rusticana, in which Turiddu lives to take over his own town - and half of Italy. Costa-Plenti refused to join the Three Tenors Concert at the Bathes of Caracalla, as he did not wish to divide his fee four ways and staged his own "protest concert" at the baths down the street. His near-fatal collision with Jesseye Norman brought him international publicity when he lost his memory but found his high C, a bargain in which he certainly emerged the winner.

FODOR SZEDAN was first discovered singing behind the iron curtain at the Opera House in Dombovar (though some later accounts, say, better yet, Mako). Based on his strength and some good brakes, many victories followed on the Eastern road to success. A singer's singer, the elegant but still mid-priced Szedan first encountered the indomitable Mme. Galupe-Borszkh during a "Ballo" at Banja Luka (and vice versa). History happens and although subsequently separated by revolt and occupation, the Grand Ole Colleagues were triumphantly reunited during the premier season of La Gran Scena and have been happily singing at each other ever since.

CARMELITA DELLA VACA-BROWNE is a native of Naguabo, Puerto Rico, where she was bred into a well-to-do dairy farming family. Ms. Della Vaca-Browne's sizeable career was launched when she won the blue ribbon at the Maria Cowlas Vocal Competition. Milking this triumph, she mooved on to graze many of Europe's most fertile operatic capitols. Beginning as a soprano, she made her debut in the title role of La Giocownda, but after giving birth to triplets Betsy, Elise and Fernanda, she experienced a darkening of the voice not uncommon to sopranos. Ater much thought and with the support of her ex-football star husband Rocky R. Browne (formally of the Dallas cowboys), she made the switch to mezzo soprano with great success. Ms. Della Vaca-Browne made her debut with La Gran Scena last summer in the Olympics Festival of the Arts in Barcelona.

AMANDA RECHENWIT - largest offspring of an itinerant military bandmaster and his child bride (a circus performer of dubious origin) has become, in spite of her background, one of the world's leading heldon-soubrettes.

GABRIELLA TONNOZITI- CASSERUOLA , at 105, is the last of the great golden age divas. Born near Belluno, she studied on Marsala with the legendary Titta Gufo and has been singing unforgettable performances with largely forgotten casts for more than three quarters of a century. Still active, highly opinionated, and the possessor of a near-perfect, if admittedly archaic, trill, Mme. Tonnoziti-Casseroula's early recordings, as well as her wardrobe, are much valued collector's items. Her unique historical perspective is best appreciated when it is borne in mind that she not only personally remembers (?) Maestro Puccini, but she also recalls Nagasaki before either the Bomb or the Pinkertons.

LINA BRUNA PAZZA is the celebrated comprimario mezzo, mother of tenor Alfredo Sorta-Pudgi and currently an out-patient from the Casa di Riposo in Milan. A link with the early productions of Cavalleria exists with Madame Pazza, as it was Mascagnini himself who asked her not to sing Santuzza.

DAME EMILY POST-MORDDUM is the noted comprimario soprano, long admired in short roles. A student of the golden-age comprimario Inez Taci, Dame Emily recently published her memoirs No Small Parts Indeed!

KAVATINA TURNER , the celebrated young lyric soprano, was discovered while appearing in Europe in a touring company of Porgy and Bess, singing the role of Clara. A German scout in the audience, aware that he was hearing something special, arranged an audition with the late maestro, Herbert Van Karajan-Luggitch. As a result, Ms. Turner was invited to sing Summertime in a gala at the Not So Komisch Opera, and the rest is history. Her natural gifts swiftly blossomed under the maestro's seasoned baton, and she soon became one of international opera's most sought-after performers and recording artists. Kavatina Turner has won Grammy Awards for a number of her recordings, including the recent Mo' Motown and Mozart. Viewers of Public Television will certainly recall her Emmy Award winning special, Yo!, Yo Yo! a collaborative effort with the noted cellist. This will be followed by Yo Yo... Ma, Ma...Yo Yo, in which she and Mr. Ma will be joined by the soprano's mother, the gifted gospel singer, Aida Waddles. But success has not spoiled the social-minded soprano; a frequent guest at the White House, she has lobbied tirelessly for equal opportunity, and was the only woman in the million man march! Her music video of Take Me Out To The Ballgame, accompanied by the Berlin Philharmonic, and filmed on a burned out lot in the south Bronx, earned the soprano an MTV Award nomination. After her long-awaited Gran Scena debut, Ms. Turner returns to the recording studio for another cross-over effort: Dreamgirls, a new recording of the musical in which she co-stars with Jesseye Norman and Kathleen Battle.



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