Rosa Raisa (30 May 1893 - 28 September 1963) was a Polish-born, Italian-trained, Russian-Jewish dramatic soprano. She was one of the most highly-acclaimed operatic performers of her time with a voice of great magnitude. She was born Raitza Burchstein, the daughter of Herschel and Frieda Leah, in Bialystok in 1893. She left Poland at the age of 14 due to the pogroms and emigrated to Italy. There she met well-connected people (the Dario Ascarellis) who recognized her talent and potential and sponsored her at the Naples Conservatory (San Pietro a Majella). Her teacher there, Barbara Marchisio, was one of the most famous and outstanding singers of the mid-19th century. Marchisio brought her in 1912 to Cleofonte Campanini, the great conductor and impresario. He signed the 20-year old singer for the Parma Verdi Centenary and for his Chicago Opera. Debuts and successes followed rapidly: Parma, Philadelphia, Chicago, tour of North America, London and Paris. During the early days of World War I she made debuts at Rome, Milan (La Scala), Buenos Aires (Teatro Colón) and Rio de Janeiro. She returned to the Chicago Opera in autumn 1916 as a well-established dramatic soprano. Enrico Caruso, who sang with her in London and Buenos Aires, considered her the "greatest dramatic soprano in the world". Triumphs followed rapidly; she was acclaimed for her Aida, Norma, Maliella in I gioielli della Madonna, and Rachel in La Juive. In 1924 Arturo Toscanini brought her back to La Scala for the creation of Boito's Nerone (in the role of Asteria), and at that time Giacomo Puccini heard her again (he had heard her in 1916) and told her he wanted her to create his new, as yet unfinished opera, Turandot. Puccini died in November of that year and left Turandot unfinished. Turandot had its world premiere at La Scala on April 25, 1926 under Toscanini's leadership, with Raisa as Turandot and Miguel Fleta as Calaf. It was at this performance that Toscanini stopped the performance at the exact point where Puccini had finished; the finale, prepared by Franco Alfano from Puccini's sketches, was given at the second performance a few nights later. Raisa was married (in 1920) to the Italian baritone Giacomo Rimini (1887-1952) whom she first met in late 1915. Their careers merged and after retirement in 1938 they opened a voice/opera school in Chicago. Their daughter was born in July 1931. They sang hundreds of concerts together, especially in the United States, many of them sponsored by Jewish groups as Raisa had become a beloved ethnic icon. She often closed her recitals with the Yiddish song "Eili, Eili," It is generally believed that her few recordings, which show a formidable technique and beautiful timbre, do not reveal the extraordinary vocal power for which she was so famous. Rosa Raisa died in Los Angeles in 1963.
Jacob Koppel Sandler