del Vecchio, Rosita

Rosita (Rosa) del Vecchio. Mezzo-soprano, actress, b Montreal 15 Dec 1846, d there 11 Feb 1881. A descendant of an Italian family which settled in Quebec in the late 18th century, she studied at the Sacré-Coeur Convent in Sault-au-Récollet, where she was a friend of Emma Albani. In 1866 she married the violinist Frantz Jehin-Prume, who had been her teacher. She studied voice with a Professor Wicart in Brussels, then toured 1869-70 with her husband in the USA and Cuba. Thereafter she went to Europe to study with Francesco Lamperti in Nice and fulfil engagements in Italy, France, Belgium, and Switzerland. In Canada she gave many concerts with Jehin-Prume and with Calixa Lavallée. She enjoyed great success as an actress in a series of performances of Jules Barbier's Jeanne d'Arc in May 1877 at the Academy of Music, Montreal. Gounod's incidental music for the play was conducted by Lavallée. In 1880 she created the role of Rose Laurier in Louis-Honoré Fréchette's historical play Papineau. She also played in Fréchette's Le Retour de l'exilé. A few days after giving birth to a child which did not survive, she herself died of bronchial pneumonia, the result of a chill caught while leaving a charity concert. Her last words, 'Laissez-moi dormir,' inspired Fréchette to write a poem. Two verses of 'Laissez-moi dormir' were set to music (Opus 40) by Jehin-Prume and published by Olivier in 1881. Another poem of the same source of inspiration and title, by Tancrède Trudel, was set to music by Ernest Lavigne (Lavigne & Lajoie). A talented singer and an outstanding actress, del Vecchio was very popular in Quebec and was called the Sarah Bernhardt of Canada. In Montreal an avenue was named in her honour in 1965.