A vivacious singer whose dusky voice was an acquired taste for many listeners, Conchita Supervia was an inimitable interpreter of mezzo soprano roles in the early nineteenth century repertory long before great bel canto revival of the 1950s. Her exceedingly rapid vibrato disturbed some, but added to the piquancy of her interpretations. Moreover, she was always an engaging personality on-stage.
After training at the Colegio de las Damas Negras in her native Barcelona, Supervia made an early stage debut. Although the opera was an obscure one by Stiattessi and the role a small one, her October 1, 1910, appearance with a touring company at Buenos Aires' Teatro Colón occurred two months short of her 15th birthday. Acclaim came quickly and, a year later, she sang Octavian in the Rome premiere of Der Rosenkavalier. That same year she sang Carmen at Bari, a role she repeated at Barcelona's Liceo in 1912; the feisty gypsy became one of her signature roles. Surprisingly, for one associated with lighter fare, Supervia's Liceo debut was as Dalila and she undertook Wagner's Ortrud during her first season there. Engaged by Chicago for the 1915-1916 season, she appeared as Carmen, Charlotte, and Mignon.
For her La Scala debut in 1926, Supervia sang Hänsel, later assuming such other roles as Cherubino, Octavian, and Concepcion in Ravel's L'heure espagnole. Paris was charmed by her Rosina in 1930, surprised to find how much more enticing the role sounded in the hands of a gifted mezzo. At Covent Garden, Supervia enjoyed unqualified successes in Rossini's Cenerentola and L'italiana in Algeri, but divided critics regarding her Carmen. She was by then a sufficiently celebrated artist to all, but she dictated casting decisions and made clear that she could not, and would not, mix Rossini and Bizet.
In 1931, she settled in London, having married Ben Rubinstein. Her death in childbirth at age 40 greatly saddened thousands whom she had bewitched with her indefatigable energy and brilliance. Supervia left many important recordings as evidence of her art. The Carmen discs from Paris in 1930 stand with her records of Rossini and Spanish songs as unique treasures; Supervia was an artist whose essence was indeed captured in the recording studio and the personality behind them is thoroughly irresistible.