While best known for the fiery, scenery-chewing Verdi roles such as Azucena, Amneris, Lady Macbeth, and Eboli, Fiorenza Cossotto was also a prominent performer of bel canto parts such as Rosina in Rossini's Barbiere, Leonora in La favorita, and Adalgisa in Norma. Such large and powerful mezzo voices, particularly with a secure top, are rare compared to the lyric mezzo, and from the late 1960s through the early 1980s, she was the Verdi mezzo, the successor to Simionato and the predecessor to Zajick.
After studying at the Turin Conservatory, she graduated in 1956 and then joined the training school of La Scala in Milan. She made her operatic debut as Sister Matilde in the world premiere of Poulenc's The Dialogues of the Carmelites in 1957. Her international debut was at the 1958 Wexford Festival as Giovanna Seymour in Donizetti's Anna Bolena. Her Covent Garden debut was in 1959 as Neris in Cherubini's Medée, with Callas in the title role. A 1961 performance of the lead in La favorita at La Scala led to wider fame and she made her Chicago debut in the same role in 1964 and as Amneris at the Met in 1968. She is married to bass singer Ivo Vinco. Among her recordings, the Amneris on EMI under Muti (EMI CDS7 47271-8) captures the fire and vigor of her performances.