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Anna Moffo, famed soprano had relatively brief career

NEW YORK -- Opera singer Anna Moffo, a soprano hailed for her glamorous looks as much as her singing, has died, the Metropolitan Opera said Friday. She was 73, according to the Grove Dictionary of Music.

The graceful Ms. Moffo thrilled audiences on television's ''Bell Telephone Hour" as well as in opera houses in the United States and Europe starting in the late 1950s, but her career ended when she was just in her 40s, her voice only a shadow of what it was.

Ms. Moffo was born in Wayne, Pa., on June 27, 1932, according to Grove. She studied at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music and in Italy on a Fulbright scholarship.

Ms. Moffo made her debut as Cio-Cio-San in Puccini's ''Madama Butterfly" in a 1955 television production directed by future husband Mario Lanfranchi, according to Opera News.

Other early appearances included Norina in Donizetti's ''Don Pasquale" at Spoleto in 1955 and Zerlina in Mozart's ''Don Giovanni" at the 1956 Aix-en-Provence festival in France.

Ms. Moffo made her US debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1957 as Mimi in Puccini's ''La Boheme," then had her Met debut on Nov. 14, 1959, in the role of Violetta in Verdi's ''La Traviata."

The New York Times's Harold C. Schonberg wrote that her work ''still seems just a shade tentative." But he also said she had ''quite a lovely voice" and was ''one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the stage of an opera house."

When she sang the title role in Donizetti's ''Lucia di Lammermoor" at the Met opposite Carlo Bergonzi's Edgardo on Jan. 4, 1965, the Times's Theodore Strongin wrote that she ''sang the whole role, including the Mad Scene, for pathos, for lyricism, for purity of musical line. Her Lucia is a gentle, willowy creature, quite defeated by the events that surround her."

Several classical albums featuring Ms. Moffo were nominated for Grammy awards over the years. Among them: She was nominated in the category of best classical performance-vocal soloist in 1962 for ''A Verdi Collaboration" and again in that category in 1972 for ''Songs of Debussy."

She even made a couple of appearances on film, including ''Austerlitz," a 1960 film by the noted French director Abel Gance, and ''The Adventurers," in 1970.

Her last regular performance at the Met was as Violetta on March 15, 1976, when she was still in her early 40s. The Times's Donal Henahan said earlier in that run that her voice had fallen into ''serious disrepair a few seasons back" and has not recovered much.

She returned to the Met stage one more time to sing a duet of ''Sweethearts" with Robert Merrill at the Met's centennial gala on Oct. 22, 1983.

In a lengthy profile in the Times in 1977, she said she was pushed too fast in the early stages in her career and was taking time off to learn new roles and strengthen her technique.

''I was working much too hard and traveling much too much," she said. ''I got mixed up in TV, films, things like that. Psychologically I was miserable, always away, always alone. But I don't think I was singing that badly until I reached a point where I was just so tired."

In 1974, she had married broadcast executive Robert Sarnoff, who headed the NBC television network in the late 1950s and early 1960s and later was CEO of parent company RCA.

Her marriage to Lanfranchi, her onetime manager, ended in divorce.

Mr. Sarnoff died in 1997 at age 78.

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