The Italian mezzo-soprano Ebe Stignani (1904-1974) studied at the Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella in Naples with Agostino Roche. She made her début in that city in January 1925. The following year she sang in Venice and in October first appeared at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, in a performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony under Toscanini. Two months later she was Eboli in Don Carlo. Over the next four decades her rôles in this house would include Adalgisa in Norma, Azucena in Il trovatore, Laura in La Gioconda and Leonora in La favorita.
In 1927 Stignani appeared at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, for the first of numerous seasons and at the Teatro Municipal, São Paolo. She continued to sing in all the principal houses throughout Italy. Her Covent Garden début in London was as Amneris in the 1937 Coronation season. She would return again in 1939, in 1952 (with Callas in her London début as Norma), 1955, 1957 (again with Callas in Norma) and, finally, in 1958 as an unforgettable Azucena at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Her American appearances were limited to San Francisco in 1938 and 1948, and Chicago in 1955 with Callas and Björling in Il trovatore. She retired in 1958, dying in Imola in October 1974. She was the finest Italian mezzo-soprano of her generation, and, whilst no great actor, always moved with dignity on the stage. She recorded extensively.