In their book, The Diva & the Rancher, authors, Jennifer Hamblin and David Finch, drawing on personal diaries and correspondence, have created an intimate portrait of two remarkable Albertans who became, each in their own way, legends in their lifetimes. A “must read” for anyone interested in the early history of Kananaskis Country.
George Pocaterra, who came to the Alberta Foothills from Italy in 1903, is best known for settling in the Highwood Valley and establishing the ranch made famous by R. M. Patterson in his book The Buffalo Head. Pocaterra developed a close friendship with members of the Stoney Indians, and was one of the first non-Natives to explore much of what is now called Kananaskis Country.
In 1933, he returned to Italy, where he met and fell in love with Norma Piper, a young Calgary singer who had moved to Italy to study opera. They eventually married, and George took over the management of Norma’s rising operatic career. Struggling to break into the exclusive world of Italian opera, Norma took the stage name Norma San Giorgio. The only known recording of her is a “resume” 78 rpm vinyl record held by the Glenbow Archive. Here is Norma singing ardon-gli-incensi (mad scene) from Lucio di Lammermoor.
World War II forced a return to Canada in 1939. In Calgary, Norma became part of the local music scene, giving concerts and teaching singing at Mount Royal College. In 1955, she started her own studio and over the next 25 years became one of Calgary’s most loved music teachers. George, meanwhile, continued unsuccessfully with his coal-mining ventures. Pocaterra Creek was named after George in 1914 and in 2003 the stream that runs out to the Elbow River between Elpoca and Tombstone mountains was named Piper Creek.
Read more about George Pocaterra in this article from the Rocky Mountain Book’ web site.