Monday, February 7, 2011

Happy Birthday: Claudia Muzio

"O del mio amato ben" Donaudy
Born in Pavia, Claudia Muzio was the daughter of an operatic stage manager, whose engagements during her childhood took the family to opera houses around Italy as well as to Covent Garden in London and to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She arrived in London at the age of 2 and went to school there, becoming fluent in English, before returning to Italy at the age of 16 to study in Turin with Annetta Casaloni, a piano teacher and former operatic mezzo-soprano who had created the role of Maddalena in the world première of Verdi's Rigoletto. Muzio then continued her vocal studies in Milan with Elettra Callery-Viviani.Muzio made her operatic début in Arezzo (January 15, 1910) in the title-role of Massenet's Manon, and despite
her youth she made rapid progress in the opera-houses of Italy, leading to débuts at La Scala in Milan in 1913 (as Desdemona in Verdi's Otello), in Paris (as Desdemona) and in London at Covent Garden (as Puccini's Manon Lescaut) in 1914; she stayed on in London to sing other roles including Mimi and Tosca (both with Caruso). She was invited to the Met in New York in December 1916 (for Tosca) and was so successful that she continued to appear there during six successive years. It was at the Metropolitan that Muzio created the role of Giorgetta in Il tabarro, in the world première of Puccini's triple-bill, Il trittico, on December 14, 1918. She established a special relationship with audiences at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, where she first appeared in June 1919 (in Catalani's Loreley). From then until 1934 she sang there in 23 different operas, becoming known as "la divina Claudia". Between 1922 and 1932, she also appeared regularly in Chicago (after falling out with the management at the New York Met). On October 15, 1932 she performed the title role of Tosca to inaugurate the new War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. Other notable roles in her career included Aida, Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana, Maddalena in Andrea Chénier, and Leonora in Il trovatore (all in New York), and also Violetta in La traviata and Leonora in La forza del destino (in Chicago and Buenos Aires). Her last and according to some critics her greatest role was in Rome in 1934 as Cecilia in the opera of that name written for her by Licinio Refice. Her most popular role, however, was Violetta, in which she was considered unsurpassed throughout the Latin opera world (Italy, Spain, South America). Claudia Muzio was noted for the beauty and warmth of her voice, which, although not particularly large, acquired a considerable richness of tonal colouring as she grew older. Her performances were sometimes criticised for excessive use of dynamic extremes, including her exquisitely expressive pianissimo singing. She had an impressive stage presence, being tall, elegant and full-figured. Her acting always conveyed an intense identification with the characters she portrayed. She was a dedicated and hard-working performer who remained modest and even reclusive despite her increasing fame and wealth. She regularly partnered some of the leading tenors of the day - Caruso, Gigli, Martinelli - and many of her fellow singers expressed the highest regard for her ability (including Ebe Stignani, Eva Turner, and Alfred Piccaver). In her later years, Muzio experienced some financial anxiety after losing money through the extravagance of a manager/rumoured lover and then in the Wall Street crash. She married in 1929 Renato Liberati, seventeen years her junior. In 1930 she started to experience some health problems, but continued singing and recording. On May 24, 1936, after a short illness, she died in a Rome hotel of what was officially described as heart failure, aged 47. There was much speculation about other possible causes of death, including suicide. The correspondent for The Times (London) commented: "Her death has been received here with the utmost consternation, as she was highly valued for her gifts both as a vocalist and as an actress." She is buried in the Cimitero del Verano in Rome. [Source]

"Poveri fiori"

"La Mamma Morta"