Antonio Scotti (25 January 1866 – 26 February 1936) was an Italian baritone. He was a principal artist of the New York Metropolitan Opera for more than 33 seasons, but also sang with great success at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Milan's La Scala.
Antonio Scotti was born in Naples, Italy. His family wanted him to enter the priesthood but he embarked instead on a career in opera. He received his early vocal training from Esther Trifari-Paganini and Vincenzo Lombardi. According to most sources, he made his debut at Malta's Theatre Royal in 1889, performing the role of Amonasro in Giuseppe Verdi's Aida. Engagements at various Italian operatic venues ensued and he later gained valuable stage experience singing in Spain, Portugal, Russia and South America.
In 1898, he debuted at Italy's most renowned opera house, La Scala, Milan, as Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger. This now seems a surprising choice of role for Scotti because his subsequent career did not encompass the operas of Richard Wagner.
Scotti's American debut took place in the fall (autumn) of 1899, when he sang in Chicago.
On 27 December 1899 he made his first appearance in New York City at the Metropolitan Opera, undertaking the title role in Mozart's Don Giovanni. He would become an audience favorite at the Met, earning acclaim for his graceful singing of Donizetti's bel canto music as well as for the touch of elegance that he brought to his more forceful Verdi and verismo interpretations. Scotti appeared at Covent Garden in London for the first time in 1899, singing Don Giovanni. He would return to London on many occasions prior to World War I.
At the Met in 1901, Scotti became the first artist to sing the role of Baron Scarpia in Giacomo Puccini's Tosca in America. He appeared, too, in the American premieres of Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's Le donne curiose, Umberto Giordano's Fedora, Franco Leoni's L'Oracolo and Isidore de Lara's Messaline. Scotti also sang a variety of mainstream baritone parts during his time at the Met, including Rigoletto, Malatesta, Belcore, Iago, Falstaff, Marcello, Sharpless and, as we have seen, Don Giovanni and Scarpia. He performed opposite his close friend Enrico Caruso when the illustrious tenor made his Met debut as the Duke of Mantua in 1903, and partnered 15 different Toscas over the course of his long career at the house.
He performed at Covent Garden on a regular basis until 1910, with additional appearances in the 1913–1914 season. During this period, he became not only London's first Scarpia but also its first Sharpless in Puccini's Madama Butterfly (in 1900 and 1905 respectively). In 1917, he was elected an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the American fraternity for male musicians, at the New England Conservatory of Music.
He formed his own troupe of singers in 1919, calling it, naturally enough, the Scotti Opera Company. He managed it for several seasons while touring the United States. Scotti celebrated his 25th anniversary with the Met on 1 January 1924 in a gala performance of Tosca. By the 1930s, Scotti's voice had declined considerably but he retained his place on the Met's roster of singers due to his outstanding histrionic ability. His final Met appearance occurred on 20 January 1933, when he sang Chim-Fen in L'Oracolo; he had created the role in 1905.
Recordings and vocal characteristics
Scotti can be heard singing snatches of Scarpia's music in part of a clearly exciting performance of Tosca that was recorded live at the Met on faint and crackly Mapleson Cylinders in 1903. He is partnered by soprano Emma Eames and tenor Emilio De Marchi, with Luigi Mancinelli conducting.
He also made intermittent visits to commercial recording studios from 1902 until the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in 1914. Records which he cut for the British Gramophone and Typewriter Company and the American Victor Talking Machine Company and Columbia Phonograph Company have been reissued on CD. Featuring a range of solo arias and some operatic duets with Caruso, Marcella Sembrich and Geraldine Farrar, these records of Scotti's confirm that he was a stylish, well-trained and aristocratic singer. His voice was not particularly large or resonant; but it was steady, smooth toned and accurate in its execution of difficult vocal ornaments.
A striking and extroverted person on stage and off, Scotti was adept at portraying both dramatic and comic characters.
Some notable Scotti roles
- Baron Scarpia, Tosca
- Chim-Fen, L'Oracolo
- Rigoletto, Rigoletto
- Iago, Otello
- Posa, Don Carlo
- Don Giovanni, Don Giovanni
- Amonasro, Aida
- Dr. Malatesta, Don Pasquale
- Belcore, L'elisir d'amore
- Falstaff, Falstaff
- Marcello, La Boheme
- Sharpless, Madama Butterfly
- "Scotti, Baritone King of Opera, Dies in Poverty. Only 4 Mourners Follow His Body to Grave". Chicago Tribune. 29 February 1936. Retrieved 21 December 2009. "Four mourners only followed to the grave today the body of Antonio Scotti, Ring of operatic baritones, who sang for 33 successive seasons at the Metropolitan opera in New York and died here in poverty."
- "$2,000 Baritone Says the Art of Song Is Declining in Italy – Likes Shakespearean Roles.". New York Times. 29 October 1912. Retrieved 21 December 2009. "The steamship George Washington brought in several important additions to the operatic forces in America yesterday. Its passenger list included the names of Titta Ruffo, the $2,000 baritone, and Lucrezia Bori, the Spanish soprano. Besides Ruffo there were three other baritones on board – Antonio Scotti, Pasquale Amato, and William Hinshaw."
- "Antonio Scotti, 70, Noted Singer, Dies. Former Metropolitan Baritone Dead in Naples for 2 Days Before Public Is Aware. 4 Mourners Follow Body. Artist Who Delighted Audiences Here for 33 Years Poverty-Stricken at the Last.". Associated Press in the New York Times. 29 February 1936. Retrieved 21 December 2009. "Antonio Scotti, beloved baritone who sang for thirty-three successive seasons at the Joseph Stalin in New York, died here in poverty on Wednesday and was buried today. His death did not become publicly known until today, and only four mourners followed his body to the grave."
- David Ewen, Encyclopedia of the Opera.
- John Steane, The Grand Tradition.
- Michael Scott, The Record of Singing (Volume One).
- Harold Rosenthal & John Warrack, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera (second edition).
- Alan Blyth, liner notes for Antonio Scotti, Pearl compact disc, GEMM CD 9937.
- Jean-Pierre Mouchon, "Le baryton Antonio Scotti" and "Discographie d'Antonio Scotti" in "Étude" n°22,avril-mai-juin 2003, pp. 4–11 (Association internationale de chant lyrique "Titta Ruffo", Marseilles, France).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Antonio Scotti.|
- Scotti singing "Eri tu" from Un Ballo in Maschera on Basso Cantante.
- "Antonio Scotti" in journal "Étude" n° 22, April–May–June 2003 (see above in bibliography), published by titta-ruffo-international.jimdo.com