She was particularly prominent in the verismo repertoire, creating the role of Delia Terzaghi in Ruggero Leoncavallo's Goffredo Mameli as well as singing Minnie in the Italian premiere of Giacomo Puccini's La fanciulla del West. While many music critics found her interpretations imaginative and exciting, others criticized her for the unevenness of her voice and other technical shortcomings.
Burzio was born in Poirino, Piedmont. Initially, she pursued a career as a violinist but decided instead to concentrate on opera singing while still aged only in her twenties. She studied voice at the Milan Conservatory with Carolina Ferni (the mother of the baritone Eugenio Giraldoni) and made her professional début as Santuzza, in Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, at the Teatro Regio di Torino in 1899.
She went on to enjoy a highly successful career throughout her homeland as a lyric-dramatic soprano, although her ardent, larger-than-life mode of vocalism was not calculated to appeal to the taste of more conservative British and American audiences, and this limited the scope of her international reputation.
Burzio was a magnetic actress and she became particularly associated with the music of the verismo school of composers, exemplified by Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Umberto Giordano and, to a certain extent, Puccini. She was a regular performer at Italy's pre-eminent opera house, La Scala, Milan, during the first two decades of the 20th century, appearing in a wide repertoire, often under the baton of Arturo Toscanini. Surprisingly, given her lack of a true bel canto technique, her La Scala roles included Gluck’s Armide and Bellini’s Norma.
In addition, Burzio cut a number of frequently gripping 78-rpm gramophone recordings in Milan between 1905 and 1916. Towards the end of her career, however, she suffered from a nervous disorder and general ill-health. She made her final stage appearance in 1919, in Ponchielli’s Marion Delorme. Burzio died at Milan, three years later, aged 49, of kidney failure.
Recordings on CD
- Eugenia Burzio: Verismo Soprano Complete Recorded Operatic Repertoire (Fonotipia, Milano, 1905-1910; Columbia, Pathé and Phonodisc Mondial, Milano, 1912-1916) Label: Marston Records 52020.
- Scott, Michael, The Record of Singing, published by Duckworth, London, in two volumes, 1977/79.
- Ashbrook, William (1999) Liner Notes, Eugenia Burzio: Verismo Soprano, Marston Records 52020.
- Steane, J.B.: "Eugenia Burzio", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed October 18, 2008), (subscription access)
- Robert Rideout, Eugenia Burzio
- Eugenia Burzio – "Spunta l'aurora pallida" on YouTube from Boito's Mefistofele (recorded 1910)
- Eugenia Burzio – "Voi lo sapete, o mamma" on YouTube from Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana (recorded 1908)