Life and career
Baccaloni was born in Rome. After attending the Sistine Chapel choir school from age seven, he studied voice with the celebrated baritone Giuseppe Kaschmann (Josip Kašman, 1847–1925) and cast aside his initial ambitions to become an architect. He made his professional debut as Bartolo in The Barber of Seville, at Rome's Teatro Adriano, in 1922.
He sang for the first time at La Scala, Milan, in 1926, in Ildebrando Pizzetti's Debora e Jaele. Initially, he performed the standard bass parts there, such as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor and Sparafucile in Rigoletto. However, on the advice of La Scala's principal conductor, Arturo Toscanini, he decided to specialise in comic roles. He thus went on to make an indelible impression as Leporello in Don Giovanni, Dulcamara in L'elisir d'amore, the title character in Don Pasquale, Varlaam in Boris Godunov, the title character in Falstaff and the title character in Gianni Schicchi. Baccaloni also sang supporting roles such as Benoit in La bohème and the sacristan in Tosca, infusing them with a lot of humorous stage business. He created several operatic roles, too, including that of L'uomo di legge (the Lawyer) in Umberto Giordano's Il re (at La Scala in 1929) and parts in Riccardo Zandonai's La Farsa amorosa (Rome, 1933) and Vigna by Guerrini (Rome, 1935).
Baccaloni enjoyed a successful international career as well, making his debut at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as Timur in Turandot in 1928; at the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Melitone in La forza del destino in 1930; at the Glyndebourne Festival as Alfonso in Così fan tutte in 1936; at the San Francisco Opera as Leporello in 1938; and, at the Metropolitan Opera, on 7 December 1940, as Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro. He was to remain at the Met until 1962.
Baccaloni had his own opera company which toured the United States in the 1940s, Baccaloni Co.
Baccaloni also sang often in Philadelphia with a succession of opera companies from 1951 through to 1966. He made his debut with the Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company in 1951 in the title role of Don Pasquale, his debut with the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company in 1956, as Benoît/Alcindoro La bohème, and his debut with the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company in 1959, as Benoît/Alcindoro.
Salvatore Baccaloni is generally considered to have been the finest comic bass of his era. Rotund in build (at times he weighed more than 300 pounds), he possessed a rich and resonant voice, coupled with impeccable diction and, during the years of his prime in the 1925-50 period, a commendable degree of musicianship. However, he could also display a lack of artistic restraint from time to time when 'live' on stage, owing to the abundance and the exuberance of his comedic talent.
Baccaloni died in New York City, on New Year's Eve 1969, aged 69. His voice is preserved on a number of recordings, many of which have been reissued on CD. He also appeared in several movies during the 1950s and '60s.
- Alain Pâris, Dictionnaire des interprètes et de l'interpretation musicale au XX siècle (2 vols), Ed. Robert Laffont (Bouquins, Paris 1982, 4th Edn. 1995, 5th Edn 2004). ISBN 2-221-06660-X
- D. Hamilton (ed.),The Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia: A Complete Guide to the World of Opera (Simon and Schuster, New York 1987). ISBN 0-671-61732-X
- Roland Mancini and Jean-Jacques Rouveroux, (orig. H. Rosenthal and J. Warrack, French edition), Guide de l’opéra, Les indispensables de la musique (Fayard, 1995). ISBN 2-213-59567-4
- Columbia Record Catalog 1943. Bridgeport, Connecticut: Columbia Records. 1943. p. 406.
- Columbia Record Catalog 1943. Bridgeport, Connecticut: Columbia Records. 1943. p. 405.
- Salvatore Baccaloni at Find-A-Grave