Toti Dal Monte

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Antonietta Meneghel (27 June 1893 – 26 January 1975), better known by her stage name Toti Dal Monte, was a celebrated Italian operatic soprano with a sweet and limpid lyric voice. She was a favourite artist of the celebrated conductor Arturo Toscanini. She is perhaps best remembered today for her performance as Cio-cio-san in Puccini's Madama Butterfly because she recorded this role complete in 1939 with the star tenor Beniamino Gigli as Pinkerton. Cio-cio-san is a much heavier part than Dal Monte would have undertaken normally, and her interpretation is notable for its youthful-sounding freshness, which fits with the character's age.

Career[edit]

Born in Mogliano Veneto, in the Province of Treviso, she made her debut at La Scala, Milan at the age of 17 as Biancofiore in Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini. She was an immediate success, and her clear ‘nightingale-like’ voice came to be highly appreciated throughout the world. Her best-known roles included the bel canto parts of Amina (in Bellini's La sonnambula), Lucia (in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor) and Gilda (in Verdi's Rigoletto). In 1922 she performed several parts opposite the tenor Carlo Broccardi at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo; including Cio-cio-san, Gilda, and the title heroine in Alfredo Catalani's La Wally.

In 1924, fresh from triumphs in Milan and Paris, but before her debut in London or New York, she was engaged by the diva Dame Nellie Melba to be one of the star singers of an Italian opera company that Melba was organising to make a tour of Australia. She proved a popular and critical success on the tour, and there was no rivalry between the ageing Melba and the much younger Dal Monte. Rather, they threw bouquets after each other's performances. In 1928, on her third visit to Australia, Dal Monte married the tenor Enzo de Muro Lomanto in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney. The wedding party created international headlines when it gave the Fascist salute on the cathedral steps.[1]

On 12 January 1929 at La Scala she created the role of Rosalina, which was specifically written for her, in the world premiere of Umberto Giordano's Il re.

She retired from the operatic stage in 1945. However, she continued to work in the theatre (as well as to make the occasional recording) and appeared in a number of films, of which the best known is perhaps her last, Enrico Maria Salerno's Anonimo veneziano, a 1970 story about a musician at La Fenice. She was also active as a singing teacher. Among her notable pupils was Canadian soprano Dodi Protero and American sopranos Dolores Wilson and Gianna D'Angelo.

"La Toti" died in 1975 at the age of 81, in Pieve di Soligo, as a result of circulatory disorders. She left an extensive legacy of 78-rpm recordings, many of which have been re-issued on CD.

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