Giulietta Simionato

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Giulietta Simionato (born Giulia Simionato; Forlì, Romagna, 12 May 1910 – Rome, 5 May 2010) was an Italian mezzo-soprano. Her career spanned the period from the 1930s until her retirement in 1966.


As a girl she studied in a boarding school with nuns who sensed her musical qualities and invited her to study singing, which she did against the opposition of the family, especially her mother.  After the latter's death, Giulietta studied first in Rovigo, then in Padua. Her singing debut was in the 1927 musical comedy film, 'Nina, Don't Be Stupid'. The following year she made her operatic debut at Montagnana. In 1933 she won the first "bel canto competition" in Florence against 385 competitors and got an audition at the Teatro alla Scala. The result was positive, but the artistic director Fabbroni found her voice still immature and invited her to return a few years later. Two years later she was put under contract. In 1928, she sang in Verdi's Rigoletto.[1] The first fifteen years of her career were frustrating, it seems because she was not supported by the fascist regime. She was only given minor roles and her career struggled to take off, but by the late 1940s she had attracted growing attention. In 1936, she made her debut at La Scala and appeared there regularly between 1936 and 1966. By then, Simionato was recognised as one of the most respected singers of her generation. She had made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1953, where she likewise appeared regularly between 1963 and 1965.

Simionato made her United States opera debut in 1953 as Charlotte in Jules Massenet's Werther at the San Francisco Opera with Cesare Valletti in the title role.[2] In 1959 she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, as Azucena in Il Trovatore, with Carlo Bergonzi, Antonietta Stella, and Leonard Warren.[3][4] Simionato also appeared at the Edinburgh Festival (1947), the San Francisco Opera (1953), the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos (1954), the Lyric Opera of Chicago (1954–1961), the Vienna State Opera (from 1956), and the Salzburg Festival. In 1957, she sang in Anna Bolena with Maria Callas.[5] In 1961, she withdrew from three performances at the Metropolitan Opera, with Trigeminal Neuralgia.[6]

Simionato had a large repertory including Rossini's Rosina and Cinderella, Charlotte in Werther, and Carmen. She also excelled in the Verdian repertoire, as Amneris, Eboli and Azucena, and as Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana.

She was a major recording artist, and in addition many of her performances gained live radio broadcast or were captured on film. Fono has gathered her recordings on the CD, The Color of a Voice.[7] She retired in 1966, and married Dr. Cesare Frugoni.[8]

She continued to inspire admiration through teaching and various directorial positions, with amazing vitality even in her 90s. She was featured in Daniel Schmid's award-winning 1984 documentary film Il Bacio di Tosca (Tosca's Kiss) about a home for retired opera singers founded by Giuseppe Verdi. She also appeared in an interview by Stefan Zucker in Jan Schmidt-Garre's 1999 film, Opera Fanatic.

She died in Rome one week before her 100th birthday.[1][9]

Selected recordings[edit]

Selected recordings:[10]

Year Composer – Opera
Orchestra, Chorus and Conductor
1940 Pietro MascagniCavalleria Rusticana
Lina Bruna Rasa (Santuzza), Beniamino Gigli (Turiddu), Gino Bechi (Alfio)
Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala
Pietro Mascagni
CD: Pearl GEMM CDS 9288 (+Pagliacci),
Naxos Historical 8.110714-15 (+excerpts) (2001)
1954 Georges BizetCarmen
Nicolai Gedda (Jose), Hilde Güden (Micaela), Michel Roux (Escamillo)
Wiener Symphoniker, Wiener Singerverein
Herbert von Karajan
Recording of a concert performance (8 October 1954)
CD: Andante
AN 3100 (2005)
1954 Giuseppe VerdiRigoletto
Aldo Protti (Rigoletto), Hilde Güden (Gilda), Cesare Siepi (Cesare Siepi)
Chorus and Orchestra of Santa Cecilia
Alberto Erede
CD: Decca
440 242-2 (1994)
1955 Giuseppe VerdiLa Forza del Destino
Mario del Monaco (Alvaro), Renata Tebaldi (Leonora), Ettore Bastianini (Don Carlo), Cesare Siepi (Padre Guardiano), Fernando Corena (Fra Melitone)
Chorus and Orchestra of Santa Cecilia
Alberto Erede
CD: Decca Originals
475 8681 (2007)
1956 Giuseppe VerdiIl Trovatore
Mario del Monaco (Manrico), Renata Tebaldi (Leonora), Ugo Savarese (Conte di Luna)
Grand Théâtre de Genève, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Alberto Erede
CD: Decca 470 589-2
1957 Gaetano DonizettiAnna Bolena
(Giovanna Seymour)
Maria Callas (Anna Bolena), Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (Enrico VIII), Gianni Raimoni (Percy), Gabriella Carturan (Smeton)
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano
Nino Sanzogno
Recording of a performance broadcast (14 July 1957)
CD: Warner Classics 190295844592 (2017)
1957 Giuseppe VerdiLa Forza del Destino
Pier Miranda Ferraro (Alvaro), Anita Cerquetti (Leonora), Aldo Protti (Don Carlo), Boris Christoff (Padre Guardiano), Renato Capecchi (Fra Melitone)
Chorus and Orchestra of RAI Roma
Nino Sanzogno
Recording of a performance broadcast (29 September 1957)
CD: Bongiovanni GAO 174–176 (1995),
Myto 3MCD 992 203 (1999)
1959 Giuseppe VerdiAida
Carlo Bergonzi (Radames), Renata Tebaldi (Aida), Cornell MacNeil (Amonasro)
Wiener Philharmoniker, Wiener Singerverein
Herbert von Karajan
CD: Decca Legends
460 978-2 (1999)
1960 Giuseppe VerdiLa Forza del Destino
Giuseppe di Stefano (Alvaro), Antonietta Stella (Leonora), Ettore Bastianini (Don Carlo), Walter Kreppel (Padre Guardiano), Karl Dönch (Fra Melitone)
Chorus and Orchestra of Wiener Philharmoniker
Dimitri Mitropoulos
Recording of a performance at the Vienna State Opera (23 September 1960). The overture is played between Acts 1 and 2.
CD: Myto 2MCD 004 228 (2000),
Orfeo C 681 0621 (2007)
1960 Pietro MascagniCavalleria Rusticana
Mario del Monaco (Turiddu), Cornell MacNeil (Alfio)
Chorus and Orchestra of Santa Cecilia
Tullio Serafin
CD: Decca
467 484-2 (+Pagliacci) (2002)
1962 Giuseppe VerdiIl Trovatore
Franco Corelli (Manrico), Leontyne Price (Leonora), Ettore Bastianini (Conte di Luna)
Chorus of the Wiener Staatsoper, Wiener Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan
Recording of a performance at Salzburg (31 July 1962)
CD: DG 447 659-2 (1995)
1964 Giuseppe VerdiIl Trovatore
Franco Corelli (Manrico), Gabriella Tucci (Leonora), Robert Merrill (Conte di Luna)
Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro dell'Opera di Roma
Thomas Schippers
CD: HMV Classics
HMVD 5 73413-2 (1999)


  1. ^ a b Langer, Emily (6 May 2010). "Obituary: Italian mezzo-soprano Giulietta Simionato dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  2. ^ Driscoll, F. Paul (July 2010). "Obituaries: The peerless Giulietta Simionato dies at ninety-nine". Opera News. 75 (1).
  3. ^ "Italy mezzo-soprano Giulietta Simionato dies at 99", Associated Press, 2010
  4. ^ "A New Production of 'Trovatore' Opens Met's 75th Season". The New York Times. 25 October 1959.
  5. ^ "Giulietta Simionato, star scaligera, muore a 99 anni a Roma", Reuters Italia, 5 May 2010 (Italian)
  6. ^ "ILLNESS CURTAILS SOPRANO'S SEASON; Giulietta Simionato Stricken With Neuralgia", The New York Times, 18 February 1961
  7. ^ "MUSIC; For This Label, 'First' Takes Precedence Over 'Best'", The New York Times, MATTHEW GUREWITSCH, 26 January 2003
  8. ^ "Giulietta Simionato Wed". The New York Times. 26 January 1966.
  9. ^ BREAKING NEWS: Giulietta Simionato 1910–2010. (5 May 2010). Retrieved on 24 June 2015.
  10. ^ Recordings on. Retrieved on 24 June 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • H. Rosenthal and J. Warrack, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 462

External links[edit]