Although, in an era of many superb baritones, Antonio Scotti's was not the richest or the most spectacular in timbre, it was nonetheless a splendid instrument whose owner yielded nothing to his contemporaries in musicality and dramatic acuity. As his voice declined, he concentrated on the verismo repertory and created stage portraits which still resonate decades after his retirement. Scotti became the reigning Baron Scarpia of his time, unequaledRead more until the arrival of Tito Gobbi decades later. His career was unusually long, lasting into his late sixties.
In his native city of Naples, Scotti studied with Vincenzo Lombardi and, primarily, Ester Triffani-Paganini. His debut took place in March 1889 at Naples' Circolo Filarmonico as Cinna in Spontini's La vestale. Soon he was performing such roles as Carlo in Verdi's Ernani and Alfonso in Donizetti's La favorita. In his earliest days, his voice and style were remarkable for suavity in the mid-nineteenth-century repertoire, and engagements followed quickly throughout Italy, the rest of Europe, Russia, and South America. His La Scala debut in 1898 was as Hans Sachs and this, like the Falstaff which came quickly thereafter, was under the baton of Toscanini.
Scotti first sang at Covent Garden in 1899 as Don Giovanni and returned there each year until 1910, revisiting London in 1913 - 1914. His first appearance in June failed to suggest that he was soon to become that theater's favorite baritone, but his Scarpia a month later certainly did. It was at Covent Garden that he premiered Franco Léoni's L'Oracolo, a gut-wrenching bit of verismo with which Scotti was identified throughout his career.
A Metropolitan Opera debut also took place in 1899, as Scotti reprised his Don Giovanni on December 27 and found that it was more to the liking of New York audiences. The positive impression continued with Valentin on January 4, surrounded by Nellie Melba and the De Reszke brothers. Ernest Reyer's Salammbô, a rarity, offered Scotti as Hamilcar in March when Scotti was also heard to positive effect as Rigoletto. In another year, Scotti had participated in one of the famed "nights of the seven stars" as Nevers in Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots. In January 1902, his Iago was described by the Times as "crafty, malignant, intense."
Scotti remained with the Metropolitan for a remarkable 35 consecutive seasons, singing more than 1200 performances, some 350 of them on tour. Among his gallery of memorable portraits, Scarpia was heard most often, 217 times in fact. So dominant was he in this role that, during his years at the Metropolitan, fewer than a dozen performances of Tosca featured other baritones. Two other roles were performed more than a hundred times each: Marcello and Sharpless. Other key roles included Tonio; Amonasro; Germont; Count Gil in Cimarosa's Il Matrimonio Segreto; Belcore; Malatesta; Escamillo; Almaviva; de Sirex in Fedora; and Lescaut in both the Massenet and Puccini operas. His 25th anniversary Metropolitan season was celebrated in 1924 with a gala performance of Tosca. His farewell to the Met came on January 20, 1933, as Chim-Fen in L'Oracolo, still a dynamic portrayal despite a now frayed voice.
While Scotti's home was the Metropolitan Opera, he ventured to other theaters on occasion, performing in Chicago (1910), Boston (1911 - 1914), and San Francisco (1927), as well as at Ravinia Park (1919). Together with several Metropolitan colleagues, Scotti organized the Scotti Grand Opera Company which toured the United States and Canada from 1919 to 1922, but was unsuccessful financially. Read less
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