Toti Dal Monte


Born: June 27, 1893 Died: January 26, 1975
Nicknamed "La Toti" by her many admirers, Toti Dal Monte possessed a light coloratura voice whose delicate tone was often compared to the strains of a nightingale. She was thus cast in roles of vulnerable, often unstable heroines (i.e., Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor and Amina in La sonnambula). But she was perhaps best known for her Cio-Cio-San, from Madama Butterfly. After retiring from the operatic stage she took up acting, but not nearly with the success she achieved as a singer.

Toti Dal Monte was the stage name of Antonietta Meneghelli. She was born in the Italian town of Mogliano Veneto on June 27, 1893. She studied with famed contralto Barbara Marchisio and with composer Antonio Pini-Corsi. She debuted at La Scala at the age of 23 (1916) in the challenging role of Biancafiore from the then-new opera Francesca da Rimini by Riccardo Zandonai.

She returned to La Scala in 1922 and made numerous appearances there over the next couple of decades singing a broad range of roles, including those already mentioned to Linda di Chamounix from Donizetti's eponymous opera, as well as Rosalina from Giordano's Il Re. Her U.S. debut took place in November 1924 at the Chicago Civic Opera, and the following month she debuted to thundering applause at the Metropolitan Opera singing Lucia, a performance that received major coverage in the December 15, 1924, issue of Time Magazine. She appeared at Covent Garden several times, but only during 1925. She continued to sing at Chicago until 1928.

Some might assert that her greatest legacy to opera came with her 1939 recording of Madama Butterfly, featuring Beniamino Gigli as Pinkerton. Dal Monte's Cio-Cio-San is considered by many critics the finest ever, and the recording itself one of the greatest the work has received. In 1939 Dal Monte also appeared in her first film, Carnevale di Venezia. She followed it with appearances in rather obscure movies from the 1940s and 1950s that include Assi della risate (1943) and Cuore di Mamma (1954). Her last film was the 1970 Anonimo Veniziano that starred Tony Musante. Dal Monte also took up teaching when she retired from opera. Her students included Gianna d'Angelo and Halina Lukomska. Dal Monte died in Treviso, Italy, on January 26, 1975.