B1487. Roberto Stagno e Gemma Bellincioni Intimi. Firenze, Monsalvato, 1943. 172pp. Index; Photos; Illus. (Italian text) Softbound, separated from spine.
“Roberto Stagno was a prominent Italian opera tenor. He became an important interpreter of verismo music when it burst on to the operatic scene during the 1890s; but he also possessed an agile bel canto technique which he employed in operas dating from earlier periods. In 1890, he created the pivotal verismo rôle of Turiddu in Mascagni’s CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA.
His career breakthrough came when he substituted successfully for Italy's most celebrated dramatic tenor, Enrico Tamberlik, in a Madrid performance of ROBERT LE DIABLE. During the next three decades, Stagno performed in a variety of operas at major opera houses in Spain, Italy, France and Russia, building and then consolidating his reputation as one of Europe's leading tenors. Stagno was popular, too, in Argentina, where he appeared initially in 1879, and he also performed for one entire season (1883–84) in the United States, at the Metropolitan Opera. He was literally the first soloist to sing at the Met because he undertook the part of Faust—whose voice is the first to be heard in Gounod's opera—at the theatre's opening production on 22 October, 1883. Unfortunately for Stagno, his time in New York was to prove shorter than he would have liked: American audiences expressed reservations about his singing because of its pronounced and persistent vibrato and he was not re-engaged by the Met's management. He resumed his career in Italy and South America where his vocal method was more appreciated. Then, in Rome, on 17 May 1890, he made operatic history when he created the rôle of Turiddu at the first performance of Mascagni's enduringly popular and highly influential one-act verismo work, CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA. His common-law wife, the soprano Gemma Bellincioni, sang opposite him in the rôle of Santuzza. (They had met at sea while travelling to Buenos Aires in 1886 with a troupe of singers.) Their daughter, Bianca Stagno-Bellincioni, was a singer and actress. In 1943, she published a book about her parents [above].
No recordings survive of his voice, which was lyric-dramatic in size and said to have had a warm, vibrant if tremulous timbre. Of those early tenors who did record, Fernando De Lucia was perhaps the most similar to Stagno in sound and style. De Lucia, although trained in the ‘old school’, as was Stagno, likewise became renowned in the 1890s as an interpreter of verismo rôles.
Gemma Bellincioni was an Italian soprano and one of the best-known opera singers of the late 19th century. She had a particular affinity with the verismo repertoire and was renowned more for her charismatic acting than for the quality of her voice.
Italy's leading composer, Giuseppe Verdi, admired Bellincioni's acting ability. Verdi had encountered her in 1886 when she performed Violetta in his opera LA TRAVIATA at La Scala. Bellincioni's histrionic manner, accentuated diction and arresting stage presence were to prove ideally suited to a melodramatic new style of Italian opera known as verismo, which became popular during the 1890s. She sang this type of music with great passion, although her actual voice was not particularly large in size or ripe in tone, and marred by a distinct flutter. Her common-law husband, Roberto Stagno, sang opposite her in the rôle of Turridu at the première of CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA. Bellincioni was also the first soprano to perform the title rôle in Umberto Giordano's FEDORA, on 17 November 1898. (Her tenor partner on this occasion was a promising young singer named Enrico Caruso.) Eight years later, she starred in the Italian première of Richard Strauss' SALOME. She announced her retirement from the stage in 1911 to teach singing, but re-emerged in 1916 to play the lead female part in a silent-film version of CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA that was directed by Ugo Falena.”
- Zillah D. Akron