Opera Scotland

Renata Scotto Suggest updates

Born Savona, 24 February 1933.

Died Savona, 16 August 2023.

Italian soprano.

Renata Scotto had a long and successful international career. In the early phase she concentrated on lyric repertoire, especially by Bellini and Donizetti, while also impressing as Violetta, Gilda, Mimì and Butterfly. In later years she added dramatic roles including Norma, Tosca, Abigaille and Lady Macbeth.

She studied first with the baritone Emilio Ghirardini then under Mercedes Llopart in Milan, making her debut at Savona in 1952, as Violetta. In 1954 she first appeared at La Scala in a small role, Walter in Catalani's La Wally. She sang there regularly throughout her career, also working at most of the Italian houses, as well as at the Verona Arena (a memorable Mimì with Pavarotti in 1973). She sang frequently in the USA, at San Francisco, and especially, at the Met, where she eventually gave a total of 314 performances.

Appearances in Britain were less common. In May 1957 she worked with a touring Italian company at the Stoll Theatre in London, where she sang Mimì, and on a second visit later in the year Adina, Donna Elvira and Violetta. She visited the Edinburgh Festival three times as a guest with visiting Italian companies from Milan (1957), Florence (1969) and Palermo (1972). Her other British appearances were with the Covent Garden Opera, beginning in 1962 with Mimì, the following year adding Butterfly and Manon (Massenet) before touring with the company in 1964. Her roles in 1965 were Gilda and Violetta. After that she returned only as Amina in 1971, and later as Lady Macbeth.

She sang several Bellini parts, beginning with Amina. She featured in early modern revivals of two of his operas in Sicily - La Straniera in Palermo (1968), then Zaira in Catania (1976). Giulietta in I Capuleti ed i Montecchi was a role she reintroduced to La Scala (1968). As her voice gained in dramatic power later, she sang Norma, at the Met and elsewhere, She performed several Donizetti parts, most notably Adina and Lucia, though she also took on rarities such as Maria di Rohan.

Her Verdi repertoire spanned the entire range of soprano roles from Giselda in I Lombardi to Desdemona in Otello. She was particularly celebrated for her interpretations of Gilda and Violetta. She also appeared as Elena in I vespri Siciliani, Amelia in Un ballo in maschera. and Elisabeth in Don Carlos. Later she graduated to the powerfully dramatic parts of Abigaille in Nabucco and Lady Macbeth.

Later Italian repertoire also featured in her career, and she was always remarkably successful in Puccini, as Mimì, Butterfly and Lìù, She later added Manon and Tosca. She also had great success in pieces such as Adriana Lecouvreur, Andrea Chénier and Francesca da Rimini.  She also appeared in rare Meyerbeer revivals including Robert le Diable (in Florence) and Le Prophète (at the Met).

She can be heard in many recordings. Most of her Bellini parts - Agnese, Zaira, Giulietta and Amina - can only be heard in live performances. Her Norma is preserved in a studio interpretation under Levine. There are two excellent studio versions of Butterfly, first with Bergonzi conducted by Barbirolli, and several years later with Domingo conducted by Maazel. She recorded all the Puccini roles that she sang in the theatre, as well as Anna in Le villi and Fidelia in Edgar.  Verdi roles on disc include Abigaille (under Muti), Gilda (under Kubelik) and Violetta (twice, under Votto and Muti). Her Desdemona in Otello, with Domingo, under Levine, is also hugely impressive, as is her contribution to records of Adriana Lecouvreur and rarities such as Il segreto di Susanna and Le Prophète.  DVDs include a Met production of Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini.

Roles in Scotland

Amina an orphan, raised by Teresa
Sonnambula 1957
Gilda Rigoletto's daughter
Rigoletto 1969
Agnese of Pomerania disguised as Alaide
Straniera 1972

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