Giuseppe Sabbatini

born 11 May 1957 Rome

Giuseppe Sabbatini sings Les contes d'Hoffmann: Il était une fois à la cour d'Eisenach
In RA format

Giuseppe Sabbatini sings Les contes d'Hoffmann: O Dieu de quelle ivresse, with Eliane Coelho
In RA format

Giuseppe Sabbatini sings Les contes d'Hoffmann: J'ai le bonheur dans l'âme ... C'est une chanson d'amour, with Soile Isokoski
In RA format

Giuseppe Sabbatini sings Faust: Salut, demeure
In RA format

Giuseppe Sabbatini sings L'elisir d'amore: Una furtiva lagrima
In RA format
Sabbatini made his first musical experiences in the boys' choir of the Sistine Chapel. His studies at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia were dedicated not to the voice, but the double-bass, and he played that instrument for several years in Italian orchestras like the RAI broadcasting station in Rome, or the Arena di Verona.

When his voice was discovered, he took singing lessons with Silvana Ferraro in his native Rome, and won the Tito Schipa Competition in Lecce in 1986, as well as three more competitions in 1987, the year in which he also made his tenor debut as Edgardo in Spoleto, followed by Werther and Rodolfo for the AsLiCo theater circuit in Lombardy. His career developed quickly: in 1988, he already sang in Rome, Verona (Teatro Filarmonico), Bari, Trieste, at La Scala, at the Ravenna Festival, in Bergamo and Cologne; in 1989, in Bologna, Parma, Zürich and at the Vienna Staatsoper.

He regularly returned to the major Italian opera houses, made his debut at Covent Garden in 1991, at the Teatre del Liceu in 1992, in San Francisco and Torino in 1995, in Monte Carlo, Lyon and Naples in 1997, in Chicago in 1999 and in Paris in 2000 (Théâtre Châtelet) and 2001 (Opéra Bastille), respectively; in 2001, he also arrived at the New York Met, earning rave reviews, and in Toulouse. La Scala and the Vienna Staatsoper were probably the theaters were he sang most often.

From the very beginning, he had always announced he would quit the stage at age 50, and be a conductor from then on. And he actually sticked to it: in April 2008, shortly before his 51st birthday, he made the official transition from singer to conductor, and continued his career as such for many years (on a far more provincial level than as a singer, though).

I've heard Sabbatini very often, and liked him much; he was beyond doubt one of the best singers of his generation. The modern response to Tito Schipa, so to speak: no, he was of course not half as perfect, technically, as Schipa (he lived some 70 years too late for that), his voice production was at times mannered, nasal, not entirely free. But his musicality was far superior to practically all his contemporaries, and he excelled particularly in belcanto style, and in French opera. Plus he had learned one of the most important lesson Schipa's recordings can teach: how to achieve truly dramatic effects with a less than huge, lyrical, veiled voice. His Werther was clearly modelled on Schipa's example, and was just stunning, by far the best Werther since Schipa and Kozlovskyj. Fantastic, as well, were his Carlo in Linda di Chamounix and his Edgardo (although the Tower Scene was a tad more dramatic than suitable for his voice); very good his des Grieux in Manon, his Hoffmann, his Rodolfo, his Arturo; good his Lenskij and even, surprisingly, his Arnold. What he had no knack for was Verdi: his Duca and his Alfredo were failures, his Riccardo was acceptable, if still dry and a bit academic. Strangely, as he was normally such an excellent belcanto singer, his Fernand in La favorite was another failure. All in all, however, Sabbatini was definitely one of the very few luminous figures still active in opera into the 21st century.

Reference: Kutsch & Riemens
I would like to thank Thomas Silverbörg for the recordings.

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