Tito Schipa

Picture of Tito Schipa
I wish to thank Thomas Silverbörg for the picture.

Picture of Tito Schipa

Tito Schipa sings L'elisir d'amore: Una furtiva lagrima

Tito Schipa sings Pagliacci: O Colombina

Tito Schipa sings L'amico Fritz: Suzel, buon dì, with Mafalda Favero

Tito Schipa sings Don Pasquale: Sogno soave e casto

Tito Schipa sings Don Pasquale: Cercherò lontana terra

Tito Schipa sings Somewhere a voice is calling

Tito Schipa sings Vieni sul mar

Tito Schipa sings O del mio amato ben

Many thanks to Anton Bieber for the recordings and label scans (Don Pasquale twice, Pagliacci, Vieni sul mar and Somewhere a voice is calling.
I would like to thank Thomas Silverbörg for the recording (O del mio amato ben).
Tito Schipa was very probably the single best tenor of all times, in terms of vocal technique and musicality; certainly not in terms of vocal splendor. His voice was veiled, initially very very small (although his stunning technique easily overcame that obstacle), he had no high C, and a timbre that one would be hard-pressed to describe as beautiful by nature – and yet his vocal wisdom enabled him to produce a sound so seductive that most listeners would swear listen to a beautiful voice. He was also an extremely lyrical tenor, the typical tenore di grazia; but once again, his larger-than-life technique made it possible that he sang roles far beyond the tenore di grazia repertory, and so exceedingly well that most tenors with far better suited voices could not hold a candle to him. That's particularly true of his Werther; where many a dramatic tenor shouts and blares until sorely failing at the latest in third (but mostly already in the second) act, Schipa outdoes them all with musical intelligence, style, nobility – and in spite of a voice with which it would seem pathetic to even try Werther, in theory. In reality, he was the greatest Werther ever, and everybody else (even Kozlovskyj and Piccaver, who were great exponents of the role beyond doubt) appears like a Werther apprentice in comparison.

Born Raffaele Schipa into an albëreshë family (that's the Albanian minority in the south-east Italian region of Puglia), Titu (Puglian dialect for "shorty") was his nickname, and so he became Tito Schipa in art. Already at age 14, he started studying composition and soon also voice, with Alceste Gerunda in Lecce, and subsequently with Emilio Piccoli in Milano. He made his debut on February 4th, 1909 in Vercelli as Alfredo.

In 1913, he was abroad for the first time (Buenos Aires and, above all, Rio de Janeiro, where he would return regularly until 1941); in 1914, he had his first major success in Italy, as Cavaradossi in Naples. In 1917, he sang Ruggero in the world premiere of La rondine in Monte Carlo. In 1918, he scored a triumph in Manon in Madrid.

From 1919 to 1932, he lived and sang in Chicago, then he went to the New York Met, where he took over from Beniamino Gigli, who had returned to Italy. Schipa did the same, in 1935 (although he was back to the Met for several performances in 1941).

In Italy, he was closely associated with the Fascist regime, which led to his ban from the US stages and even from La Scala after the war. With considerable effort, he dissociated himself from fascism, and from his own political conduct, and his career recovered. He appeared on stage until 1958, and in concert up to his death.

Other than a tenor, he was also a composer, and made several movies in Italy.

Beniamino Gigli once said: "When Tito Schipa sings, all of us have to bow to his greatness."

Reference 1, reference 2


La traviata – Vercelli, 4 February 1909
Adriana Lecouvreur – Crema, 26? December 1909
Zazà – Crema, 8? January 1910
Mignon – Lecce, April 1910
Mefistofele – Lecce, May 1910
Rigoletto – Messina, 24 July 1910
Faust – Bozzolo, August 1910
La bohème – Crema, 4 February 1911
Il barbiere di Siviglia – Pola, 15 May 1911
Don Pasquale – Terni, 20 April 1911
Il maestro di cappella – Terni, 26 April 1911
Werther – Roma, 17 July 1911
Fedora – Roma, 14 August 1911
La sonnambula – Roma, 1 September 1911
Cavalleria rusticana – Roma, 29 September 1911
Fra Diavolo – Catania, 21 November 1911
Antony – Parma, 14 April 1912
Lucia di Lammermoor – Trieste, 25 May 1912
La favorita – Trieste, 31 August 1912
Tosca – Palermo, 8 November 1912
Falstaff – Napoli, 26 December 1913
Madama Butterfly – Napoli, 26 March 1914
Marcella – Napoli, 3 April 1914
Manon – Buenos Aires, 19 June 1914
Le donne curiose – Napoli, 25 March 1915
Ivan – Roma, 13 April 1916
L'ultima gavotta – Montevideo, 25 August 1916
L'elisir d'amore – Barcelona, 14 December 1916
Lakmé – Madrid, 27 January 1917
La rondine – Monte Carlo, 27 March 1917
Jugar con fuego – Madrid, 15 February 1918
Manole – Monte Carlo, 17 March 1918
Il barbiere di Siviglia (Paisiello) – 1918
La bruja – Madrid, 29 January 1919
L'amico Fritz – Napoli, 22 March 1919
Lodoletta – Napoli, 2 April 1919
Linda di Chamounix – Chicago, 5 January 1921
Il viandante – Havana, 7 June 1921
Martha – Chicago, 11 January 1923
Roméo et Juliette – Chicago, 15 August 1923
Sadko – Buenos Aires, 1 August 1930
La principessa Liana – Milano, 1 May 1935
Il matrimonio segreto – Milan, 1 January 1936
L'arlesiana- – Milan, 11 April 1936
Il flauto magico – Roma, 16 March 1937
Reference:Tito Schipa Jr. Tito Schipa, Baskerville, 1996

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