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Riccardo Stracciari – the greatest baritone who ever lived?

By September 28, 2018March 17th, 2023No Comments

Riccardo Stracciari (June 26, 1875 – October 10, 1955) was a leading Italian baritone. His repertoire consisted mainly of Italian operatic works, with Rossini’s Figaro and Verdi’s Rigoletto becoming his signature roles during a long and distinguished career which stretched from 1899 to 1942.  One of several Italian baritones whose vocal endowment made them veritable lions among singers, Riccardo Stracciari differed in timbre from the equally celebrated Titta Ruffo. Stracciari used his formidable instrument with great artistry, more refined and less visceral than that which characterized Ruffo’s approach. Stracciari remained in good form into his early 50s, remarkable enough given his active performance schedule. His complete recordings of Rigoletto and Il barbière di Siviglia, made when the baritone was 53, are vivid examples of a voice and art well preserved; moreover, they were done with several other important singers of the day, such as Mercedes Capsir, Dino Borgioli, and Salvatore Baccaloni.

We have nothing like this singer today, absolutely nothing.

Nemico della patria

Un dì m’era di gioia
passar fra gli odi e le vendette,
puro, innocente e forte.
Gigante mi credea …
Son sempre un servo!
Ho mutato padrone.
Un servo obbediente di violenta passione!
Ah, peggio! Uccido e tremo,
e mentre uccido io piango!
Io della Redentrice figlio,
pel primo ho udito il grido suo
pel mondo ed ho al suo il mio grido
unito… Or smarrita ho la fede
nel sognato destino?
Com’era irradiato di gloria
il mio cammino!
ridestar delle genti,
raccogliere le lagrime
dei vinti e sofferenti,
fare del mondo un Pantheon,
gli uomini in dii mutare
e in un sol bacio,
e in un sol bacio e abbraccio
tutte le genti amar!

Once I lived happily
in the realm of hatred and vengeance,
pure,  innocent, and strong.
A giant, I believed myself!
I am still a servant…
I’ve only changed masters…
a slave to violent passions!
Ah, worse! I kill and tremble,
and while I kill, I weep.
I, a son of the Revolution,
first heard its cry
throughout the world, and I joined it with my own.
Have I now lost faith
in that dream?
How illumined with glory
was my path!
to reawaken in men;
gathering up the tears
of the oppressed and suffering;
making the world a Pantheon;
transforming men into gods;
and with a single kiss–
and with a single kiss and embrace,
to love all humanity!

Eri tu

Eri tu che macchiavi quell’anima
La delizia dell’anima mia;
Che m’affidi e d’un tratto esecrabile
L’universo avveleni per me
avveleni per me!
Traditor! che compensi in tal guisa
Dell’amico tuo primo, dell’amico
tuo primo la fé!

O dolcezze perdute!  O memorie
D’un amplesso che l’essere india!
Quando Amelia si bella, si candida
Sul mio sereno brilava d’amor!
Quando Amelia sul mio seno
Brilava d’amor
È finito, non siede che l’odio, non
siede che l’odio
Che l’odio e che la morte nel vedovo cor!
O dolcezze perdute, o speranze
d’amor, d’amor, d’amor!

It was you who tainted that soul
The delight of my soul
Who confided in me and in one condemnable instant
Poisoned the universe for me!
poisoned for me!
Traitor! In such a manner you repay
The faith of your former friend!
of your former friend!

O lost delights! O memories
Of an embrace that rendered happiness! . . .
When Amelia so beautiful, so pure
On my breast shone with love!
When Amelia on my breast
Shone with love.
It is finished, nothing remains but hatred
only hatred
And death in my widower’s heart!
O lost delights, O hope
of love, of love, of love!

Per me giunto

Per me giunto è il dì supremo,
no, mai più ci rivedrem;
ci congiunga Iddio nel ciel,
Ei che premia i duoi fedel’.
Sul tuo ciglio il pianto io miro;
Lagrimar così perchè?
No, fa cor, no, fa cor,
l’estremo spiro lieto è
a chi morrà per te.

O Carlo, ascolta,
la madre t’aspetta
a San Giusto doman;
tutto ella sa…
Ah! la terra mi manca…Carlo mio,
a me porgi la man!…

Io morrò, ma lieto in core,
che potei così serbar
alla Spagna un salvatore!
Ah! di me non ti scordar!
Regnare tu dovevi,
Ed io morir per te.
Ah! io morrò, ma lieto in core,
Che potei così serbar, etc.
Ah! la terra mi manca…
La mano a me… a me…
Ah! salva la Fiandra…
Carlo, addio! Ah! ah!…

For me, my last day has arrived,
No longer shall we see one another,
May God reunite us in Heaven,
He rewards his faithful.
On your eyelashes I see tears;
Why weep thus, why?
No, take heart Carlo,
My last breath will be joyful
for I shall die for you.

O Carlo, listen to my plea:
your mother awaits you
at San Giusto tomorrow;
she knows it all…
I die…o my Carlo,
give me your hand!…

I will die glad in my heart
for I have given
to Spain a savior!
Ah! don’t forget me!
You had to rule,
And I had to die for you.
Ah, I will die glad in my heart,
for I have given etc.
I’m dying…
give me your hand… your hand…
Ah! save Flanders…
Farewell, Carlos!…Ah! ah!…

Riccardo Stracciari

After studies at the conservatory in Bologna, Stracciari sang in an operetta chorus while continuing his voice training with Umberto Masetti. His debut came not in opera, but as a soloist in an 1898 performance in Florence of La Resurrezione di Lazzaro, one of a trilogy of cantatas by contemporary composer Lorenzo Perosi. His stage debut took place days later, when he sang in La Bohème at Bologna’s Teatro Duse. While his star was not a shooting one, his progress thereafter was steady over the next half decade. Beginning with the 1900 – 1901 season, Stracciari sang in Lisbon, returning for the company’s 1902 – 1903 season. La Scala welcomed him in 1904 and he sang there intermittently until 1909. Stracciari made his Covent Garden debut during the theater’s 1905 autumn season, singing Rigoletto, Amonasro, Giorgio Germont, and the Count di Luna. Several critics, while admiring the baritone’s polish and musicianship, found Stracciari’s voice as yet somewhat subdued. That proved his only season at Covent Garden.

The following year, Stracciari went to New York, where his Metropolitan Opera debut took place as the elder Germont (with Sembrich and Caruso) on December 1, 1906. Again, first impressions were muted. Although he remained for just two seasons, Stracciari acquitted himself well, but faced intense competition from others on the Met’s roster of distinguished baritones. Thereafter, the singer concentrated on performances in Italy, broken by occasional forays to other opera centers, such as Madrid and Paris (1909) and Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colón (1913). Two more American engagements brought Stracciari to Chicago (1917 – 1919) and San Francisco (1925). In Chicago, his Rigoletto made a good impression, likewise his Scarpia, elder Germont, and Don Carlo (Ernani). He also took part in a January 18, 1918, Grand Gala. For his second season in Chicago, he added Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Antonio in Linda di Chamounix, Rossini’s Figaro, Tonio in I Pagliacci, and Fabrizio in Luigi Ricci’s Crispino e la Comare. During his single season at San Francisco, Stracciari was heard as Scarpia, described by critic Redfern Mason as exhibiting “flinty hardness and Roman severity.” His other roles that season included Germont, Manfredo in L’amore dei tre re and his ebullient Barber (Rossini). Primarily singing in Italy, Stracciari remained a potent artist even into the 1930s. After beginning teaching in 1926, he gradually reduced the number of his appearances, bidding official farewell to the stage in 1942.