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Tito Schipa

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Tito Schipa (Lecce, 27 dicembre 1888 – New York, 16 dicembre 1965) was an Italian tenor. He is considered one of the finest tenore di grazia (lyric tenors) in operatic history. He was endowed with a natural, sensuous voice which he deployed with great intelligence and taste.

Schipa was born Raffaele Attilio Amedeo Schipa in Lecce in late 1888. (His birthday was recorded years later as January 2 for conscription purposes.) [1] He studied in Milan and made his operatic debut at age 21 in 1910 at Vercelli. He subsequently appeared throughout Italy and in Buenos Aires. In 1917, he created the role of Ruggiero in Puccini’s La rondine.

In 1919, Schipa traveled to the United States, joining the Chicago Opera Company, singing with it until 1932, whereupon he appeared with the Metropolitan Opera from 1932 to 1935 and again in 1941. From 1929 to 1949, he continued to perform regularly in Italy, and returned to Buenos Aires in 1954. In 1957, he toured the USSR.

Schipa’s repertoire eventually encompassed about 20 Italian and French opera roles, such as Massenet’s Werther, Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore and Cilea’s L’Arlesiana, where he achieved his best results. In concert, Schipa performed art songs as well as Neapolitan and Spanish popular airs.

Schipa made numerous recordings during his career, including a famous recording of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale in 1932, which was one of the first complete opera recordings, and is still in circulation.

Tito Schipa was an early exponent of that peculiar breed of tenor who conducts. Today Plácido Domingo carries on that tradition. Although some considered Schipa’s voice to be ordinary in size and timbre, he caused riots in the streets on some occasions not only by his superior musicianship but a solid, masterful technique.

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