Battistini, Mattia


Mattia Battistini (February 27, 1856, Rome - November 7, 1928, Contigliano) - Italian opera singer, baritone, adherent of the so-called school of "sweet" singing, maestro of bel canto. He studied music and vocalism since childhood, but proceeding from family traditions, he primarily received medical degree at the University of Rome.

However, his devotion of music dominated. After several years of serious vocal training with the best Italian teachers of that time, Battistini, first became the member-performer of the Royal Rome Academic Philharmonia. In 1877 he was one the leading singers, who performed the oratorio "St. Paul" by Mendelssohn under the baton of Ettore Pinelli, and later the oratorio “The Seasons”, one of the greatest works by Haydn. He successfully performed in Rome in 1878 as Alfonso in the opera “La favorite” by Gaetano Donizetti. Very soon, he became famous as the best Italian baritone.The voice of Battistini was a singular one, one-of-a-kind - it was distinctive among baritones. It embodied everything that marked an outstanding vocal phenomenon: two full octaves, with good capacity of smooth, equally mellow tone throughout the entire sounding range – fluxional, mosso, saturated with generous energy and inner warmth. The voice of Battistini carried an abyss of charm in itself: it was melodious in itself. Since 1881, Mattia Battistini permanently toured, performing in the major opera houses around the world. He was the first of opera singers to sing in South America (Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro). The season 1882-1883 was triumphant for him in Spain (Madrid and Barcelona). From 1883, the singer was performing in London, where he drew full houses. Then Vienna, Paris and Budapest... Everywhere rapture and praises of prominent European critics accompanied him. Everybody gave him complimentary epithets, such as:  "Maestro of all maestros of Italian bel canto", "Alive perfection", "Miracle of vocalism", "The King of baritones" and many other equally sonorous titles.

From 1892 he was touring in various Russian towns, where he was immediately recognized as absolute protagonist of the opera stage and where he spent 23 theatrical seasons (until 1916), becoming a favorite singer of the Russian Emperors and aristocracy. In Russia, he was called both "the king of baritones, and "the baritone of kings”. In 1899, he sang the part  of Eugene Onegin (in Italian) at the premiere in Warsaw. Russia was one of the favorite countries for Battistini. He was welcomed enthusiastically. The singer even used to joke, "Russia has never been a cold country for me". The Polish singer Janina Wajda-Korolevich that sang with Battistini more than once, recalled, “He was really a great singer. I have never heard such velvety softness of voice in my life. Battistini sang with extraordinary easiness, preserving the magical charm of his timbre in all registers, he always sang evenly and always well - he simply could not sing badly. One had to be born with such emission of sound - such tone of voice and balance of sounding of the entire range cannot be achieved by training! Moreover, he was very attractive - tall, beautifully proportioned, with charming smile and huge black eyes of a southern man. This, of course, contributed to his success as well".

In august 1912, during one of his triumphant seasons in Moscow, the audience was so excited by his performing in the opera “Rigoletto”, so raging and gave encores that Battistini had to repeat -- and this is not an exaggeration - the entire opera from the beginning to the end. The play, which began at eight in the evening, ended only at three in the morning! After the revolution, Battistini did not perform in Russia, but until 1925, he sang on the stages of the world major opera houses. The singers that often sang together with him were - his closest friend was Antonio Cotogni, as well as Francesco Marconi, Giuliano Gaillard, Francesco Tamagno, Angelo Mazini, Roberto Stagno, Enrico Caruso. Since 1926, when he was seventy years old, he mainly performed in concerts. He still had the same freshness of voice, the same confidence, tenderness and generous soul, as well as vividness and easiness. The audience in Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Stockholm, London, Bucharest, Paris and Prague could evidence this. In the mid-1920s, the singer felt the first clear signs of the emerging illness, but Battistini, with amazing courage, strictly replied to doctor that advised to cancel his concerts, “My seniors, I have only two choices - to sing or to die! I want to sing!"

On October 17, 1927, Battistini gave his last concert in Graz. As the famous Berlin musical critic Leopold Schmidt noted in 1926, “If a person sings as Battistini so far, sings, causing the excitement of the public, then he not only has the right - he must sing as long as possible, since the singing of Battistini symbolizes perfection, which his contemporaries, especially young people, should always strive to”.

Battistini Mattia // Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary: in 86 volumes (82 volumes and 4 additional). - SPb., 1890-1907.
Mattia Battistini on
D.K. Samin. 100 great vocalists. - M.: Veche, 2003.