Titta Ruffo is titled the baritone king. The singer is one of the three greatest world singers of the 20th century. Fyodor Chaliapin is the bass king. Enrico Caruso is the tenor king. His distinctive voice "dark timbre” ideally suited for dramatic roles in the operas by Giuseppe Verdi.
Ruffo Cafiero Titta (June 9, 1877, Pisa - July 5, 1953, Florence) was born into the family of a blacksmith. At the age of 13, the boy learned to read on his own. At the age of 16, he listened to opera for the first time and began to sing, imitating the manner of the singer he liked.
At the end of October 1897, Ruffo closed his workshop and left for Milan to study singing, having previously studied for seven months at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia and took private lessons for three months. Ruffo debuted at the Costanzi Theater in Rome in the minor role of Herold in the opera “Lohengrin” by Richard Wagner in spring of 1898. Since the early 1900s, the name of Titta Ruffo became widely known in the musical community after his brilliant performances in Santiago (1900) and Buenos Aires (1902). He sang for the first time at the London Covent Garden Theater in 1903, and the following season he performed at the Milan La Scala as Rigoletto. Ruffo made his American debut in Philadelphia in 1912 and sang extensively in Chicago. He reached the New York Metropolitan Opera relatively late in his career - in 1922, as Figaro in ”The Barber of Seville”. He would give a total of 55 performances at the Metropolitan Theater from 1922 through to 1929. Ruffo performed in Marseille in 1931. Before the start of the performance, fascist hooligans broke into the stage and beat the singer. His name was deleted from the "Book of Italian Opera Artists". He lost the right to perform even in theaters in Latin America, where he was especially loved.
In March 1933 in Nice, Ruffo took part in the staging of an abridged version of Ambroise Thoma opera “Hamlet”, and a year later gave the last two concerts: in Nice and Cannes.
After his singing career ending, Ruffo lived in Switzerland and France, and in 1937, he returned to Italy, where he spent the remaining years of his life. The same year, 1937, he published his autobiography "My Parabola" (La mia parabola). On July 26, 1943, when news about the arrest of Mussolini spread throughout the country and the agitated residents of Florence poured into the streets in droves, Titta Ruffo went out onto the balcony of his villa and sang the international anthem of liberation. He sang the Marseillaise; hundreds of voices caught it up immediately.
For his time, Ruffo was said to epitomize a new style of singing in which vigor, declamatory power and rich chesty tone overshadowed the previous generation emphasis on vocal grace, flexibility and technical sophistication. Consequently, some conservative commentators compared Ruffo unfavorably with his elegant Italian predecessor Mattia Battistini, who was a master of bel canto and possessed a leaner, more silvery voice timbre than Ruffo.
Titta Ruffo died from heart disease in Florence, Italy on 5 July 1953. He was 76.
Ruffo was very a prominent musician. He never entered into the exclusive contract with any opera company; it was unusual for that era, he can be called an opera freelancer, a nomadic star, and earned the highest fees wherever he sang. He made more than 130 78-rpm records, both acoustic and electric, first for Pathé Frères in Paris in 1904, and then exclusively for the Italian affiliate of Grammophon & Typewriter Company. Then upon arriving in the United States in 1912, he began his long collaboration with the Victor Talking Machine Company that was finished in 1929. As was the case with Caruso, Ruffo voice recorded excellently, since it was abundant and resonant.