Artist Profile: Soprano Renata Scotto, Intense Singing Actress Turned Director

By David Salazar

Renata Scotto was one of the most essential Italian sopranos of the latter 20th century, renowned for incredible acting talents and intense vocalism.

Born on Feb. 24, 1934 in Savona, Italy, she made her opera debut at age 18 as Violetta in “La Traviata.” The next day, she officially debuted at the Teatro Nuovo in Milan, in the same opera. From there, she took on her first “Madama Butterfly” and in 1953, she debuted at La Scala. She was only 19.

In 1957, she appeared at the Edinburgh Festival in “La Sonnambula” alongside Maria Callas as Amina. Callas declined an added performance and Scotto stepped in as her cover. At 23, she became an international star. In the 1960s, she became a leading singer around the world, making her U.S. debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1960. In 1965, she made her first Metropolitan Opera appearance and would appear in over 300 performances with the company. Moreover, she would appear in the company’s first-ever telecast and would also star in many other such showcases for years thereafter.

She would perform all around the United States and Europe for more than 40 years.

Once she had retired from singing, Scotto went into director opera, taking on projects in Palm Beach, Catania, Santiago, Dallas, Bern, and Athens, among others.

She has received the Opera News Award and the Anton Coppola Award For Excellence in the Arts. She also has an Honorary Doctorate from the Juilliard School and also won two Emmys.

She also made a number of recordings of major operas throughout the years.

Signature Roles

Scotto sang a wide range of repertory that included bel canto, Verdi, Puccini, the Verismo classics and numerous French operas. And she excelled at a number of roles across the repertory, though perhaps one of her most famous intepretations is that of Cio Cio San in “Madama Butterfly.” It was the role with which she had her Met Opera debut and also the last one that she performed with the famed company 22 years later.

Per a review of her first Met performance by Louis Snyder of the New York Herald Tribune, “she sings musically and affectingly, with pathos and color and humor in the voice, in a manner to enfold the listener in the first row of the orchestra or the last row of the family circle, Miss Scotto is a singer for all price ranges. And they let her know it Wednesday night after “Un bel di” with as loud an ovation as has been heard in the House this or maybe even last season. It would seem to be a case of instant love between Miss Scotto and the New York public.”

Read More On Scotto

An Interview

4 Reasons To Admire Her Art

Watch and Listen

Here is an album of Verdi arias.

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And here is another of Italian arias.

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And here is a performance of “La Traviata.”

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