Let me share some of my favorite singers from the golden age of opera. Today’s entry is none other than Claudia Muzio, whom people called “The Duse of Song”.
(Historical note: Eleanora Duse was an Italian actress. Regarded as one of the greatest actresses of all time, she’s famous for her ability to completely inhabit the roles she was portraying.)
One Hundred Percent Committed
Firstly, listening to Claudia Muzio is simply spellbinding. She’s always one hundred percent committed to her interpretation. For example, her singing is electric; always touched with a melancholic quality that’s part of the natural character of her voice.
Despite the limitations of early recording technology, the voice that comes through is a gorgeous instrument, generously rounded and rich. Multi-faceted, Muzio is a wonderful example of what some people call the “lacrime nella voce” or tears in the voice. By popular definition, this is the quality that some voices possess that makes them seem as if they are but a moment away from dissolving into a heartbroken sob. It is a haunting quality that, due to the primal quality of singing, instantly resonates in the listener.
Career and Hardships
Muzio enjoyed a vast international career as a soprano but was especially beloved by the audiences at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Therefore it’s no surprise she performed at the theater in 23 different operas. From this, she became known as “la divina Claudia”. Despite her growing fame and wealth, Muzio remained down-to-earth, occasionally even reclusive.
There were many hardships throughout Muzios life, including financial fraud at the hands of her agent (and reported lover). On May 24th, 1963, Muzio died in Rome. The officially announced cause was heart failure. She literally died at the age of forty-seven from a broken heart.
There is only one semi-complete recording of Muzio live in an opera. In 1932, Muzio appeared in the opening production of Tosca at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House next to Dino Borgioli as Mario Cavaradossi. They broadcasted opening night on the radio. Her and Dino sang to the world that night. Unfortunately only act one exists in published form.
Although difficult to obtain, it shows Muzio at the height of her powers and completely stunning the audience despite the antique sound quality. Dino Borgioli also demonstrates why he earned a reputation for elegant musicianship and phrasing throughout his career.
Header image by User Tagishsimon on en.wikipedia – from http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/15446 – en:Project Gutenberg eText 15446, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1278380