Mattia Battistini was born in 1856 in Rome and showed great musical abilities from a very young age, beginning his vocal studies with the great Venceslao Persichini. His major opera debut came when he was just 22 years of age in Donizetti’s “La Favorita” and enjoyed immediate success and a rapid rise to operatic stardom throughout Italy and abroad.
At the age of just 27 he made his debut at Covent Garden and performed alongside such immortal stars as Adelina Patti, Marcella Sembrich and Edouard de Reszke. Battistini enjoyed a career that lasted an astonishing 49 years at the highest levels, including spending many years performing in Russia where he became an audience favorite and close friend of the Russian aristocracy. What is most remarkable about Battistini is that throughout his extensive career and travels around the globe (although never to the Met, as it happens) is that his voice remained astonishingly fresh and technically impeccable right up until his death in 1928. The audio we present here is from 1911 as a 55 year old man, 33 years into his professional career.
Battistini represents a style of baritone vocalism that was rarely represented after his time, save for Giuseppe de Luca who incidentally shared the same voice teacher. We hear a baritone of unsurpassed elegance and panache, without an aggressive chest voice driven bottom half of his voice, and with a truly tenorial top. His voice loses none of the gravitas required for dramatic baritone roles such as Iago and Renato and yet he presents an extraordinary sense of lyricism and purity of ringing tone which these days we simply rarely hear among singers of any description, least of all baritones.