Once described by Giacomo Lauri-Volpi as a voice “made of tears and sighs and restrained interior fire” Claudia Muzio is one of the more important figures in opera of the first half of the 20th Century. She was born into an operatic family; her father a prominent stage director and her mother an opera chorister, and made her operatic debut in 1910. Although born in Italy, the lion-share of her professional success was garnered in the United States – at the Metropolitan Opera and also the Chicago Lyric where she sang for many seasons roles including Aida, Santuzza, Maddalena, Mimi and Tosca to name but a few; and also creating the role of Giorgetta in Il Tabarro. Muzio also achieved high critical acclaim singing at La Scala under Toscanini in 1927 and thereafter in Rome as a superlative Violetta.
Muzio did not have a voice of tremendous size, nor did her voice have the luster and facility of many of her peers, but what she lacked in vocal gifts she made up for in expression, intense emotional outpouring and an honest intimacy that consistently won over audiences throughout the world. Especially skilled in revealing the psychology of her heroines, and in similar approach to Chaliapin before her, it was her vocal acting that she prioritized over all else. Because of this Muzio was a truly transcendent verismo artist, even if her voice is not as stellar as other sopranos of her stature. Featured below is the aria from Boito’s Mefistofele, L’altra Notte in Fondo al Mare, recorded in 1920.