Paolo Silveri

Paolo SilveriPaolo Silveri was born on December 28th 1913 in Ofena (province of Aquila). Although being of almost the same age as Bechi (born 1913), Gobbi (1915) and Taddei (1916) his career only started with some delay. Like Giuseppe Valdengo and many other promising young singers, Silveri was called into the Italian Army in 1933 where he also obtained military decorations. After having recovered from a war wound he gave a semi-professional debut, as a bass singer, in the role of Hans Schwarz in “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” in 1939 at the Opera House of Rome. As Silveri later recalled, Nazzareno De Angelis was of great help to him during this time. Not only was he kind enough to go through some arias with Silveri, De Angelis also personally saw to it, that he was reinstalled at Accademia di Santa Cecilia (where he studied with Riccardo Stracciari, among others) from which Silveri had been dismissed shortly before. In 1943 – following the advice of Beniamino Gigli – Silveri switched to the baritone register and only one year later was a great success as Germont in “La Traviata” at the Opera House of Rome.

From that moment on offers began to pour in, mainly from South Italian stages where he was often called to step in for sick colleagues, this way building up an extensive repertory which included operas, such as “Il Trovatore”, “Rigoletto”, “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”, “La Wally”, “Tosca” and “I Pagliacci”. The Teatro San Carlo in Naples was one of the theatres where Silveri appeared most often during these years. In 1946 he performed as a member of the San Carlo`s ensemble (among them Beniamino Gigli) at London`s Covent Garden in “La Bohème”, “I Pagliacci”, “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” and “Tosca” winning instantly the admiration of the English audience. At Covent Garden he was also the first singer to perform “Rigoletto” in English (1947), he appeared as Marcello in “La Bohème” (with Schwarzkopf and Welitsch) and sang Escamillo and Boris Godunov. Paolo Silveri`s debut at Milan`s Scala was scheduled for the 1949/50 season in “La Favorita” but De Sabata (and who could say “no” to him) asked the singer to step in for the ailing Gino Bechi in “Il Trovatore” making his debut some weeks earlier than planned.

During his first season at the Scala the artist counted among the operas he appeared in: “Faust”, “I Puritani”, “Otello”, “Carmen”, “Andrea Chenier” (which was a commemorative performance for the composer who had died the year before) and “Lucia di Lammermoor”. He remained from thereon a permanent member of the ensemble until 1955. In 1950 he gave his debut at the MET as Don Giovanni under Fritz Reiner and was such a success that he was taken under contract for the following three seasons. As early as 1946 the baritone had recorded his first complete opera for “HMV”, “La Traviata” (with Guerrini and Infantino, PR 90354). Towards the end of the Fourties he began to record complete operas for Cetra: “Don Carlo”, “Nabucco”, “Simone Boccanegra”, “L´Arlesiana, “Tosca” and “La Gioconda” with Maria Callas. He was heard in Paris, Rio de Janeiro, at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Arena di Verona, at the Festivals in Edinburgh and Glyndebourne and at the Vienna State Opera. In 1959 Silveri undertook the adventurous experiment of singing Otello in Dublin. Unlike Ramon Vinay, this remained his only excursion into the tenor repertoire.

He bade farewell to the stage in 1967 and in later years became Manager of an Italian Opera Touring Company and taught at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome and at the Royal Academy of Music in England.