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Pasquale Amato circa 1913
Pasquale Amato (21 March 1878 in Naplesmarker, Italy–12 August 1942 in Jackson Heights, U.S.A.) was an Italian operatic baritone of the first rank. Amato enjoyed an international reputation but attained the peak of his fame in New York Citymarker, where he sang with the Metropolitan Opera in 1908-1921.

Early career

Amato was born in Naples and studied locally at the Conservatory of San Pietro a Maiellamarker under Beniamino Carelli and Vincenzo Lombardo. In 1900, he made his debut at the Teatro Bellini in Naples as Germont père in La traviata. Engagements followed in Genoamarker and Rome. Over the next few years he sang also in Monte Carlo, Germany, parts of eastern Europe and Argentina. In 1904, he appeared at London's Royal Opera Housemarker, Covent Gardenmarker, with the Teatro di San Carlomarker Company; but although well-received, he was not invited back.

He was engaged by Italy's number-one opera house, La Scalamarker, Milanmarker, and sang there in 1907 under the baton of the great Arturo Toscanini. His voice had matured by now into a top-class instrument and he was praised for his versatility and artistic integrity. Indeed, in 1913 he was accorded the honour of taking part in the Verdi centenary commemoration at the Bussetomarker Theatre. He appeared at the commemoration in La traviata and Falstaff with Toscanini conducting. Other important operatic roles which Amato sang in Italy prior to World War I included Amonasro in Aida, Marcello in La bohème, the title part in Rigoletto, as well as Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande, Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde, Scarpia in Tosca and Barnaba in La Gioconda.

New York

Amato repeated some of these roles at the Metropolitan Opera, where Toscanini had gone to conduct and where Amato made his debut in 1908. He maintained a taxing performance schedule at the Met until he left the company in 1921, appearing in a number of operatic works that he had not undertaken before. In 1910, for example, he sang in Gluck's Armide, along with Olive Fremstad, Enrico Caruso, Louise Homer and Alma Gluck. In December of that same year, he also created the part of Jack Rance in Puccini's La fanciulla del West, singing opposite Caruso, Emmy Destinn, Dinh Gilly and Antonio Pini-Corsi.

In 1913, he created the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac by Walter Damrosch. Frances Alda and Riccardo Martin were also in the cast. He performed, too, in that year's production of Un ballo in maschera with Caruso, Destinn, Margarete Matzenauer and Frieda Hempel, and with them again in Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele. In La Gioconda, he sang alongside Destinn again, and Margaret Arndt-Ober. Amato was especially admired as Escamillo in Carmen, supporting Geraldine Farrar, Caruso and Alda, when the opera was successfully revived in 1914. Also in 1914 he was Manfredo (opposite Adamo Didur and Lucrezia Bori) in Montemezzi's L'amore dei tre re, when that new work came to New York, and in 1915 he created the part of Napoleon in Umberto Giordano's Madame Sans-Gêne, with Farrar as Catherine. In 1916, he gave the premiere American performance of the role of Giovanni in Riccardo Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini (opposite Alda and Giovanni Martinelli), and in 1918 that of Gianetto (with Farrar, Caruso, and Didur) in Mascagni's Lodoletta.

Amato's punishingly high work-rate took its toll on his voice and he retired to Italy during the 1920s owing to ill-health. But in 1933, 25 years after his American debut, he appeared there again at the New York Hippodrome, singing the role of Germont père. Amato had an affinity with America and, in 1935, he was made Head of Studies in voice and opera at the Louisiana State Universitymarker. He died at the age of 64 in the New York Borough of Queens.

Quoted appraisal

Amato in his prime possessed a superb high baritone voice of wide compass. According to Michael Scott in The Record of Singing Amato had a distinctive ringing vocal tone and although not quite so powerful as Mario Sammarco's sound, nor having so dark and dramatic a timbre as Titta Ruffo's (two baritones with whom his audiences were familiar in a similar repertoire), his voice was securely supported, appealing in its focus, tonal quality and openness of vowels, thoroughly resonant and carrying, and masterly in phrasing and cantabile. In short: he was one of the most distinctive singers of his age.

Recordings

A number of extremely impressive gramophone recordings were made by Amato in America for HMV/Victor Records, including duets with Caruso and other stars of the Met. His 1914 Victor recording of "Eri tu", for example, is considered by many critics to be the finest version ever committed to disc. (Prior to his contract with Victor, he had made a series of recordings for Fonotipia Records in Italy.)

Notes

  1. These details drawn from Gustav Kobbé's Complete Opera Book, passim.
  2. Paraphrased from Scott 1977, 116-7.


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