Scotsman Obituaries: Renata Scotto, Italian soprano who went on to a second career as a director

Renata Scotto, soprano, opera director, and voice teacher. Born: 24 February 1934 in Savona, Italy. Died: 16 August 2023 in Savona, Italy, aged 89

Renata Scotto, a soprano of uncommon intensity who became a successful director after her singing career, has died in her home town of Savona, Italy, aged 89.

“Renata Scotto is a true artist and profound connoisseur of voice and repertoire, gifted with technique, musicality, a personality of a rare power, always at the service of the composer, and able to emotionally stir the public in all the world in every phase of her long career,” soprano Cecilia Gasdia, superintendent of the Fondazione Arena in Verona, said in a statement.

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Scotto made 314 appearances at the Metropolitan Opera, from her debut in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on 13 October 1965 to her finale, also as Cio-Cio-San, on 18 January 1987.

Renata Scotto at an event in New York City in 2015 (Picture: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)Renata Scotto at an event in New York City in 2015 (Picture: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
Renata Scotto at an event in New York City in 2015 (Picture: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

She also directed during her final run, and that became her new profession.

“I like to live in the present,” she said in a 2007 interview. “Of course, I watch my DVDs. I enjoyed every second of my career. Now I live with the young singers. I love them so much.”

Born in Savona, Scotto debuted there in 1952 as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata and sang the role the next day at Milan’s Teatro Nuovo.

Scotto debuted at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala on 7 December 1957, the opening night of the season, in the title role of Catalani’s La Wally alongside Mario Del Monaco, with the famous Carlo Maria Giulini conducting.

When Scotto made her Met debut, The New York Times headlined her as a new star. “She is short, on the plump side, with a round face that is remarkably expressive,” Raymond Ericson wrote. “She is a lyric coloratura, with a relatively small voice that carries in a big auditorium by virtue of its concentrated tone. And she is a complete actress, in voice and movement.”

When Scotto sang the title role in Bellini’s Norma on the opening night of the Met’s 1981-82 season, she was booed by Maria Callas fans who were opposed to anyone else singing the role.

She starred alongside Luciano Pavarotti in the first Live From The Met telecast in 1977, of Puccini’s La Boheme.

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As the end of her singing career approached, she turned to directing. “I love it. It’s completely different, of course,” she said. “There’s more responsibility – you have responsibility for everybody – the stage, the scenery. It’s another perspective. You see the show differently.”

When Deborah Voigt took on the title role of Puccini’s Tosca for the first time, at the Florida Grand Opera in 2001, Scotto was her director.

“The thing that was really most impressive is that she didn’t try to put her stamp on it,” Voigt said. “She led me through it and helped me find my way through the role and my Tosca, which is different from Renata Scotto’s.”

Scotto is survived by daughter Laura Anselmi Miller, son Filippo Anselmi and two grandchildren. Her husband, Lorenzo, died in 2021.


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