We The Italians | IT and US: Tito Schipa - The voice and the grace

IT and US: Tito Schipa - The voice and the grace

IT and US: Tito Schipa - The voice and the grace

  • WTI Magazine #99 Jan 20, 2018
  • 434

The first anthological exhibition on Tito Schipa's musical life and career was held in 2017 in Bari (Puglia), in the Castello Svevo. For the first time, relics and documents, public and private, loaned by the Schipa family and the Schipa - Carluccio Archive in Lecce, have been exhibited as testimony to the art and prodigious career of he who is now considered one of the greatest tenors, and in particular the greatest "grace" tenor (tenore di grazia) in the Opera history.

However, the importance of the singer from Lecce goes far beyond the limitations of genre. It can be well summed up by the definition given by Rodolfo Celletti, one of the greatest and most respected critics and vocal experts: he testified his own superlative esteem for the tenor from Puglia attributing to him the title of "singer from the neck up".

With this simple phrase, Celletti meant that since the first successes in Spain and South America in the 1910's, followed by those in the United States of the immediate post-Caruso and then in the whole world for 54 years (!), it was clear that in the varied panorama of vocal interpreters from all over the world a rare talent was born. A talent able to combine in his performance, in addition to the technical and musical quality (Schipa was also a composer and orchestra conductor), also a high culture, a strong stylistic coherence applied to the various genres, a burning sensuality and the perfection of the phrasing. All these characteristics did characterize Schipa, according to Celletti, as an interpreter whose intelligence and rigour were absolutely on a par with his feelings.

The memory and the passionate love that In every part of the world are still paid to Tito Schipa, universally loved by the public of musical theatre, are perfectly described in this exhibition on the figure of the "man who sang as a tenor" (as he himself liked to define himself) through the care of his son. Tito Schipa Jr. organizes an itinerary of discovery of the artist and of the man with simplicity, clarity and sensitivity aimed to every kind of audience, particularly the youngest ones. In the exhibition, costumes, personal objects and photographic documents from every moment of Schipa's career coexist with video projections whose scripts have been written exclusively for the exhibition. Based on historical fragments and "graphic novel" techniques, they are accompanied by the most significant pieces, in the masterful and often unsurpassed interpretation of opera arias and Spanish and Neapolitan songs of the greatest authors.

Particular attention is paid to the very long American period of Schipa's career, so long and resounding that he is considered an American singer. After all, the tradition of electing as "first tenor of the world" an interpreter who was necessarily Italian and successful in the United States, begun with Caruso and then continued with Schipa.

From 1919 to 1925 Schipa is the first tenor of the Civic Opera in Chicago, before moving from 1935 until the beginning of the war to the Metropolitan in New York. His booklet of these twenty years is extraordinarily rich. From its princely residences of Beverly Hills, between operas and concerts, Schipa touches all the main cities of North America and also many less important places. He breaks every record of frequency on stage of any other singer, receiving haunting criticism on all newspapers and magazines, today collected in the great "scrapbooks" created by his first wife Lillì Michel dìOgoy, and part of the exhibition.

The public is able to consult the press (both American and from other parts of the world) on Schipa, day by day, as artistic reviews and as adventures and accidents, honours, involvement with Cinema, Jazz, technological innovations, and small scandals and financial misadventures. Schipa was probably the better-paid singer ever, accumulating and losing real fortunes: that made the Italian tenor a protagonist of worldliness and gossip.

The exhibition was conceived by Tito Schipa Jr. in collaboration with Tommaso Morciano, Ceo of Nova Apulia, a company that manages the state museums in Puglia (www.novaapulia.it - www.agorasophiaedutainment.it) and by the architect Elena Giangiulio, who designed the entire exhibition area. The next objectives are to bring the exhibition around the world, and one of the places where Tito Schipa is undoubtedly most felt and recognized is the United States of America. For information on the exhibition and the possibility of collaborating, please contact morciano@novaapulia.it.