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Antonino Votto

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Italian conductor Antonino Votto was a highly successful protégée of Arturo Toscanini. Votto rose to worldwide prominence in the 1950s largely on the strength of his numerous successful operatic recordings for EMI with popular soprano Maria Callas. But he also developed a reputation as one of the leading operatic conductors of his time owing to his many acclaimed performances at La Scala, in Milan, where he worked regularly for nearly two decades. Votto was born in Piacenza, Italy, on October 30, 1896. He enrolled at the Naples Conservatory for music studies and after graduation served as répétiteur at La Scala. He was also an assistant conductor there to Arturo Toscanini. In 1923 Votto made his official debut, leading a performance of Puccini's Manon Lescaut. With occasional appearances at La Scala and other major operatic venues in Italy and abroad, Votto gradually built a reputation as the one of the most outstanding conductors of Italian opera of his time. In 1941 he began teaching at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan, the war limiting operatic activity in Italy and most parts of Europe. Over the years, his students included Claudio Abbado and Riccardo Muti. Votto began conducting regularly at La Scala in 1948, though Victor de Sabata was the music director. In the recording studio and arguably in the live performances he led over the next two decades at La Scala, Votto would rival de Sabata, as well as his young successors there, Carlo Maria Giulini and Guido Cantelli. Votto made a series of highly successful recordings in the 1950s with Callas, based on extravagant productions staged at La Scala with the iconic soprano. Their collaborations on Puccini's La bohème (1956), Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera (1956), and Bellini's La Sonnambula (1957), for EMI, were enthusiastically received by both critics and public. Surpassing this imposing trio, many believe, were their two live recordings of Bellini's Norma and Giordano's Andrea Chenier, both from 1955. Though Votto had debuted at Covent Garden in 1924 in performances of Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci, his American debut did not come until 1960, when he appeared at the Chicago Lyric Opera to conduct two Verdi staples, Aida and Don Carlo. Votto remained active at La Scala until 1967. In his remaining years he limited conducting appearances. Votto died in Milan on September 9, 1985.

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