Toscanini’s successor furthered the career of Callas
Serafin studied music in Milan and went on to play the viola in the orchestra at Teatro alla Scala under the baton of Arturo Toscanini.
He was later appointed assistant conductor and then took over as musical director at the theatre when Toscanini left to go to New York.
Serafin conducted at La Scala between 1909 and 1914, from 1917 to 1918 and then returned briefly at the end of the Second World War.
He became a conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1924 and stayed with them for ten years before returning to Italy to become artistic director at the Teatro Reale in Rome.
During his career he helped the development of many singers, including Rosa Ponselle, Magda Olivero and Joan Sutherland.
Serafin’s most notable success was with Maria Callas, with whom he collaborated on many recordings. He is credited with helping the American-born singer achieve a major breakthrough in 1949 when he persuaded her to take over from the leading belcanto soprano Margeritha Carosio at the opening night of Bellini's I Puritani at La Fenice in Venice after Carosio was forced to withdraw through illness.
Callas protested that she was inadequately prepared but her performance received rave reviews, giving her the confidence to expand her repertoire. Thereafter, success followed success.
The conductor was also responsible for reviving 19th century operas by Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti and establishing them in the 20th century repertoire.
Serafin died in 1968 in Rome at the age of 89.
|The bell tower of the Duomo and the |
Palazzo Barbiani in Cavarzere
Rottanova, where Serafin was born, is a small hamlet on the outskirts of Cavarzere, a comune situated about 35km south of Venice in the Veneto. Cavarzere dates back to before Roman times when it was a military outpost. It later became a refuge for people escaping from the barbarians after the fall of the Roman Empire.
Teatro alla Scala, where Serafin conducted for so many years, is in Piazza della Scala in the centre of Milan across the road from the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. La Scala has a fascinating museum that displays costumes and memorabilia from the history of opera. The entrance is in Largo Ghiringhelli, just off Piazza della Scala. It is open every day except the Italian Bank Holidays and a few days when it is closed in December. Opening hours are from 9.00 to 12.30 and 1.30 to 5.30pm.