16 January 2016

Arturo Toscanini - conductor

Talented musician had unexpected career change

World famous orchestra conductor Arturo Toscanini died on this day in 1957.

Arturo Toscanini was in his lifetime musical director of La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the New York Philamonic Orchestra.
Arturo Toscanini
He served as music director of La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Toscanini was a well-known musician in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, respected for his amazing musical ear and his photographic memory.

Towards the end of his career he became a household name as director of the NBC Symphony Orchestra because of the radio and television broadcasts and recordings he made.

Toscanini was born in Parma in 1867 and won a scholarship to his local music conservatory where he studied the cello.

He joined the orchestra of an opera company and while they were presenting Aida on tour in Rio de Janeiro the singers went on strike.  They were protesting against their conductor and demanded a substitute. They suggested Toscanini, who they were aware knew the whole opera from memory.

Although he had no previous conducting experience, he was eventually persuaded to take up the baton late in the evening. He led a performance of the long Verdi opera, entirely relying on his memory, and received great acclaim for it. He carried on conducting successfully for the rest of that season, at the age of just 19.

On returning to Italy, Toscanini continued to conduct but also carried on playing the cello in orchestras.

Gradually his success as a conductor began to take over his career. Even the great composer Verdi was impressed with the way Toscanini could interpret his scores.

He was also trusted to conduct at the world premieres of Puccini’s La Boheme and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.

By 1898 Toscanini was principal conductor at La Scala. He toured America with the company in 1920 and made his first recordings there.

He conducted the Metropolitan Opera in New York as well as the New York Philharmonic orchestra.

He conducted his first NBC Symphony Orchestra broadcast in 1937 and continued to tour with the orchestra and make recordings with them until he retired.

Toscanini died on 16 January 1957 at the age of 89 at his home in New York. His body was returned to Italy and he was buried in the Cimitero Monumentale in Milan.

Toscanini became principal conductor at La Scala in 1898
Teatro alla Scala, better known simply as La Scala
Travel tip:

La Scala in Milan, where Toscanini was musical director, has a fascinating museum that displays costumes and memorabilia from the history of opera. The entrance is in Largo Ghiringhelli, just off Piazza Scala. It is open every day except the Italian Bank Holidays and a few days in December. Opening hours are from 9.00 to 12.30 and 1.30 to 5.30 pm.

Parmigano-Reggiano cheese is one of the culinary products for which Parma is famous
Parmigano-Reggiano cheese is one of the
culinary products for which Parma is famous
Travel tip:

Parma, the birthplace of Arturo Toscanini, is one of Italy’s great art cities with a wealth of churches and palaces full of masterpieces. The city in Emilia-Romagna is also famous for its food and culinary specialities. Parmigiano–Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma, as well as many dishes cooked alla parmigiana, all originated here.


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