"Only Scotto takes the trouble to distinguish Adriana from Hélène, Norma from Lady Macbeth. These women are not a chorus; each is different. Why not sing them differently? Scotto is the last of the mad-genius sopranos, dementodiva. When she goes, opera is in a lot of trouble." -From the book Demented: The World of the Opera Diva by Ethan Mordden
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Renata Scotto is known to millions for her numerous opera performances around the world. Since the early 1950s, she has performed in more than 45 different operas and has appeared with the world's most acclaimed singers.
Renata Scotto was born on February 24, 1934 and made her operatic debut in her home town of Savona, Italy, on Christmas Eve of 1952 at the age of 18 in front of a sold-out house as Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata. The next day, she made her 'official' opera debut at the Teatro Nuovo in Milan as Violetta. Shortly after, she performed in her first Puccini opera, Madama Butterfly, in Savona and was paid twenty-five thousand lire.
In 1953, Scotto auditioned for the role of Walter in La Scala's production of Catalani's La Wally with Renata Tebaldi and Mario Del Monaco. After her audition, one of the judges, Victor de Sabata, was heard to say, "Forget about the rest." and Scotto reported for rehearsal the following Monday. La Wally opened on December 7, 1953 and Scotto was called back for fifteen curtain calls. Tebaldi and Del Monaco each received seven.
By 1957, Renata Scotto had become an Italian celebrity. Near the end of that year, La Scala had been in Edinburgh presenting Bellini's La Sonnambula with Maria Callas as Amina. The production had been so successful that La Scala had decided to add another performance. Callas, though, had other plans (a party at Elsa Maxwell's) and had no intention of singing the extra Amina. With two days notice, Renata Scotto replaced Maria Callas as Amina on September 3, 1957. The show was a huge success and twenty-three year old Renata Scotto became an international sensation.
On June 2, 1960, Scotto married Lorenzo Anselmi. The couple has two children, Laura (born 5/31/69) and Filippo (born 6/21/72). Later in 1960, Scotto had been resting while performing at the Royal Opera House as Mimi in Puccini's La Bohème. She and her husband decided to go see an opera on her day off so she called Covent Garden to ask which opera was showing that night. The man told them that it was La Bohème but Scotto told him that she knew that it was not because she was in it. The man answered by saying, "Lady, if you're in La Bohème you'd better hurry." He was right and Mimi made an unusually breathless entrance that evening!
On October 13, 1965, Renata Scotto made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly. The New York Herald Tribune called it "an occasion for rejoicing, and there was plenty of it in the form of applause and welcoming shouts to the new artist who, above all, is distinctly an individual."
In 1970, Scotto performed for a hostile audience for the first time in her career. While singing Elena in Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani, there was a demonstration from a small but very loud group shouting, "Brava, Callas". They continued to shout "Maria, Maria" and more "Brava, Callas" with Maria Callas sitting in the stage box watching Scotto's performance! Callas, though, would not acknowledge the shouts of the hecklers and instead gave Scotto a standing ovation at the end of her performance.
For more than 40 years, Renata Scotto has performed in operas written by 18 composers, from Bellini to Wolf-Ferrari. She even won an Emmy award for her performance in La Gioconda in San Francisco. This performance became especially well-known after Scotto yelled Siete gente di merda! ("You are people of excrement!" or "You are people with two faces!", depending on who you ask) in front of a documentary camera crew after the opera house management let the tenor take an extra curtain call. She is best known for her performances as Violetta in La Traviata, Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly, Mimi (and the occasional Musetta) in La Bohème, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth and Francesca in Francesca da Rimini.
As well as becoming a successful director of operas, Renata Scotto recently added several new roles to her repertory. Along with The Medium and La Voix Humaine, she also sang her first Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier in 1992 and her first Kundry in Parsifal in 1995. Home for Scotto and her family is a big house in Westchester County and a pied à terre in New York City, right near the Met.
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