Simionato, Giulietta (1916—)

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Simionato, Giulietta (1916—)

Italian mezzo-soprano. Born on May 12, 1916, in Forlì, Italy; daughter of Felice Simionato (director of the local prison) and Giovanna (Truddaiu) Simionato; studied in Rovigo with Locatello and in Milan with Palumbo; grew up on the island of Sardinia.

Won first place in a bel canto competition in Florence (1933); sang in premiere of Pizzetti's Orsèolo (1933); debuted at Teatro alla Scala (1936); debuted at Edinburgh Festival (1947), Covent Garden (1956), Metropolitan Opera (1959); retired (1966).

Raised on the island of Sardinia, where she received her earliest voice lessons from nuns at the convent school she attended, Giulietta Simionato initially sang only "for the Madonna," at the insistence of her highly religious mother. Giovanna Truddaiu Simionato vetoed the suggestion that her daughter receive further vocal training, but, after her death when Giulietta was 15, the family moved to a town near Padua, where Giulietta began her vocal training in earnest. She sang publicly in provincial cities twice before she was 20, and in 1933 beat over 385 other competitors to win a bel canto contest in Florence. Three years later, she made her debut in Milan at the venerable Teatro alla Scala, singing Beppe in L'Amico Fritz.

Simionato continued to sing secondary roles at La Scala for the next eight years, finally growing so frustrated with her stagnant career that she struck out on her own. For three years, she performed throughout Italy in such leading roles as Carmen, and in 1947 she appeared at the Edinburgh Festival. That same year she was invited back to La Scala, savoring her vindication with a performance of the title role in Mignon. She would remain a star in Milan for the rest of her career, particularly acclaimed for her roles in such operas as Anna Bolena, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, La Favorita and I Capuletti ed i Montecchi. One of the most beloved opera stars of the 1950s, Simionato also performed internationally, singing to wide praise in Salzburg, London, Vienna, Mexico City, Paris, Madrid, Geneva and Rio de Janeiro, among other cities. She sang for the first time in the United States in 1954, in a production of Bellini's Norma with Maria Callas at the Chicago Lyric Opera. Five years later, Simionato made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, winning paeans from the critics for the role of Azucena in Il Trovatore. She would continue to perform at the Met until her retirement. Simionato also gave frequent concert performances and solo recitals and made a number of recordings, which were highly popular despite the fact that some believe they do not show her voice to the best advantage. A longtime resident of Rome, she bemoaned the "dissonance" of modern music, and had become a symbol of an older era in opera by the time she left the stage in 1966.


Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography Yearbook. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1960.