TINA POLI RANDACCIO
Where have I heard that name before? Well, you might know her from a
recording of the final scene of Norma with Ezio Pinza, made in 1929. Or
you may have heard her recordings of scenes from Mascagni's Isabeau.
She was a most renowned Aida, Gioconda and Minnie in Italy, Spain and
South America during the first third of this century and her career is
just about the longest of any Italian spinto in this century, thirty
five years. The voice, on record, shows a remarkable vibrancy and it
has real heft, a sound that certainly was able to fill out the demands
of the heaviest music. In fact, she did sing, among other roles, the
Siegfried Brunnhilde. Poli Randaccio is among those artists whose fame
in the opera house far exceeds that of her recorded legacy, for she made
relatively few records, though those that exist are indicative of her
legend and are very highly prized by collectors.
Ernestina Poli was born in Ferrara, Italy on 3 April 1879, and she
studied for only a few years before making her debut at Bergamo in 1902
as Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera. She had a huge success and was
retained for another dozen performances in Il Trovatore and the then
very popular Salvator Rosa. She ended the year at Massa. At this
point, despite her success, she retreated from the stage for another
year of training, after which she debuted at Messina in Andrea Chenier
with the tenor Ruggero Randaccio. On 17 Jan, 1904 she sang Micaela for
the only time in her career, again with Randaccio as her stage partner.
It was not long before the couple announced that they were to be joined
in life, and in the summer of 1904, shortly before a tour to South
America, they were married. She immediately changed her stage name to
Tina Poli Randaccio, and there are interesting and amusing confusions in
some South American reviews during the tour of 1904, in which she is
listed as the tenor, he the soprano. Poli was assumed to be his first
name and Ruggera, hers.
The tour took the couple to Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro where Tina
appeared as Mimi, the Trovatore Leonora, Desdemona, Aida, Maddalena di
Coigny, Gioconda and Santuzza. He sang in Boheme, Andrea Chenier and
Cavalleria Rusticana. The year ended at Sao Paolo with an opera called
Cristo alla Festa di Purim, after which she added La Forza del Destino,
Ballo in Maschera and Ernani to her assignments in Brazil. The couple
traveled with the company to Manaus and Pernambuco, then returned to
Europe where Ruggero announced his retirement from the stage. They
decided that he would be her manager and coach, and from about this
point his name was never seen on a billboard again.
On 2 December 1904 Tina debuted at Milan's Teatro Dal Verme in an opera
called Jana with Bergamasco and Schiavazzi conducted by Serafin and from
there she went to Oporto where she sang in Aida, Il Trovatore, Don
Carlo, Pagliacci, Un Ballo in Maschera and Cavalleria Rusticana. After
a short respite, the couple sailed for Mexico, and in September 1905
Tina appeared at the capitol in Les Huguenots (in Italian), Aida,
Germania, Un Ballo in Maschera and Giordano's recently produced opera
Siberia. The company included Virginia Guerrini, Alice Zeppilli, De
Marchi and Magini Coletti, and it is not surprising, given those names,
that the tour extended for four months and included visits to
Turin welcomed her back to Italy when she appeared at the Teatro
Vittorio Emanuele as Gioconda in January of 1907. A tour to Bucharest
was arranged by Randaccio and on 11 November Tina debuted as Aida in a
cast that included De Angelo, Angioletti and Bellat.
On the 18th, she sang in Ernani with Angioletti, Titta Ruffo and Torres
de Luna. Her season continued into the middle of December with Un Ballo
in Maschera and Il Trovatore, both with Ruffo, Les Huguenots, and La
Gioconda. A visit was made to Kiev and Odessa, but I have no record of
Tina debuted at Parma's Teatro Regio on 6 January 1908 in Mascagni's
brand new opera, Amica and after singing in Red Roses and Damnation of
Faust, she undertook a four month tour of Italy with the new work, under
Mascagni's direction. The cities visited included, Firenze, Bologna,
Modena, Verona, Treviso, Trieste, Ravenna, Ancona, Cesena and Forli,
where she received a thunderous welcome and was hailed as the greatest
soprano seen there in a generation. At Livorno she sang in the
composer's Le Maschere and Iris and the tour ended at Rome's Teatro
Adriano, where Tina sang eleven performances of Amica and several of Le
Maschere, the latter with Juanita Caracciolo and Carlo Galeffi.
On 26 December, Tina made a much heralded debut at Venice's Teatro la
Fenice as Aida with Ladislava Hotkowska and Henderson. The revival was
so well received that a scheduled three performances became six. At
Fiume, in April, she sang in Ernani and La Gioconda and in October she
returned to the Adriano for Tosca, Aida and the world premiere of
Raffaelo,by De Lunghi.
In February 1910 Tina debuted at Madrid's Teatro Real as Gioconda in a
cast that included Flora Perini, Giuseppe Taccani and Ruffo, after which
she sang ten performances of Aida and six of Loreley at Catania's Masimo
Bellini. The spring found the Randaccios back in Brazil, where, at Rio
de Janeiro, on 27 May, Tina sang Isolde for the only time in her career,
though it was a moderate, if not overwhelming success. At Rio, she also
sang in Il Trovatore, La Gioconda, Loreley, Tosca, Aida, and Germania,
and at Sao Paolo, she added another new work, Boscaiuola. Tina's tour
partners included Anna Gramegna, Krismer, Giraldoni and
Viglione-Borghese, and, as had been the case in Mexico, this starry
roster resulted in an extended season both in Rio and in Sao Paolo.
The most important moment of her career had arrived. On 17 December
1910 Tina debuted at La Scala as the Siegfried Brunnhilde, with the
inimitable Giuseppe Borgatti in the title role. There were a dozen
performances, and the production was a complete success. Fanny Anitua
was an unforgettable Erda according to contemporary reviews, and the
hero and heroine received memorable ovations every evening. Though hers
would not be a major career in the most important of all Italian
theaters, it continued at intervals for a good number of years, and
included several world premiers.
In February 1911 Tina returned to Parma for La Gioconda and then took a
well needed break from performing. During the summer, she learned the
role of Minnie in La Fanciulla del West, and on 10 September, at
Puccini's invitation, she sang the first of thirteen performances at
Lucca's Teatro del Giglio with Taccani as Dick Johnson. Her success was
enormous, in fact, greater than her predecessor, Eugenia Burzio, who had
sung in the Italian premiere earlier in the season. Poli was
immediately engaged to repeat the opera at Naples' San Carlo with
Martinelli and Viglione-Borghese and at Bari's Teatro Petruzzelli with
Corti and Mariano Stabile. After a debut at Palermo's Massimo as
Gioconda in March 1912, she sang Minnie at Monte Carlo, again with
Martinelli and Viglione-Borghese, and in late May she debuted at the
Paris Opera as Minnie in a gala performance with Enrico Caruso.
In November, Tina sang in La Gioconda at Genoa and then prepared for the
Scala premiere of Fanciulla. There were many sopranos who had vied for
the honor, whose partisans had lobbied intensely for them, and the
uncertainty had been a major story in Italian newspapers. Burzio
reigned at Scala, but it was not to be. Tina's reputation as Minnie was
by now so secure that both Scala's management and the composer agreed
that she deserved the honor. On 29 December, before a star studded
audience, the Milan theater presented La Fanciulla del West for the
first time with Poli Randaccio, Martinelli and Galeffi. Tullio Serafin
was on the podium, and the clamor was so enormous that the opera was
repeated fourteen times.
Tina repeated Minnie at Monte Carlo in February 1913 with Martinelli and
George Baklanov, after which she sang the role at the site of its
Italian premiere, the Costanzi of Rome. In the spring there were
concerts at Modena in honor of the centenary of Verdi's birth and on 15
December, Tina sang in the world premiere of Mascagni's Parisina at La
Scala under the composer's baton. The cast included Luisa Garibaldi,
Hipolito Lazaro and Galeffi, and there were twelve performances.
On 10 February 1914 Poli sang in the world premiere of Smareglia's
Abisso and on 2 April in the world premiere of Alfano's Ombra di Don
Giovanni, both at La Scala. In May she sang in Tosca at Milan's Teatro
Carcano with Garbin and Viglione-Borghese and in October Tina
participated in one of this century's most important stage debuts, that
of Beniamino Gigli as Enzo, at Rovigo, on 15 October. It was the scene
of veritable riots; a star had truly been born, and there were thirteen
performances. Tina's year ended with Un Ballo in Maschera at Piacenza,
a revival shared with the equally celebrated Celestina Boninsegna.
Rome's Costanzi welcomed Tina back as Gioconda, Tosca and Minnie in the
winter of 1915, and after Gioconda at Naples and Aida at Firenze, she
sailed for South America and her debut at the Teatro Colon of Buenos
Aires. On 25 May, Poli debuted as Gioconda in a cast that included
Perini, Lazaro, and Riccardo Stracciari. La Prensa referred to her as
"a major talent whose voice can send shivers down one's spine, so
present and immediate is the reaction". On 6 June she sang Santuzza and
on the 17th, she sang in a concert with Caruso, Bernardo de Muro, Mario
Sammarco and Lazaro. The season ended with Tosca and had included
performances with the company at Cordoba and Rosario, where she sang
Tosca and Santuzza, and at Tucuman, where she sang Santuzza.
Tina traveled from Argentina to Santiago, Chile, and on 27 August, she
opened the season at the Teatro Municipal in La Fanciulla del West. The
work was so well received that an additional performance was added; it
was the only opera to be seen as many as four times. She stayed at
Santiago for two months, singing Tosca, Aida, Gioconda, Santuzza, the
Trovatore Leonora and Maddalena di Coigny and appeared as Aida, Tosca,
Gioconda and the Trovatore Leonora at Valparaiso. Tina returned to
Buenos Aires in late October where, at the Teatro Coliseo, she sang all
of her Chilean roles except for Maddalena, and after a brief rest, she
undertook a long tour of the Caribbean Basin. World War I was in its
most intense period and the safety of the Western Hemisphere certainly
seemed more attractive than the dangers of Europe.
On 29 January 1916 Tina debuted at Havana as Aida, and later sang in
Tosca, Il Trovatore, Cavalleria Rusticana, Iris, La Gioconda, Les
Huguenots, and La Fanciulla del West. Her tenor partners were Lazaro
and Zinoviev; Enrico Roggio carried most of the baritone weight and
Amelita Galli-Curci appeared with Poli in Les Huguenots (in Italian).
The company stayed at the Cuban capitol for nearly two months, then
toured to Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Santiago de Cuba, Mananzas and in the
late spring, to Costa Rica.
In November Tina returned to Italy for Tosca at Bologna with Aureliano
Pertile and Jose Segura-Tallien and in January 1917 she sang at Milan's
Dal Verme in a gala concert, including act 3 of Aida and act 4 of La
Gioconda. At La Spezia she sang Aida, and in June Tina debuted at
Zurich as Tosca with Gubellini and Sammarco. After singing Santuzza at
the Swiss theater, she returned to the Dal Verme for Aida and at Genoa,
she sang in La Gioconda with Vita Ferluga, Folco-Bottaro and Galeffi.
Tina decided that the climate in Europe was not what the doctor ordered,
and in fact, work was difficult to find for nearly everyone in 1917.
Many of Italy's most important theaters were closed, and those that
remained open presented very shortened seasons. Havana again beckoned
and Tina returned in December for Aida, La Fanciulla del West, Les
Huguenots, Tosca, La Gioconda, L'Africaine, La Boheme and a new opera,
Doreya. Her colleagues included the tenor, Jose Palet, Edith Mason,
Maria Barrientos and the basses, Nicoletti-Korman and Virgilio Lazzari.
The tour again included Camaguey, Cienfuegos and Santiago. In mid March
1918, the company moved to San Juan and Ponce for a two month season in
Puerto Rico. Poli sang the same roles and added Amelia in Un Ballo in
Maschera. In June, at Caracas, Venezuela she sang in Aida, Tosca, Les
Huguenots, La Gioconda and Cavalleria Rusticana.
The Great War was over and Tina returned to the safety of a victorious
Italy for La Gioconda at Bologna, Milan's Teatro Lirico and Firenze's La
Pergola. On 18 December she reappeared in glory for the first of eleven
performances of Aida at La Scala. The next few months were spent at
Turin with Cavalleria Rusticana and Aida. It was during the revival of
Aida that Tancredi Pasero made his absolute opera debut as Il Re,
substituting for an indisposed colleague. It is with some pride that
the author acknowledges this event, since Pasero's debut has always been
listed as at Vicenza in La Sonnambula much later in the year. And with
pleasure, I also acknowledge that this information was kindly provided
by Robert Tuggle of the Metropolitan Opera Archives.
After La Fanciulla del West at Trieste's Teatro Rossetti, in late
November, Tina debuted as Aida at Barcelona's Liceo and in December she
completed her engagement as Gioconda. In January 1920 Tina sang
thirteen performances of Aida at Trieste's Teatro Verdi with the stellar
cast of Giuseppina Zinetti, Miguel Fleta and Carmelo Maugeri. Rome's
Costanzi welcomed Poli back with seven performances of La Gioconda and
Genoa saw her as Santuzza in March. May was spent at the Fenice of
Venice, where Tina sang in Suor Angelica with Elvira Casazza and in
Aida. In June, she traveled to London for a debut at Covent Garden in
Tosca with Fernand Ansseau and Dinh Ghilly and was very poorly received
by both public and press who recoiled from her strong vibrato and
melodramatic impersonations. Tina left London after one performance,
never to return.
However, on 31 July she was welcomed with an enormous ovation at the
Verona Arena when she sang in Aida with Zinetti and Pertile. After La
Gioconda at Turin's Teatro Chiarella, Tina returned for a very long
season at Barcelona, appearing in Aida, La Gioconda, Un Ballo in
Maschera, Lucrezia Borgia, Cavalleria Rusticana and Ernani, as well as
in act two of Tosca during a gala benefit. Her reviews were nothing
short of magnificent and in Gioconda, she was heralded by several
critics as the greatest that the city had ever seen or heard. The Liceo
and Tina Poli Randaccio would continue their love affair over several
In 1921, Tina appeared at Brescia and Trieste for La Gioconda, Palermo
for La Gioconda and La Fanciulla del West, Rome for Aida, the Milan
Arena for La Gioconda, Vicenza for La Fanciulla del West with Ismaele
Voltolini and Stabile, Venice for La Gioconda and at Parma on 29
December in a stellar revival of the Ponchielli work with Giannina
Arangi Lombardi as Laura, Irene Minghini Cattaneo as La Cieca, Voltolini
as Enzo, Noto as Barnaba and Bruno Carmassi as Alvise.
The new year found her in revivals of La Fanciulla del West at Naples,
Milan's Carcano and at Turin where she was joined by Voltolini and
Apollo Granforte. The Dal Verme hosted Tina in Il Trovatore with
Zinetti, John O'Sullivan and Benvenuto Franci in October, and after
eleven performances of Les Huguenots at Bologna with O'Sullivan, Poli
returned to Barcelona for Aida with Aurora Buades and Lazaro, Tosca with
Lazaro and Les Huguenots with Cassini and
Tina debuted at Cairo on 27 January 1923 as Gioconda and continued her
season as Minnie and Santuzza, after which she repeated all three roles
at Alexandria. Santuzza was the role of her return to Milan's Teatro
Lirico in May and on 11 August she appeared at Venice's Lido di San
Nicola in Aida with the riveting Gabriella Besanzoni. In November,
Trieste saw Poli as Gioconda and on the 22nd, she sang in a gala
performance of Aida at Rome's Costanzi in honor of the King and Queen of
Spain. Zinetti, De Muro and Enrico Molinari completed the stellar cast
and the conductor was Mascagni. Tina's year ended at Mantua with four
performances of Tosca, after which she appeared at Brescia's Teatro
Grande in Loreley. Neapolitan audiences appreciated her Trovatore
Leonora and Romans admired her in L'Africaine with Pasini, Giulio Crimi,
Molinari and Pasero and in Tosca with Crimi and Stracciari.
In the summer Tina debuted at Vienna as Aida with Maria Gay, Giovanni
Zenatello and Viglione-Borghese, a revival that had to be repeated
sixteeen times before moving to Kaiserdam, Germany in September. Berlin
saw her Santuzza before she returned to Barcelona in November for
another daunting season. This time Tina sang in Aida, Les Huguenots,
L'Africaine and a new work, Suor Beatrice. Though Tina Poli Randaccio
is primarily remembered in Italy as the quintessential Italian dramatic
soprano, she had by now appeared in twenty countries, and with the
singular exception of England, had been rapturously received in all.
There would be a twenty first.
1925 began at Naples with L'Africaine and on 30 January, Tina returned
to the Costanzi for La Fanciulla del West with Crimi and Parvis. After
further performances of Tosca and Aida at the San Carlo in February, she
returned to Rome for Il Trovatore and Aida. The Lido di San Nicola at
Venice feted Tina to a serata di gala on 1 August as the prelude to an
engagement as Aida at the Fenice, after which she sang in Tosca at
Rimini with Pertile and Viglione-Borghese. In October, she returned
to Genoa for La Gioconda, and on Christmas Night 1925, at Bari's Teatro
Piccinni, she sang Norma for the first time. Though she sang six
performances, it was not a great critical success, and she decided to
drop plans for several other planned engagements in the role.
Trieste's Teatro Verdi hosted Tina in Abisso and Il Trovatore at the
outset of 1926, after which she sang in La Fanciulla del West at Genoa's
Carlo Felice, in Aida and a Benefit Concert at Rome's Costanzi, and in
Il Trovatore at Naples' San Carlo, the last with Ebe Stignani. Poli had
been singing for a quarter century and it had been an enormously intense
and successful twenty five years, but Father Time, as he will, began to
play his inevitable role. After Naples, it was not until September that
Tina again appeared on a stage, when she debuted at the Athens Arena in
Aida with Franco Battaglia. And so, her year ended.
La Scala beckoned one more time, and, on 9 March 1927, Tina sang in the
world premiere of Guarino's Madame de Challant with Francesco Merli and
Carlo Morelli, and with these three performances she said farewell to
the theater that had presented her as its first Minnie, and in four
Naples again welcomed Tina for Il Trovatore and Aida, and she debuted at
Modena's Teatro Comunale in April as Gioconda, and, a week later she
unveiled the role of Turandot at the Comunale. At Milan's Carcano she
sang in Isabeau and at year's end she returned to Barcelona for the last
time, appearing in Aida and La Gioconda, with identical casts, Zinetti,
Aroldo Lindi, Granforte and Vela.
In February of 1928 Tina sang in Turandot at the San Carlo and in
February, she bade farewell to Naples as Gioconda. In April she
returned to Rome, where, at the newly named Teatro Reale, she sang for
the last time, when she appeared in Il Trovatore. Her last engagement
of 1928 was as Isabeau at Livorno in a revival conducted by Mascagni.
In 1929, Tina sang Gioconda and Santuzza at Milan's Lirico, Turandot at
Nice, which is listed in the program as the French premiere of the
Puccini opera, Aida at La Spezia and Tosca at Firenze's Teatro Verdi.
In 1930, her only Italian engagements were at Genoa where she sang
Isabeau, Aida, and Santuzza, after which she sailed to Caracas for a
season as Gioconda, Tosca, Maddalena di Coigny, Santuzza and Elena in
Mefistofele. There would be no further engagements outside of Italy,
and few enough in her homeland though she continued to appear for
another six years.
In 1931, she sang Santuzza at Bergamo, Gioconda for Italian Radio both
at Rome and Turin, Gioconda in Palermo's Teatro Garibaldi, Nedda at
Isola, and Aida at Biela and at Rome's Teatro Adriano. In 1932 she sang
in Gioconda at Crema and in Tosca at Milan's Teatro Puccini and at
Brescia. 1933 found her again at the Puccini for Isabeau, at the
Adriano for Minnie and Aida, and at Milan's Politeama for Santuzza.
In 1934 she returned to Norma, which had played so minor a role in her
career, and she sang it at both Monza and the Lido of Pesaro. At Pesaro
she also sang Santuzza, a role repeated at Milan's Arena. At year's end
she sang Aida at Milan's Nazionale and at the Puccini she sang in La
Forza del Destino, a role repeated at Foggia in early 1935. At Foggia
she also sang Santuzza. The end came in early 1936, where at Asti and
finally at Modena Tina Poli Randaccio sang her opera farwell as
Santuzza. The career had encompassed nearly fifty roles, and had
presented her on the stages of the World over fifteen hundred times, a
monumental parade of memories for nearly two generations of opera goers.
After retiring from the stage, Tina abandoned musical life almost
entirely, and died at Milan on 10 February 1956.
Her recorded legacy is not large, and among the recordings that I know
are the following. Charles Mintzer has kindly provided me with the
dates, all appearing on a Preiser LP.
Norma finale with Pinza recorded in 1923 according to the Preiser notes,
though I have it listed as 1929.
Ballo in Maschera - Mezzanotte! Ah che veggio? - 1919
Aida - Ritorna Vincitor - 1919
Aida - Fu la sorte with Offers - 1923
Otello - Ave Maria - 1919
Cavalleria Rusticana - Voi lo sapete - 1923
Wally - Ebben (my very favorite of her recordings) - 1919
Madama Butterfly - Un bel di - 1919
Fanciulla - Laggiu nel Soledad - 1922
Suor Angelica - Senza Mama - 1919
Trovatore first act trio with Montelauri and Inghilleri - 1928
Gioconda - Ora posso morir with Inghilleri - 1928.
She also recorded a scene from Isabeau which is on the Carlo Felice
series, and other scenes from Aida, as well as Suicidio. Any help with
these and other recordings known to have been made would be most
appreciated by the author.
As always, and again, to her memory!