TOTI DAL MONTE
Toti dal Monte (real name Antonietta Meneghelli) trained initially to become a pianist, studying at the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory in Venice. However after sustaining an injury to her hand she turned to singing instead, studying with Barbara Marchisio at Mira, near Venice. Having made her operatic stage debut in 1916 at La Scala, Milan as Biancafiore in the local premiere of Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini, she then sang in several smaller Italian theatres and in concert as well as undertaking further study with Antonio Pini-Corsi. At the Teatro Massimo, Palermo she appeared in 1918 as Gilda / Rigoletto and in the title role of Mascagni’s Lodoletta.
In 1921 Dal Monte sang in a performance at Turin of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 conducted by Toscanini, who engaged her for La Scala. Here she achieved great success as Gilda during the 1921– 1922 season, going on to become one of the leading coloratura sopranos active in Italy’s principal opera houses, including Milan, Rome and Naples.
Dal Monte’s American debut came in November 1924 with the Chicago Civic Opera; and the following month she created a strong impression at her Metropolitan Opera debut in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor. Time magazine wrote of her performance: ‘Mme Dal Monte cadenzaed, bravuraed, languished, trilled, palpitated. Her hands were expressive, her figure squat, her voice limpid. Loud, long was the applause.’ The only other role she sang at the Met was Gilda in a single performance during February 1925, but she continued to appear in Chicago until 1928 and sang in a single season at San Francisco in 1926. She appeared as Lucia and Rosina / Il barbiere di Siviglia at Covent Garden during the 1925–1926 season.
During the remainder of the inter-war period dal Monte enjoyed considerable international success, appearing throughout Europe (Barcelona, Berlin 1933, Budapest 1934, Lisbon, Madrid, Monte Carlo 1925 and 1933, Paris 1924, Zürich 1931 and 1937) and South America (Buenos Aires 1923, 1927, 1928) and Rio de Janeiro 1921–1927). She took part in three tours of Australia during the late 1920s as a member of an opera company organised by Dame Nellie Melba, enjoying a popular and critical success. Between the two prima donnas, an ageing Melba and the younger dal Monte, there was no rivalry: instead they threw bouquets after each other’s performances. Throughout the 1930s dal Monte continued to appear at La Scala, in a small repertoire that extended to Amina / La sonnambula, Linda / Linda di Chamounix (1940) and Norina / Don Pasquale.
Towards the end of her operatic stage career she moved into slightly heavier roles, for instance Mimì / La Bohème and the title part in Madama Butterfly, which she recorded complete with Gigli in 1939 for HMV/EMI. She sang in concert in Berlin in 1940 and in Vienna in 1942. After World War II her appearances were few, but included Piacenza (Rosina, 1947) and the Verona Arena (1949). In parallel with her operatic work dal Monte developed a career as an actress which continued after she had ceased to sing in public. She appeared on-stage in comedies by Carlo Goldoni and also in films. These included Assi della risate (1943), Cuore di Mamma (1954) and Anonimo Veniziano (1970), her last. She was also active as a teacher, in Milan, Rome, Venice and as far afield as the USSR. Her pupils included the sopranos Dolores Wilson, Gianna d’Angelo, Halina Lukomska and Marilyn Tyler.
Dal Monte’s vocal accuracy, brilliance and ease of intonation, combined with her textually sensitive phrasing, made her one of the great coloratura sopranos of her generation. Her recordings, relatively few, are of high quality.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).