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DUSOLINA GIANNINI

Dusolina Giannini was born into an extremely musical family. Her father, Ferruccio Giannini, was an operatic tenor who had sung with Patti and had emigrated to the USA when he was seventeen years old; her mother Antonietta Briglia-Giannini was a fine violinist; her brother Vittorio a distinguished composer, and her sister Euphemia taught singing at Curtis Institute. When only twelve years old, Dusolina sang La Cieca / La Gioconda in her father’s small opera company, followed by Azucena / Il trovatore. She was heard by the Polish soprano Marcella Sembrich who foresaw considerable potential and took her on as a pupil in New York.

After four years of study, Giannini was suggested by Sembrich as substitute for the soprano Anna Case in a 1923 concert at Carnegie Hall. Her singing won high critical praise and many offers of work quickly followed. She sang in concerts in the USA, including the New York Philharmonic with Bruno Walter, and in London during 1924; undertook tours of the USA, Canada and Cuba during 1924–1925 and appeared in concert in Berlin in 1925.

In the same year Giannini made her professional operatic stage debut at Hamburg in the title role of Aida, followed by Santuzza / Cavalleria rusticana. She sang regularly in Hamburg, also appearing in Vienna and Berlin (Carmen and Aida, the latter under Walter). Giannini enjoyed great success in 1928 when she appeared at the Royal Opera House, London as Aida (in which she sang opposite Pertile), Santuzza and in the title part of Madama Butterfly. She undertook further coast to coast tours of the USA, and by the early 1930s had made successful appearances in Berlin, Copenhagen, Geneva, Vienna, Prague, Zürich, Nuremberg, Oslo and Monte Carlo, in addition to touring Australia and New Zealand.

At the 1934 Salzburg Festival Giannini sang Donna Anna / Don Giovanni under Walter; her performance was praised by the New York Times as ‘…Mozart singing such as is rarely heard these times, admirably encompassing the grand manner and essential style of the music’. At Salzburg the following year her role was Alice Ford / Falstaff with Toscanini conducting.

Giannini made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York as Aida in 1936, winning praise for her temperament and passion. Although she remained with the Met until 1941, she was assigned few roles: Donna Anna and Santuzza (from 1938) and Tosca (from 1939). She sang with the San Francisco Opera in 1939 and 1943 and led the first performance of the New York City Opera in 1944 as Aida, later appearing with the company as Carmen, Santuzza and Tosca. At the Paris Opera in 1936 Giannini sang Donna Anna and in 1938 created the role of Hester Prynne in the first performance of her brother’s opera The Scarlet Letter at Hamburg.

After the end of World War II Giannini toured Europe during 1947, and sang with the state operas of Berlin (1949) and Vienna (Carmen, 1950). During 1951 she attempted Amneris / Aida with the New York City Opera, but had to retire after the first act, marking the end of her stage career. Her farewell appearance in concert was in Berlin in 1956, after which she opened an opera studio in Zürich in 1962.

Giannini’s generous and passionate singing may be heard to great advantage in her 1928 complete recording of Aida on the HMV label.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).


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