Giannina Arangi-Lombardi initially studied piano at the Naples Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella, and then singing with Beniamino Carelli, who taught her as a mezzo-soprano. She made a relatively late début, as Lola in Cavalleria rusticana at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, and continued to sing as a mezzo for several years albeit without great success, appearing as Amneris/ida and Brangäne/Tristan und Isolde at the Teatro dal Verme in Milan and as La Cieca/La Gioconda (Palermo, Parma). Finding that she was more comfortable singing in the soprano range she recommenced her vocal studies, with Adelina Stehle (the first Nanetta in Falstaff) and Tina Poli-Randaccio. She made her second operatic stage début as a soprano in 1923 and was invited to sing at La Scala, Milan in 1924 as Elena/Mefistofele. Her success was immediate and for the rest of the 1920s Arangi-Lombardi was one of the leading sopranos at La Scala, often singing with the company’s music director Arturo Toscanini. She proved to be an outstanding Aida (with Toscanini, 1929), Donna Anna/Don Giovanni (opening of the 1929–1930 season), Gioconda, Santuzza/Cavalleria rusticana (with Toscanini, 1927), Leonora/Il trovatore (with Panizza, 1927), Julia/La Vestale and Lucrezia/Lucrezia Borgia. As a result of her great success as Aida, Toscanini invited Arangi-Lombardi to sing this rôle and that of Leonora/Il trovatore when the company of La Scala appeared in 1929 in Berlin, where she sang opposite Aureliano Pertile and Giacomo Lauri-Volpi.
Elsewhere she was equally successful. She took the title rôle in the 1925 Italian première of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos at Turin, appeared at Buenos Aires in 1926 as Asteria/Nerone (Boito), and sang at the Verona Arena in 1925 (Gioconda), 1927 (Aida), and 1932 (Amelia/Un ballo in maschera). In addition she appeared at the Cairo Opera (from 1924 to 1928), Lisbon (1926, 1927) and at Florence, Genoa and Naples (1933); and was invited by Dame Nellie Melba to participate in her farewell tour of Australia of 1928. During the1930s Arangi-Lombardi extended her repertoire, singing Anaide in Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto at the Florence Maggio Musicale (1933), the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro (Rome, 1934) and Beatrice in Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda (Catania, 1935); she also participated in the Salzburg Festival of 1935 singing Donna Anna with Bruno Walter conducting. Her last appearance was as Elena in I vespri siciliani at Palermo, after which she retired from the stage in 1938, subsequently teaching at the Milan Conservatory between 1938 and 1947 and thereafter for several years at Ankara in Turkey (where one of her pupils was the distinguished soprano Leyla Gencer) before returning to Milan.
Arangi-Lombardi was one of the best-schooled sopranos of her generation. Unlike many of her contemporaries, whose singing was driven by the demands of verismo operas, she sang with a consummate sense of style, perfect phrasing and rich tone, as well as a complete command of dynamics from pianissimo to fortissimo. In addition to an excellent top, a fine middle and a deep register, her voice possessed a dark colour that suited her repertoire very well. She took the leading soprano rôles in four of the Columbia Graphophone Company’s complete recordings made in Milan under the direction of Lorenzo Molajoli: Aida (1928), Cavalleria rusticana (1930), La Gioconda (1931) and Mefistofele (1931), all of which stand as fine testaments to her art. She also recorded individual operatic arias. In general it is easy to understand from listening to her recordings why she was so admired by Toscanini, one of the most demanding of vocal judges.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).