Margherita Carosio’s father Natale Carosio was a singing teacher and composer who oversaw his daughter’s vocal studies, which later continued at the Paganini Conservatory in her home city of Genoa. She first performed in public in concert when only fourteen and made her stage début in 1924 at Novi Ligure, near Genoa, in the title rôle of Lucia di Lammermoor. Shortly afterwards Margaret Sheridan, the Irish soprano then active in Italy, recommended her to Covent Garden for the rôle of Feodor in Boris Godunov, singing opposite Feodor Chaliapin in 1928. This was clearly a formative experience, Carosio later saying that it made her realise what it meant not just to take on a rôle but to become it. In the same season she also sang Musetta/La Bohème.
With her light, flexible, attractive voice and appealing stage manner Carosio was soon in demand throughout Italy, singing rôles such as Amina/La sonnambula, Norina/Don Pasquale and Oscar/Un ballo in maschera, in which she made her début at La Scala, Milan, in 1929. She remained active at La Scala until 1955, her rôles there including both the familiar (most notably Rosina/Il barbiere di Siviglia and Adina/L’elisir d’amore) and the unfamiliar, for instance the Queen of Shemakha/The Golden Cockerel, Volkhova/Sadko and Zerlina/Fra Diavolo. She created the rôles of Egloge in the world première of Mascagni’s Nerone (1935) and of Aminta in the Italian première of Richard Strauss’s Die schweigsame Frau, both at La Scala.
As Carosio’s career developed she moved into slightly heavier repertoire, becoming especially known for her portrayals of two central operatic studies in frailty, Mimì/La Bohème and Violetta/La traviata, the rôle in which she returned to London in 1946 with the company of the San Carlo Theatre, Naples; she later appeared in the capital with great success as Adina with an ad hoc opera company. As late as 1954 she created the rôle of Amelia in the Italian première at La Scala of Menotti’s Amelia al ballo.
In an interesting quirk of her career, it was Carosio’s indisposition in 1949 that provided Maria Callas, who replaced her as Elvira/I puritani at the Fenice in Venice, the opportunity to demonstrate a new approach to bel canto performance. Following her retirement from the operatic stage in 1959 Carosio enjoyed a second career as a journalist and music critic in Genoa.
During the last days of the 78rpm era Carosio recorded a number of sides for EMI. Her vocal charm, expressivity and spontaneity are evident in all of her recordings, which can be recommended without reservation.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers).
Role: Classical Artist