Why a competition dedicated to Tullio Serafin?
Tullio Serafin Opera Singing Competition was born from the will of Andrea Castello, artistic director of “Vicenza in Lirica” festival and president of “Archivio Storico Tullio Serafin”, an association that boasts the great-grandchildren of Maestro Serafin among its members.
The Competition is a useful opportunity to create synergies between different musical realities that pay particular attention to young opera singers and musicians, following the example, methodology and dedication of Maestro Serafin, a careful discoverer of talents.
Why the choice of opera roles as a prize?
The artistic direction has chosen opera roles as competition prizes to create “opportunities” for the young winning artists and give them a chance to debut in the role. Reading the various testimonies received by Archivio Storico Tullio Serafin, one notices more and more the attention of Maestro Serafin in making talented voices debut on the stage.
The “debut” for Maestro Serafin meant first of all a school, as he himself prepared the young artist for their debut, through hours and hours of lessons even in his home. This is why we decided not to set up a traditional theatrical production, but to design a training course that will lead the artist to his debut through the “Opera Studio”. With this spirit of discovery of new voices, preparation and debut, we want to “revive”, albeit in a still limited way, the spirit of Maestro Tullio Serafin.
Why Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore in 2019?
The choice of representing Donizetti’s work L’Elisir d’Amore is not causal and is connected to the official celebrations that “Archivio Storico Tullio Serafin” established in 2018 for the fiftieth anniversary of the Conductor’s death, receiving the Medal of the President of the Republic honor.
The opera L’Elisir d’Amore was first conducted by Maestro Serafin in 1898 with his name angrammed in Alfio Sulterni to avoid problems with the Milan Conservatory since he had not yet graduated.
After graduating in composition, Maestro Serafin made his debut in Parma at Teatro Reinach conducting two operas, one of which was L’Elisir d’amore by G. Donizetti.
He was born in Rottanova di Cavarzere (Venice) and at the age of 11 he moved to Milan, where he played the viola in the orchestra of Teatro alla Scala conducted by Arturo Toscanini, later becoming his deputy. Less than twenty years old he made his debut as conductor in L ‘elisir d’ amore under the pseudonym of Alfio Sulterni. When Toscanini decided to move to New York, he took his place as musical director of La Scala. He held this post from 1909 to 1918, with an interval between 1914 and 1917 during the First World War. He then returned briefly from 1946 to 1947.
He later joined the staff of the Metropolitan Theater of New York in 1924 and remained there for over ten years and 683 performances, after which he was appointed Artistic Director of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. During his long career he recorded with successful opera singers such as Rosa Ponselle and Joan Sutherland, and with Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi. He conducted the orchestra of Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in the recording of Otello with tenor Jon Vickers in 1960. Serafin always expanded his repertoire by conducting first performances of works by contemporary composers such as Alban Berg, Paul Dukas, and Benjamin Britten.
He also conducted new works by important Italian and American composers such as Franco Alfano, Italo Montemezzi, Deems Taylor and Howard Hanson.
In his long career Tullio Serafin developed a vast operatic repertoire, including 243 operas, ranging from Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti to composers of the twentieth century. He also enjoyed a reputation as a talent scout for the youngest and most promising opera voices of the time. His greatest discovery was undoubtedly that of the Greek singer Maria Callas, although he liked to repeat that the only outstanding singers he had known were Rosa Ponselle, Enrico Caruso and Titta Ruffo. It was Serafin who brought to light, in the twentieth century, a work like the Norma, by Vincenzo Bellini, after having Rosa Ponselle study it for two years. Many of the works he directed were broadcast on the radio in the golden age of this media – the thirties and forties – and his commitment in this sense is testified by his participation, as an interpreter of himself, in the 1940 film directed by Giacomo Gentilomo and dedicated to EIAR Ecco la Radio!
The representation of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck that he conducted for the first time in Italy, in Rome in 1942, remains his particular merit and even an act of cultural courage.
After a very long career, which lasted six decades and is comparable only to that of Arturo Toscanini (he conducted both Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti), he died in Rome in 1968.
His remains rest in his native town, Rottanova di Cavarzere.