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Tito Schipa (1888 - 1965)

Born into a poor family, Schipa acquired the name Tito, meaning ‘little fellow’ in the local dialect, on account of his stature (his full name was Raffaele Attilio Amedeo). Although academically lazy, he nonetheless displayed a fine singing voice at an early age, being praised in a local newspaper for his singing when he was ten. He was picked out of a school chorus for instruction, sang in the children’s chorus in Carmen and took the child’s solo part in the second act of La Bohème with touring companies that visited Lecce.

The Bishop of Lecce persuaded Schipa’s parents to permit him to be educated at the local seminary, where he often sang in church services and was heard by the Mercadante pupil Alceste Gerunda, who took him on as a private pupil and subjected him to a rigorous regime of vocal exercises to develop his technique. Gerunda presented Schipa in a benefit concert in 1908, to raise funds for him to undertake further study in Milan. There he worked intensively with Emilio Piccoli and was shortly ready to make his debut in 1910 (1909 according to some sources) in Vercelli, as Alfredo / La traviata.



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