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Piero Cappuccilli (b1929)

Piero Cappuccilli was born into a naval and opera-loving family, from whom he inherited a love of the sea and of underwater swimming but not, initially, an interest in singing. However, encouraged by his family, he auditioned in 1949 at the local opera house where a retired singer, Luciano Donnaggio, was beginning a second career as a teacher. Despite Donnaggio’s enthusiasm, Cappuccilli still felt that a future career as an architect seemed more promising and it was only the offer of free lessons that persuaded him to study seriously from 1950. With Donnaggio he worked on applying his extraordinary breath control, developed while swimming, to singing, and in particular to sustaining a phrase and developing the technique of messa di voce.

In 1955 Cappuccilli auditioned for La Scala, Milan and the panel, extremely impressed, urged him to enter the Viotti Singing Competition. After winning the first prize, he was engaged by the Teatro Nuovo, Milan, to appear as Tonio/Pagliacci in 1957. The following year he sang Montfort/I vespri siciliani at Palermo under Tullio Serafin, who invited him to take the part of Enrico in his forthcoming stereo recording of Lucia di Lammermoor with Maria Callas for EMI’s Columbia label. The producer, Walter Legge, subsequently cast him as Masetto in his celebrated recording of Don Giovanni under Carlo Maria Giulini.




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