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Piero Coppola (1888 - 1971)

Piero Coppola was born into a musical family: both his parents were opera singers and he was himself giving piano recitals at the age of eleven. He studied composition and piano at the Milan Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1909; while a student he befriended Chaliapin and attended Toscanini’s rehearsals for Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. Having begun his professional conducting career at the Teatro Regio in Turin during 1909 with Massenet’s Manon, he shortly afterwards accepted the offer to become assistant to Tullio Serafin, who had succeeded Toscanini as chief conductor at La Scala, Milan. Serafin taught him much. In 1910 Coppola assisted in the first European performances of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West and caught the attention of the composer. The following year with Serafin he attended the concerts of the Turin Universal Exposition organised by Vittorio Gui, where he heard several of the major conductors and composers of the day, including Debussy whom he met personally and whose rehearsals he attended. Coppola was dubious of the composer’s capabilities as a conductor, recalling, ‘He stopped beating time to turn the pages.’




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