May 22, 2016

Antonio Sangiovanni

The name of Sangiovanni is esteemed not only in Italy, but in all countries where the divine art of song is appreciated. From England, Russia, France, Germany, Australia and America, people go to him to receive the instruction that he knows so well how to impart with judgment and skill.

Antonio Sangiovanni was born at Bergamo in 1832, but appears much older. His constant study in early life, his assiduous application to teaching later, his sedentary habits, together with his sensitive organism, made early inroads upon a delicate constitution. He received his rudimental instruction from his father, who was a distinguished singer in the church at Bergamo. Sangiovanni then went to the Conservatory at Milan, where he soon gave proof of great talent. Besides being a master musician, he was gifted with a beautiful tenor voice, which was brought to perfection in the art of song under the tuition of the celebrated Rubini, his uncle. It was Rubini himself who procured for the young man an engagement at the Italian Opera in Paris, where he made a successful debut, singing with such artists as Alboni, Ronconi, Lablache.

Sangiovanni’s career as a singer was a short one, on account of delicate health. But while he appeared it was a series of uninterrupted triumphs. From Paris he went to London, Belgium, Spain, and America, and everywhere met with most flattering demonstrations. He travelled for five years with Alboni as leading tenor and director, or more in the capacity of a maestro, or critic, for it was with him that this famous contralto studied scores. In 1860 he was appointed teacher at the Royal Conservatory, Milan. He gave such proof of skill in instructing as to attract the attention of the most celebrated foreign singers, who came from all parts of the world to study their operas with him, and gain that exquisite finish in expression and phrasing which perhaps no other master ever excelled. Sangiovanni has finished and brought upon the lyric stage more artists, perhaps, than any other master in any age. He is a finisher of the voice. Lamperti, who was also a teacher in the Conservatory, and who at one time was considered a rival, was a voice-builder, but Sangiovanni is a finisher. Although their methods were entirely different, they did not conflict. Each gave such a wealth of information that it was hard to give up either. I found it so, and did not give up either until I was obliged. Lamperti and his wife invited me to accompany them to their country villa on the bank of the beautiful lake Como. Then I parted with the "dear old master," Sangiovanni—the favorite expression of all his pupils, in their deep regard for him. He is as tender and kind as a father, and as gentle and sensitive as a mother. His wife, who is much younger and as fresh and blooming as a rose, is also a musician. She was his pupil when a girl. He has a daughter a musician, and a son, who spent a year in America for the purpose of learning the English language. One musically precocious son contracted consumption from an attack of pneumonia and passed away at the early age of 11 years. The death of this child nearly broke the heart of the devoted Sangiovanni.

M. Augusta Brown, “Antonio Sangiovanni,” Werner’s Magazine, June 1984, Page 225.

Note: Antonio Sangiovanni was the teacher of the great American dramatic soprano Lillian Nordica, and one of a handful of eminent old Italian school singing masters, including Manuel García, Francesco Lamperti, Gaetano Nava, Domenico Scafati, and Luigi Vannuccini. 

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