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His delivery of the solo was sublime: He sang most of the major Verdi baritone roles and took part in the first Italian staging of Don Carlo , in Bologna in , under the supervision of the composer. Verdi, wanting to test out the abilities of Cotogni, privately heard him in several of the key pieces from Don Carlo. He was also an exponent of the elegant but technically demanding bel canto music of Gioachino Rossini , Gaetano Donizetti , Vincenzo Bellini , and Saverio Mercadante.
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He sang roles from the new Italian verismo literature, the French grand opera tradition, and some Wagner. He was particularly proud of his Don Giovanni , a role that he learned from his predecessor, the Italian baritone Antonio Tamburini , and which Cotogni then passed on to the inheritor of his traditions, Mattia Battistini.
He had been on the board of examiners at the entrance examination, and had chosen me then and there to be one of his students. I consider it a privilege to have known Cotogni.
He was not only a great artist, but also an exceptionally good and generous man who took a personal interest, not only in the musical progress of his students, but also in their material welfare, going so far as to send anonymous gifts of shoes, an overcoat or even money, when he thought they were needed. He was completely free from the pettiness and envy that are common to so many singers. Cotogni immediately decided that his own innings had lasted long enough, and he set about training the younger man as his successor.
Battistini was somewhat taken aback. Now, there are certain traditions attached to this role as sung at the Imperial Theatre; let me explain them to you. He left for Rome the following day, and never sang in opera again. So great was his prestige that the Academy of Santa Cecilia promptly offered him a professorship.
When I arrived, he had been teaching there for twenty years or more. I had never known anyone like Cotogni. It thrilled me to sit in his class and think that here I was, being taught by someone who had himself been one of the greatest singers in Europe.
Moreover, one felt somehow ennobled by his very presence. Where, I demanded, outraged, could one find a greater, more eminent teacher? The training of my voice, he said, was now his responsibility. Cotogni was over eighty years of age, and his energy was failing. I held out stubbornly as long as I could, but Falchi was, after all, the director of the Academy, and in the end I felt obliged to follow his advice.
I hardly knew what explanation to give Cotogni, and as for Rosati, I entered his class unwillingly and with a very bad grace. Yet it is a fact of which all his friends were aware that Cotogni suffered from an impediment in his speech which in ordinary conversation was painfully evident.
He did not stammer — people who stammer badly but do not hesitate when singing or reciting are not uncommon. He made a whistling sound with the sides of his tongue against his teeth that was worse than a lisp. The moment he began to sing it entirely disappeared. Cotogni non senti in tal modo la frase. He returned shortly thereafter in fact outfitted for the countryside, with muddy clothes. Seeing him in that getup, rather than disturbing him, I tried to hide, but he had seen me and without giving me time to utter a word, he reached out his hand and said: Mariani already wrote me about you, and I have the pleasure of seeing you here and hearing you Come, come with me.
I was no longer myself: The duet was my forte, and except for one point where I interpreted differently from the will of the author, nothing bothered me. However I just sang it the way I felt it, perhaps even in defiance of a warning, and Verdi stopped, looked at me and said: That crescendo gives a good effect.. And now to finish, sing the death scene. I put into it all the ardor of my soul, and because of the emotion, I felt my face getting wet with tears!
I finished exhausted, but an ineffable joy soon flooded my heart when I realized that the maestro was crying too! Go ahead to Bologna and tell Mariani I cried hearing you sing!
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Retrieved 6 August Ricordi di una artista, Antonio Cotogni. Retrieved 30 July Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani — Volume Retrieved 3 August The Memoirs of Beniamino Gigli. The New York Times. Retrieved 1 August Variazioni-cadenze tradizioni per canto.