One of several Italian baritones whose vocal endowment made them veritable lions among singers, Riccardo Stracciari differed in timbre from the equally celebrated Titta Ruffo. If Ruffo’s voice seemed to have been cast from bronze, Stracciari’s was swathed in ermine from its substantial bottom register to its exuberant, resounding top. Moreover, Stracciari used his formidable instrument with great artistry, more refined and less visceral than that which characterized Ruffo’s approach. Stracciari remained in good form into his early 50s, remarkable enough given his active performance schedule. His complete recordings of Rigoletto and Il barbière di Siviglia, made when the baritone was 53, are vivid examples of a voice and art well preserved; moreover, they were done with several other important singers of the day, such as Mercedes Capsir, Dino Borgioli, and Salvatore Baccaloni. After studies at the conservatory in Bologna, Stracciari sang in an operetta chorus while continuing his voice training with Umberto Masetti. His debut came not in opera, but as a soloist in an 1898 performance in Florence of La resurrezione di Lazzaro, one of a trilogy of cantatas by contemporary composer Lorenzo Perosi. His stage debut took place mere days later, when he sang in La bohème at Bologna’s Teatro Duse. While his star was not a shooting one, his progress thereafter was steady over the next half decade. Beginning with the 1900 – 1901 season, Stracciari sang in Lisbon, returning for the company’s 1902 – 1903 season. La Scala welcomed him in 1904 and he sang there intermittently until 1909. Stracciari made his Covent Garden debut during the theater’s 1905 autumn season, singing Rigoletto, Amonasro, Giorgio Germont, and the Count di Luna. Several critics, while admiring the baritone’s polish and musicianship, found Stracciari’s voice as yet somewhat subdued. That proved his only season at Covent Garden. The following year, Stracciari ventured to New York, where his Metropolitan Opera debut took place as the elder Germont (with Sembrich and Caruso) on December 1, 1906. Again, first impressions were muted, W.J. Henderson charging the baritone with “throaty” voice production and a “pallid” stage personality. Writing about subsequent appearances, Henderson substantially modified his opinion. Although he remained for just two seasons, Stracciari acquitted himself well, but faced intense competition from others on the Met’s roster of distinguished baritones. Thereafter, the singer concentrated on performances in Italy, broken by occasional forays to other opera centers, such as Madrid and Paris (1909) and Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colón (1913). Two more American engagements brought Stracciari to Chicago (1917 – 1919) and San Francisco (1925). In Chicago, his Rigoletto made a good impression, likewise his Scarpia, elder Germont, and Don Carlo (Ernani). He also took part in a January 18, 1918, Grand Gala. For his second season in Chicago, he added Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Antonio in Linda di Chamounix, Rossini’s Figaro, Tonio in I Pagliacci, and Fabrizio in Luigi Ricci’s Crispino e la Comare. During his single season at San Francisco, Stracciari was heard as Scarpia, described by critic Redfern Mason as exhibiting “flinty hardness and Roman severity.” His other roles that season included Germont, Manfredo in L’amore dei tre re and his ebullient Barber (Rossini). Primarily singing in Italy, Stracciari remained a potent artist even into the 1930s. After beginning teaching in 1926, he gradually reduced the number of his appearances, bidding official farewell to the stage in 1942.
Riccardo Stracciari and his wife.
Boris Christoff and his teacher, the baritone Riccardo Stracciari, Rome, 1942.
Giacomo Rimini, Riccardo Stracciari, unknown, Mme Stracciari, Giovanni Zenatello
Cleofonte Campanini, Maria Gay, Eva Tetrazzini, Luisa Tetrazzini, unknown – New Jersey 1917