(February 7, 1889 – May 24, 1936)
Claudia Muzio was an Italian soprano.
Her international career was one of the most successful of those in the early part of the 20th century.
Her father was an opera house stage manager whose engagements during her childhood saw her become very familiar with major opera houses while still an infant.
With her family her father took her to London at the age of 2 so she became fluent in English before returning to her native Italy at the age of 16 to study music with Annetta Casaloni a piano teacher and former operatic mezzo-soprano who had been the original Maddalena in the world première of Verdi's Rigoletto.
Ms Muzio then continued her vocal studies in Milan.
She made her operatic début in Arezzo in 1910 playing the title-role in Massenet's Manon.
Thereafter she made rapid progress leading to débuts at La Scala in Milan as Desdemona in Verdi's Otello in 1913 and then to Paris in the same role before debuting in London at Covent Garden in Puccini's Manon Lescaut in 1914.
Following great acclaim in London she stayed on to sing other roles including Mimi and Tosca with Enrico Caruso then she was invited to appear at the Metropolitan in 1916 to sing Tosca.
Again it was so successful that she continued to sing at the Met for the next six years. While at the Metropolitan she was invited to create the role of Giorgetta in Il Tabarro in the world première of Puccini's triple-bill operas, Il Trittico in December of 1918.
In 1919 at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires she first appeared in Catalani's Loreley and thereafter she sang there in no less than 23 different operas until 1934 earning the nickname of "la Divina Claudia".
Between 1922 and 1932 she also became a regular in Chicago after having a falling out with the management of the Met (How many singers have had that experience?) and in 1932 she performed Tosca at the inaugural performance at the new War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.
Other notable roles in her repertoire included Aida, Santuzza, Maddalena in Andrea Chénier, and Leonora in Il Trovatore, Leonora in La Forza del Destino and the role which she is most identified with, Violetta in La Traviata. Many said she was the greatest Violetta of her times.
Overall, Claudia Muzio was famous for the beauty and warmth of her voice. It was not a particularly large voice but as she aged she acquired considerable richness of tonal colouring which was very appealing.
Combined with an ability to employ pianissimo dynamics to the legato line, she was sometimes criticised for using it too frequently.
Regardless, it proved she was not afraid to use the full dynamics of her voice to put greater life into her characterisations. Even today from the recordings she left, one can clearly hear a very beautiful voice with sound technique and expressive mastery that is second to none.
Stage wise, she cut an impressive figure. Being tall and full-figured she was also rather elegant allowing her to convey a powerful impression of being "inside" the person or the character she was playing.
Although a dedicated, hard-working performer, Claudia Muzio always remained modest and somewhat aloof or reclussive off stage despite her undoubted popularity and her ever increasing fame and wealth.
Much admired among her collegues, many of the leading singers of her day including Ebe Stignani, Eva Turner, and Alfred Piccaver all expressed the highest regard for her abilities.
Regularly partnering leading tenors such as Caruso, Gigli and Martinelli she was a lady who was clearly at the peak of her career.
In the great stock market crash she reportedly lost a lot of money due to the imprudent investment of her money by a manager who was also rumoured to be her lover.
In 1929 she married a man Renato Liberati, seventeen years her junior but just a year later in 1930 she started to experience some health problems.
Claudia Muzio continued singing and recording but in May of 1936 after a short illness, she died in a Rome hotel of what was officially described as heart failure aged just 47.
At the time there was a lot of speculation about the cause of death and some even went as far as to suggest suicide but it was never more than unsubstantiated rumour.
Understandably there was an outpouring of grief internationally and the Times of London commented "Her death has been received here with the utmost consternation, as she was highly valued for her gifts both as a vocalist and as an actress."
Claudia Muzio is buried in the Cimitero del Verano in Rome.