Nicola Rescigno- “O terra addio…”

Maestro and I had some of the best performances of “Aida” I have ever had. The first summers in Rome at Caracalla benefitted from his fantastic guidance. You knew he had a firm grasp on the orchestra and impeccable style, was a part of a lot of Callas history, knew how to work with a strong personality, never behaved badly at all. A grand gentleman.

My arriving at Caracalla for an evening performance would always be in time to see him seated in the first few rows of the public, chatting with the music staff and lots of friends who would come by always to say hello. He looked like he was on a throne with the jacket over the shoulders like a Fellini film. The setting sun would wash his features and his very direct glance would be coupled with a question or two about comfort and rhythms, and always a good natured joke or so, and a winning smile.

I would take my leave always with a hug, and a “bocca al lupo” and he would always smile telling me “I don’t wish it back to you, because you don’t need luck, Millo!…..with that voce splendida che hai!” Never failed to give me courage. We had a lot of fun and made really wonderful music…..God bless you, dear Nicky, we will miss you dearly.

Nicola Rescigno, a well-known conductor and founder of two major American opera companies, died in a hospital in Viterbo, Italy, on Monday, August 4. He had fallen previously and was awaiting surgery for a broken femur. His death was confirmed by his nephew, Joseph Rescigno, of New York.

Rescigno had maintained a residence in a suburb of Rome for most of his adult life and had lived there full-time since his gradual retirement in the 1990s.

Rescigno was born in Manhattan in 1916 of Italian-American parents. His father was a trumpeter at the Metropolitan Opera for 30 years and played briefly at the New York Philharmonic, while several of the elder Rescigno’s brothers and cousins were also professional musicians. Nicola Rescigno was educated at an Italian boarding schooland also obtained a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. He then returned to New York where he studied at The Juilliard School and began a career as a conductor of opera. In the words of Ronald L. Davis, “Since American conductors for opera were practically unknown at the time, young Rescigno was something of a novelty.” (La Scala West: The Dallas Opera under Kelly and Rescigno, Southern Methodist University Press, 2000.)

In 1953, Rescigno was one of three founders of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, along with Carol Fox and Lawrence Kelly. Four years later, Kelly and Rescigno moved to Dallas to found the Dallas Opera where he remained until 1990 while continuing a busy free-lance career that took him to most of the major opera houses of the world. Rescigno was particularly associated with the soprano Maria Callas, but conducted
and recorded with many prominent singers. His performances include the US debuts of Callas and Montserrat Caballé, Plácido Domingo, Dame Joan Sutherland, Teresa Berganza, Magda Olivero, and Jon Vickers. He made a Metropolitan Opera debut in 1978 conducting Don Pasquale, and he led l’Italiana in Algeri and l’Elisir d’Amore in the following season.

Nicola Rescigno is survived by his companion of 40 years, Aldo Marcoaldi, and also by his two sisters, Rita Pignatelli and Dolly Di Napoli both of New York, ten nieces and nephews (including Joseph Rescigno, the well-known opera conductor and artistic advisor of the Florentine Opera Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin), and six grand nieces and nephews.


Born: May 28, 1916
Died: Morning of Monday, Aug. 4, 2008.

~ by aprilemillo on August 5, 2008.

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