Graziella Sciutti

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Graziella Sciutti, opera singer, director and teacher: born Turin 17 April 1927; married 1955 Robert Waboske (one daughter; marriage dissolved); died Geneva 9 April 2001.

The Italian soprano Graziella Sciutti was an enchanting artist who burst upon the international scene at Aix-en-Provence at the age of 24 with devastating effect. She cast her spell over audiences at Glyndebourne, La Scala, the Holland Festival, Edinburgh, Salzburg, Vienna, Covent Garden and San Francisco. Her repertory ranged from Cimarosa and Paisiello to Menotti and Stravinsky, but Mozart and Rossini provided the roles in which she excelled ­ Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Despina in Così fan tutte, Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Fiorilla in Il turco in Italia.

Sciutti was born in 1927 in Turin and studied at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. She made her concert début in 1949 at Venice, singing 18th-century Italian songs, and her operatic début in 1951 at Aix-en-Provence as Lucy in Menotti's The Telephone. The performance also included Cimarosa's Il matrimonio segreto, in which she sang Elisetta, the "plain" daughter. Aix fell madly in love with Sciutti, and she returned the next year as Susanna and in 1953 as Despina, while in July 1954 she created the title role of Les Caprices de Marianne by Henri Sauget there.

Meanwhile, earlier that summer Sciutti made her Glyndebourne début as Rossini's Rosina, scoring a great personal success. During a visit to the Holland Festival in 1957, she sang Anne Trulove in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress; the coloratura passages in Anne's aria held no terrors for her. She returned to Glyndebourne in 1958 to sing Nannetta in Falstaff, one of her most delightful roles, as well as Susanna. In early May the company had already given four performances of Falstaff in Paris before the main season opened in Sussex. The following year she sang Despina at Glyndebourne.

Throughout the second half of the 1950s Sciutti appeared at La Scala. On 26 December 1955 she took part in the inaugural performance at the Piccola Scala, singing Carolina, the "pretty" daughter, in Il matrimonio segreto. Carolina became a favourite role, which she sang with the Scala company at the Edinburgh Festival in 1957, and also in Vienna, with her usual triumphant success. Other parts that Sciutti sang at La Scala were Papagena in The Magic Flute, the title role of Piccinni's La Cecchina, the Countess Adèle in Le Conte d'Ory, Norina in Donizetti's Don Pasquale, Rosina in Paisiello's Il barbiere and the title role of Paisiello's Nina.

Sciutti made her Covent Garden début in 1956 as Oscar, the page, in Un ballo in maschera; as usual, everything about her performance was perfect, her appearance, her singing, her acting, and as usual the entire audience succumbed to her charm. She also sang Nannetta and Despina with the Royal Opera. In 1971 she returned to Glyndebourne to sing Fiorilla in Il Turco in Italia. She came back in 1977 for La Voix humaine, Poulenc's monologue by an unnamed woman (Elle) in despair over her abandonment by a lover. In a new departure, she directed the production herself.

Sciutti evidently found direction satisfying, and in the 1980s staged many operas in the United States, including New York and Chicago. She also taught at the Royal College of Music and in Aix-en-Provence. She made a large number of recordings, and the clarity of her tone, the neatness of her coloratura and the perfection of her diction comes over well. But the charm of her appearance, the magnetism of her personality, the delightful grace of her movements ­ those gifts need live performances, or the memory of them.

Elizabeth Forbes