Obituary: Alvino Misciano

A lyric tenor who was an excellent musician, a fine actor who retained his youthful good looks into his fifties, the Italian opera singer Alvinio Misciano enjoyed a successful career lasting more than 25 years. Though he toured Australia and South Africa, visited North and South America, Cairo, Vienna, Prague, Paris and London, he sang mainly in Italy, where he appeared at all the major opera-houses, particularly at La Scala, Milan.

He created roles in a number of operas, including Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites, works by Guido Turchi, Renzo Rossellini and Valerio Mortari. His voice, bright-toned and firmly focused, though not very large, was unsuited to Romantic 19th-century music, but his repertory contained, besides many 18th- and 20th-century operas, several Rossini roles, Verdi's Alfredo in La Traviata and Fenton in Falstaff, and the title role of Mascagni's L'amico Fritz.

Misciano studied at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome with Gino Scolari and the Rome Opera School with Mario Basiola. He made his debut in 1946 in Rome as Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor. After touring South Africa and Australia with Italian companies, in the early 1950s he appeared at Trieste, Palermo and Rio de Janeiro.

He first sang at La Scala in 1956, as Mephisto in Prokoviev's Fiery Angel, then in 1957, he created the Father Confessor in Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites there. The same year he sang Gon- zalvo in Cherubini's Les Abencerages at the Florence Maggio Musicale, and made his US debut at Chicago as Wilhelm Meister in Thomas's Mignon. He returned to Chicago in 1958 for Fenton, Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi and Almaviva in Rossini's Barbiere di Siviglia, which he also sang at Dallas.

Meanwhile, Misciano made his only London operatic appearance in February 1958, during a season of Italian Opera at Drury Lane. Mascagni's Fritz is supposed to be middle-aged, and I remember that the tenor (actually 43) looked far too young. In 1958 at La Piccola Scala, Misciano took on one of his finest roles, Fadinard in Nino Rota's Il cappello di paglia di Firenze, adapted from the Labiche farce The Italian Straw Hat. When his horse eats a young lady's straw hat, Fadinard spends his wedding day trying to find a replacement. In the best farcical tradition, the tenor pursued his search with the utmost seriousness.

Rota's opera was a great success, and was repeated the following season, when Misciano took part in the premiere of Valerio Mortari's La scuola delle moglie, based on Moliere's School For Wives, at La Piccola Scala. He also sang Giocondo in Rossini's La pietra del paragone.

The next decade was the busiest in Misciano's whole career. At La Scala he sang Lysander in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream and created Captain Pelikan in Guido Turchi's Il buon soldato Svejk (1962), adapted from the novel The Good Soldier Schweik. At La Piccola Scala he sang Asciano in Pergolesi's Lo frate 'nnamorato, Count Alberto in Rossini's L'occasione fa il ladro and created Il Cugino ("the Cousin") in Renzo Rossellini's Il lingu- aggio dei fiori (1962), adapted from a play by Lorca. He appeared in Genoa, Brescia and Budapest as Alfredo, at the Spoleto Festival as Anatol in Samuel Barber's Vanessa, in Athens as Massenet's Werther, and Paolino in Cimarosa's Il matrimonio segreto, and at Florence as Caloandro in Paisiello's La Molinara.

In October 1962 he began a three-month stint at the Theatre des Champs- Elysees, Paris, as Angelo in Gilbert Becaud's L'Opera d'Aran (based on the screenplay of Robert Flaherty's film), in which an Italian sailor is washed up, half-drowned, on the shore of the Island of Aran. In this entertainment, Misciano's acting ability and youthful appearance were of more importance than his vocal prowess, but it was a very enjoyable performance all the same. Back in Florence, he sang Max in Krenek's Jonny spielt auf (or Jonny suona per voi, as it be-came in Italian). At La Scala in 1966, he sang Fenney in Richard Rodney Bennett's The Mines of Sulphur and created Vaska in Rossellini's La Leggenda del ritorno (taken from an episode in The Brothers Karamazov).

After taking part in the premiere of Luciano Chailly's opera Vassiliev at Genoa in 1967, the following year Misciano sang Alwa in Berg's Lulu for the first time (in Italian) at the Rome Opera. He then embarked with the "Piccolo Teatro Musicale" of the city of Rome for New York, where he sang Edoardo Milfort in Rossini's Cambiale di matrimonio and Almaviva in Pais- iello's Barber at Carnegie Hall, later repeating the two operas in Montreal.

Back in Rome the tenor attempted Sesto, usually sung by a mezzo, in Mozart's La clemenza di Tito and Pietro in Suppe's Boccaccio, before going to Rio de Janeiro for another performance as Alwa, and the Gaoler/Inquisitor in Dallapiccola's Il prigionero.

Appropriately, Misciano made his final appearance at La Scala as Mephisto, the role of his debut there 14 years before, in a new production of The Fiery Angel in 1970. He sang Jim in Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny at Turin in 1971, Prunier in Puccini's La rondine at Venice in 1973, and then retired.

Elizabeth Forbes

Alvinio Misciano, opera singer: born Narni, Italy 29 August 1925; died 10 January 1997.

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