Battistini, Mattia

Italian baritone, 1856 - 1928

“La Gloria d’Italia - Il Re dei Baritoni”

Biographical notes:

He was born in Rome and brought up in Contigliano, a village near Rome. His father, a professor of anatomy at Rome University, would have preferred his son to take up a career in medicine or law, but from the beginning Mattia showed a prodigous musical talent. He studied with Venceslao Persichini (who also taught Francesco Marconi, Titta Ruffo and Giuseppe de Luca). While still a student he sang in public. His debut was in Donizetti’s La Favorita in 1878 which was an immediate success. In the first three years he toured Italy and appeared in roles of La Forza del Destino, Il Trovatore, Rigoletto, Il Guarany, Gli Ugenotti, Dinorah, L’Africaine, I Puritani, Lucia di Lammermoor, Aida, Ernani, as well as taking part in the world premieres of several “new” operas. What a repertory for a young singer! He went to South America in 1881 for the first time, where he travelled for more than one year. By his returning, he appeared in Barcelona and Madrid where he sang in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. His success in this role was enormous. In 1883 he came to Covent Garden where he appeared opposite Marcella Sembrich, Francesco Marconi, Edouard de Reszke and Adelina Patti. In 1888 he travelled to South America again. It proved to be his last trans-Atlantic trip. He never appeared at the Met or any other American opera house. He was said to develop a horror of the Atlantic-crossing. He more and more orientated his career to Imperial Russia. He used to travel to Warszaw, St. Petersburg and Moscow like a prince, with 30 trunks, each one embossed with the initials, ‘M.B.’, and each one containing a wardrobe of different stage costumes! Warszaw (then in Imperial Russia) was the place where the famous Italian vocalists gathered at the turn of the century. Battistini’s first recordings (1902) were made there. Battistini was a close friend to the Tsar’s family. He was the most acclaimed singer of his time by the Russian aristocracy. He returned to Russia regularly for 23 seasons! Other cities he appeared in were Paris, Lisbon, Barcelona, Madrid, Milano,  Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Budapest. After Worldwar I he toured with his own company. His career lasted almost 50 years! He gave his last concert performance one year before his death, his voice was still in  very fine condition.


In the title-role of Thomas’ “Hamlet”

Come il romito fior (1911)


In the title-role of Massenet’s “Werther”

(the composer adapted this opera especially for him)

Ah! Tutto il cor è qui! (1911)


Adored in Imperial Russia, a close friend of the Tsar

As Eugene Onegin

Se dell’imen la dolce cura (1902)

In the title-role of Rubinstein’s “The Demon”

Deh, non plorar (1902)


Mattia Battistini is generally considered to be one of the great figures in 20th century vocal history. His recordings are unique examples of a vanished vocal culture. He marks the end of a vocal epoch that reaches far back into the 19th century. None of the singers to follow had this kind of elegance and finish of style.

It may come as a surprise to hear a voice that seems far more comfortable in the tenor than in the baritone range. His upper middle register was of extraordinary beauty, the low register astonishingly weak. In the tradition of the 19th century there existed the vocal category of a “Baritenore.” Some roles (e.g. Rossini’s Otello) were especially written for this type of voice. If one listens to Battistini’s recordings from the point of view of historical development, one will immediately acknowledge his singularity. He is a true singer’s singer.


My favorite recordings:

- Se dell’imen la dolce cura (Title role in Eugene Onegin / Tchaikovsky / G & T 1902)

- Largo al factotum (Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia / Rossini / G & T 1902)

 O Lisbona, alfin ti miro (Abayaldos in Dom Sebastien / Donizetti / G & T 1906)

- Eri tu che macchiavi (Renato in Il Ballo in Maschera / Verdi / G & T 1906)

- La Favorita - all arias (Alfonso in La Favorita / Donizetti / G & T 1902 and 1906)

- Ernani - all arias (Don Carlo in Ernani / Verdi / G & T 1906)

- Ah per sempre io ti perdei (Riccardo in I Puritani / Bellini / Gramophone 1911)

- Come il romito fior (Title role in Hamlet / Thomas / Gramophone 1911)

- Di provenza il mar (Germont-père in La Traviata / Verdi / Gramophone 1911)

- Averla tanto amata (Nelusko in L’Africana / Meyerbeer / Gramophone 1912)

- Per me giunto è il dì supremo...O Carlo, ascolta...Io morrò (Posa in Don Carlo / Verdi / Gramophone 1913)

- All songs by Tosti and Denza (Gramophone 1911 - 1912)


As Posa

Per me giunto è il dì supremo (1913)


“The pure, silk quality of his tone in a delicate cantilena was a joy, yet he lacked neither vigorous energy nor the vibrant power and depth of expression color that go to the make-up of a convincing dramatic singer. The flexibility of his organ and his rare vocal agility made him a complete master of the Rossinian roulades and fiorituri. He was more than a most excellent actor...”

The renowned music critic Herman Klein on Battistini’s Figaro


As Rigoletto

O mia Gilda (1913)


As Renato

Eri tu che macchiavi (1906)


Recordings: (selection)

The Complete Recordings Vol. 1 (1902 - 1911, indispensable because of the excellent sound)


Recital (Arias by Mozart, Flotow, Donizetti, Gounod, Verdi, Thomas)

Preiser - LV

Mattia Battistini - Il Re dei Baritoni

Preiser - LV

Mattia Battistini Vol. 1 - 3


You will find this singer on most of the historical vocal compilations


“My school is in my records.”

...Elegance and finish of style, coupled with a consummate mastery of phrasing and expression. That is Battistini...