Ebe Stignani 1903-1974

Ebe Stignani était une mezzo-soprano italienne, considérée comme l’une des plus éminentes mezzos de sa génération.

Elle naquit le 10 juillet 1903 à Naples. Elle a suivi sa formation musicale au Conservatorio Musicale San Pietro a Majella de Naples. Elle a étudié le piano, le chant et la composition. Son professeur de chant, Agostino Roche lui a conseillé de ne pas exploiter son registre supérieur, qui était pourtant facile, en devenant soprano. Au cours de ses cinq années chez Roche, elle a travaillé sur le solfège et les gammes tout en étudiant l’harmonie et la littérature chorale et lyrique. Après cinq ans au conservatoire, elle a été immédiatement retenue par le célèbre Teatro San Carlo de Naples, où elle fit ses débuts en tant qu’Amneris en 1925.

Ebe Stgnani dans le rôle d’Amneris (Aida de Verdi)

En 1926, appelée par Arturo Toscanini pour une audition, elle décrocha un contrat pour La Scala et y commença une longue carrière. Son premier rôle à la Scala fut la princesse Eboli (Don Carlo) où elle fit un triomphe. De 1926 à 1953, Ebe Stignani resta membre de la troupe de la Scala et fut la titulaire principale des rôles dramatiques de contralto et de mezzo. Elle participa ainsi à des opéras comme La Gioconda, Götterdämmerung et Der Freischütz. Compte tenu de la taille et de la force de sa voix, on lui a confié beaucoup de rôles wagnériens, tous étant chantés dans la langue du pays comme c’était la coutume en Italie. De plus elle endossa les grands rôles de Verdi comme Ulrica, Azucena, Preziosilla et encore Fidalma dans Il matrimonio segreto de Cimarosa, Carmen, Adalgisa (Norma), Marina (Boris Godunov), Dalila et le rôle qu’elle aimait par-dessus tout, Orfeo (Orfeo ed Euridice).

Ailleurs en Italie, ses rôles au Maggio Musicale Fiorentino furent la Grande Prêtresse (La vestale) de Spontini et Fenena (Nabucco) en 1933. En 1940, elle fut engagée pour le rôle plus important d’Arsace (Semiramide). Pendant ce temps, d’autres opéras en dehors de l’Italie l’ont invité pour divers rôles.

Ebe Stignani (à droite) avec Maria Callas dans Norma de bellini

Elle a chanté à Londres à partir de 1937, pour ses débuts en tant qu’Amneris, et y revenant périodiquement jusqu’à son Adalgisa face à Maria Callas en 1952 et 1957. Les États-Unis ne l’ont entendue que dans les opéras de San Francisco (1938 et 1948) et de Chicago (1955), où ses emplois comprirent un mémorable Il trovatore avec Callas et Björling.

Un récital reçu avec enthousiasme au Carnegie Hall en 1948 n’a pas eu de suite au Met car le contrat qui devait l’engager en 1939 a été annulé par le déclenchement de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, mais elle a chanté avec succès en Amérique du Sud ainsi que dans toute l’Europe.  Parmi les rôles qu’elle a enregistré figurent Amneris (deux fois), Adalgisa (deux fois), Eboli, Preziosilla et Laura.

Ebe Stignani a chanté plus d’une centaine de rôles dans sa carrière qui a duré plus de trois décennies! Sa dernière apparition fut Ulrica à Florence en 1957. Elle a pris sa retraite à Imola en 1958 où elle est décédée le 5 octobre 1974 à l’âge de 71 ans. L’opéra de la ville d’Immola porte maintenant son nom ainsi qu’un concours de chant lyrique.

Le Théâtre municipal Ebe Stignani à Imola. C’est en 2004, grâce à la restauration du Théâtre de l’Observance qu’il a été possible de restaurer ce théâtre historique. La restauration fut complexe et la structure a pu ouvrir à nouveau ses portes le 7 avril 2010, en redonnant à la ville d’Imola un théâtre de prestige, un lieu de connaissance, de rencontre et de confrontation.

Ebe Stignani avait une voix d’une puissance et d’une richesse extraordinaires avec un très large registre. Le critique musical André Tubeuf évoque «une voix, une projection, une ligne idéalement prédisposée à Verdi». Elle avait des talents d’actrice limités sur scène, du fait de sa petite taille et de quelques rondeurs, mais elle compensait cela par son intensité dramatique.

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