(By request from transformingArt) The great Italian baritone Mattia Battistini (1856-1928), popularly known as "The King of the Baritones" and "The Glory of Italy", in "Deh, vieni alla finestra" from Act 2 of Mozart's Don Giovanni. The recording was made for G&T in 1902. The first picture of Battistini in the costume of Don Giovanni comes from Jacques Chuilon, Mattia Battistini: King of Baritones and Baritone of Kings, translated by Thomas Glasow (Plymouth: Scarecrow Press, 2009).
The following biographical profile of Battistini comes from "Cantabile-Subito: A Site for Collectors of Great Singers of the Past" ("Battistini 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 Donizettis 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, LAfricaine, 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 have developed a horror for 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 Tsars 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."