Renata Scotto, the prima donna assoluta of the Metropolitan Opera when I was a very young opera lover, turns 78 on 24 February.
Thanks to YouTube and other online resources, I have been able to revisit some of the many, many performances of hers that I witnessed. In the absence of Scotto’s spellbinding stage presence, some now fall short of the greatness that I recalled, especially given her sometimes curdled tone and mannered phrasing.
That said, the 1977 EMI set of Nabucco led by Riccardo Muti is one of my very favorite recordings of a Verdi opera, and this is due in large part to Scotto, who sings Abigaille’s death scene better than anyone—to my mind. (All of my Callas orfanelli are going to take offense at that statement.)
Listen to the exhaustion and abasement she conveys; the warmth that floods her tone at Vieni, costor s’amavano; the tearful hope at Solleva Iddio l’afflitto; that pianissimo; and, finally, the magic that she and Muti make with Abigaille’s very last phrases.
The Wikipedia article about Scotto is rich in links and information about her long career and many accomplishments.