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Guest DJ Renata Scotto: Opera, Risks, And Keeping It Real

Renata Scotto has retired from the stage, but she hasn't slowed down — she's now a director and costume designer.
courtesy of the artist
Renata Scotto has retired from the stage, but she hasn't slowed down — she's now a director and costume designer.

It seems Italian soprano Renata Scotto has been taking risks all her life. At age 12, she matter-of-factly declared that she would become an opera singer. At 18, she debuted in the treacherous lead role in Verdi's La Traviata.

Scotto has never looked back. Although retired from singing, she's still busy in the opera world teaching young singers and directing opera productions, even designing costumes.

The 77-year-old soprano is being honored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild Feb. 27, with a special "Met Legends" evening celebrating her career. To mark the event, I asked her to pick a few of her favorite opera recordings for an informal session of listening and conversation.

Read more about Renata Scotto and hear her picks after the jump.

After decades of performing with the greatest singers — from Maria Callas to Luciano Pavarotti — Scotto's giddy enthusiasm for the music is undiminished. She's like a teenager falling in love with opera for the first time, passionate about today's singers — such as coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay and tenor Jonas Kaufmann — and devoted to greats of the past, like tenor Jussi Bjorling.

She's also candid about her own career, saying that she never let her sound overtake her interpretation. Scotto learned her craft from some of the very best. She witnessed the immense dedication it takes by interacting with Callas, and her vocal coach on her famous Madama Butterfly recording worked with Puccini himself.

"My career has always been as a risk-taker," Scotto says. "This is the way I am, I don't know how to explain."

Actually, she explains it rather well. Take a listen to an opera legend still on fire for her art.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Renata Scotto Guest DJ: Opera, Risks, And Keeping It Real

Bellini's Norma: 'Deh! Non volerli vittime'

By Maria Callas

Puccini's La Boheme: Mimi's Death Scene (excerpt)

By Renata Scotto

Wagner's Die Meistersinger: Prize Song

By Jonas Kaufmann

Verdi's La Traviata: 'Addio del passato'

By Renata Scotto

Thomas' Hamlet: Mad Scene (excerpt)

By Natalie Dessay

Puccini's Madama Butterfly: 'Tu piccolo iddio'

By Renata Scotto

Puccini's Manon Lescaut: 'Donna non vidi mai'

By Jussi Björling

Puccini's Manon Lescaut: 'Sola perdutta, abbandonata'

By Renata Scotto