The year was 1981 and I had already participated in interviews with a number of well-known singers on New York radio when I asked Renata Scotto if she would be willing to do one. At that time I wasn’t certain that she would be able to set aside the time meet with me due to her busy schedule. Renata Scotto was the undisputed prima donna of the Metropolitan Opera in the 1970s and 80s so I was thrilled when Renata said “yes” and you will hear the interview today exactly as it was broadcast on November 4, 1981.
When I arrived for our meeting Renata offered me a delicious espresso and we got right into the interview. We begin by discussing the three soprano roles of Puccini’s triptych of one-act operas, Il Trittico. She was the first to sing all three roles in the same evening at the Metropolitan Opera. The discussion moves on to her interpretation of Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s Macbeth and her collaboration with different conductors in performances of this role. She enjoyed success at Covent Garden, Ravinia, and in New York in this opera. At the time of the interview Renata was preparing for upcoming performances at the Metropolitan Opera of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and she relates how reading books, studying plays, and research into the historical and theatrical characters were such an integral part of how she works in creating her interpretations. Another topic was how she approached her work in the recording studio when she had the opportunity to make a second version of an opera she had recorded previously; in this case Verdi’s La Traviata. She had very definite opinions about how her concept had changed in her approach to this opera in the 18 years that separated the two recordings. She said that although she enjoyed the first recording, the second is much more in-depth in terms of the character of Violetta and closer to the intentions of the composer. There was an effort to clean up the old tradition and to sing the music as the composer wrote it by being more faithful to the score. She then turned to French roles, first discussing Massenet’s Manon which she was due to return to for the first time in many years. A number of other French roles were mentioned including one that may come as a surprise. Listen to the interview to find out. Roles in Mozart operas that she hoped to add to her repertoire was the next topic. Following that we discussed her Christmas album and she related a lovely story about how one of the songs that she sings is a dedication to her mother. I asked her if there were any roles that she wanted to do in the future and the interview closes with a discussion of oratorios and other non-operatic works that were of interest to her either in performance or recording. It was a delightful afternoon filled with charm, great candor, and insight into the life of a great opera singer. She is not only a great musician but a lovely and delightful lady as well. I enjoyed our conversation very much and I hope you will enjoy hearing it.