Maria Callas teacher dies, at 91

Maria Callas teacher dies, at 91


norman lebrecht

November 21, 2021

The US-born voice coach Joseph Giardina has died in Rome, where he taught for the last 20 years of his career.

A Juilliard student, he jumped in at 16 as assistant to Fritz Stiedry at the Metropolitan Opera, working with all the Golden Age stars. He moved to Rome in the 1970s.

Of Callas he said: ‘Callas was a very modest woman, unfortunately she had a sad and troubled life. She was very studious, she was able to spend half an hour trying a trill.’




  • Novagerio says:

    “Callas teacher”? Are you sure? Callas would have turned 98 in a few weeks.
    Don’t you mean perhaps “coach”?

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Agreed. Whenever I read such assertions (and there are many), I remember an Italian voice professor from the 60s at my university who claimed he had taught Beverly Sills. It probably would have come as news to Miss Sills.

      • AndrewB says:

        Yes , Callas’ teachers were Maria Trivella ( who never really received due credit for her work with the young singer) and Elvira De Hidalgo. She also took a few lessons before going to Greece in the New York neighbourhood where she grew up with a Swedish gentleman singer whose name seems to have disappeared in the mists of time.

        Joseph Giardina was a fine operatic coach / repetiteur , conductor and chorus master who made a great contribution which merits respect and I am sure will be remembered by any singers who were fortunate enough to know him . He actually completed his studies in organ and sacred music.

        The two ladies named above taught Callas how to trill and worked on her vocal development, but she had several coaches in opera houses across the world who would have worked with her on musical /interpretive aspects, perhaps whether to place a trill in a specific musical context or not.

        Also appreciate your Sills story especially as she is clearly on record as saying that Estelle Liebling was her only teacher and never made a secret of that.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          Curious, I did a little Google search and found a website “Fluff on the Needle”.

          From a 2014 post:

          It is through Meneghini biography My Wife, Maria Callas, New York, 1982, that we have some more information on Cusinati’s abilities. ‘In Verona there was a voice teacher, Ferruccio Cusinati, who was also chorus master for the operas in the arena. I knew him very well and had enormous respect for him, he had a thorough understanding of the human voice … Even though he did not have the renown that he deserved he was a professional of rare accomplishment. I took Maria to him, and after listening to her, told me that she indeed had a truly remarkable voice. “She is at your disposal” I said. “you must help her to make her voice more flexible, more supple, and in short, eradicate any faults. From now on, she will come for lessons every day… from that moment, Ferruccio Cusinati became Callas’s teacher … Elvia de Hildalgo taught Maria the technique of singing and she opened up the world of music to her, but it was Ferruccio Cusinati who taught Maria all the operas in her repertory … His name never appeared in any of the biographies of Maria, but he was Callas’s teacher, Maria herself has commented in some manuscript notes which she prepared, to refute a Time magazine article that was full of misinformation: “It is not true that my husband asked Tullio Serafin to coach me in my roles and that it was he who taught them to me. My teacher was Ferruccio Cusinati.”’

          Apparently Cusinati continued until the year of his death in 1953 as Callas’s teacher so it is somewhat surprising that so little is written about him. I can’t think why really. I believe he also taught the bass Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (1920-1991) prior to meeting Callas.

  • Concerned Opera Buff says:

    I have never heard a word about this gentleman having anything to do with Maria Callas, ever, from biographies about Callas, books, newspaper and magazine articles by critics, musicians, and friends who knew Callas. If he was a repetiteur at an opera house when Callas was singing there, that is not the same thing as being her coach. I don’t believe the article is accurate.

  • aubry says:

    He was a wonderful coach and musician. I worked with him while in Rome in the early 80s.I comming from a wonderful Conservatory had never encountered the details he gave me in singing. I met Zeani and Rossi-Lemeni through him. Thank you Meastro for your help.