Opera Singer. The archetypal fat Italian basso buffo, he is considered by many to have been the greatest clown in the history of opera. Raised in Rome he got his initial training with the Sistine Chapel Choir then after study with noted baritone Josip Kasman bowed at the Teatro Adriano of Rome in 1922 as Dr. Bartolo from Rossini's "The Barber of Seville". Baccaloni made his 1926 debut at La Scala Milano in Ildebrando Pizetti's now-forgotten "Debora e Jaele" and quickly made a name for himself in such roles as the hired killer Sparafucile from Verdi's "Rigoletto". Though his voice was more than sufficient for serious fare he was counselled by Arturo Toscanini to stick with comedy and heeding the great conductor's advice was over the years seen in all the principal parts of the buffo repertoire including Rossini's Dr. Bartolo as well as Mozart's in "The Marriage of Figaro", Donizetti's quack Dr. Dulcamara who sells "L'Elisir d'Amore", Verdi's fat knight "Falstaff", Puccini's unofficial patron saint of crooked lawyers "Gianni Scicchi", Leporello, the valet to Mozart's "Don Giovanni", and Donizetti's old fool in search of love "Don Pasquale". A bit unusually for a top level star he never avoided small parts as long as there was a pay day to be had and thus he was also frequently seen as the Sacristan from Puccini's "Tosca", as Fra Melitone in Verdi's "La Forza del Destino", and in the twin roles of Benoit/Alcindoro from Puccini's "La Boheme". First seen at Covent Garden, London, in 1928 as Timur in Puccini's "Turandot" he made his American debut in 1930 with the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Fra Melitone and bowed at the San Francisco Opera in 1938 as Leporello. Baccaloni made his Metropolitan Opera debut on December 7, 1940, as Mozart's incarnation of Dr. Bartolo and was to remain with the company thru 1962, popular despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that he was a scene-stealer whose comedic antics sometimes crossed the line into slapstick. First heard in Philadelphia in 1951 as Don Pasquale he returned there often to sing with various ensembles and for a time even had his own traveling Baccaloni Company. He was seen on the silver screen a few times, his credits including "Merry Andrew" (1958) and the 1961 "Fanny", while on television he appeared in a 1955 adaptation of Sigmund Romberg's "The Desert Song" as well as on "The Gale Storm Show", "The Danny Thomas Show", and Johnny Carson's "Tonight" show. Following his retirement from the Metropolitan Baccaloni remained in New York; today a number of records documenting his art are available on CD and some of the complete opera discs he helped cut at La Scala in the 1920s which show him in roles such as Sparafucile that he did not sing during his prime years have been restored.
Bio by: Bob Hufford