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Giuseppe Borgatti

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Giuseppe Borgatti
Giuseppe Borgatti

Giuseppe Borgatti (Cento, March 17, 1871 – Reno di Leggiuno, October 18, 1950) was an Italian dramatic tenor with an outstanding voice. (See Michael Scott, cited below, for a laudatory appraisal of his singing.) The creator of the title role in Umberto Giordano's verismo opera Andrea Chénier, he subsequently earned renown for his performances of the music of Richard Wagner, becoming in 1904 the first Italian tenor to appear at the Bayreuth Festival. He sang a variety of leading roles at La Scala, Milan, from 1896 until 1914, but deteriorating eyesight caused by glaucoma put a premature end to his stage career, after which he turned successfully to teaching.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Q&A with Steve P. Borgatti


Steve Borgatti - Social network analysis is basically the study of how people are connected to each other. We study is the set of relations among a set of entities, could be an organization, it could be a country, it could be a school. What we do is we map them and then construct metrics to try to characterize like, “What is the structure of that network?” and try to figure out why does it have the structure that it does. And we also look at the individual and see, “So where is that individual located in that structure?” It’s hard to find something that is not organized as a network. If you’re trying to understand something about the world around you, you kinda have to learn something about networks. They sort of act like pipes and through a network things can flow from person to person. Particularly in organizations, which is what I study, it’s how things get done. It’s how work gets done. It’s how we coordinate you know the 370,000 people that work for IBM. How do they all work together to get something done? It’s through formal and informal networks. I mostly study centrality, which is the concept of the advantage that accrues to a node by virtue of its position in the network. So some nods are more central and there’s certain advantages to that. So for example, one way in which you could be central is that you’re not far from everybody else in the network, there are few steps in between. People like that tend to hear things faster. So if information is flowing through the network, they hear it early when they can take advantage of it. One of the things that central people have is that they are connected to lots of different pots, different parts of the network. This part over here is talking about certain things, and this part is talking about certain things, and the person that happens to be connected to both can realize that the problem that they’ve got has already been solved by that group and they can really provide a lot of value. The big data issue. Normally, particularly me, my work is done with surveys. I take 500 people and I do a survey, I ask them a bunch of questions and it’s all voluntary. They provide the information if they want to, but you can’t do really large groups with that. If you wanted to study the structure of the network of IBM, we’d want to use some other means like maybe look at the e-mails trafficked that goes from person to person within the organization. Or maybe we’d go to Twitter or something like that, we’re not actually talking to each person and getting each persons permission to do that, so now we’ve got some privacy issues. And that’s going to be the case increasingly as we use Facebook data, Twitter data, and so on. We’ve got to resolve that. It may not be a legal issue, but I think is an ethical issue. Also an issue of getting people to participate. If people think that their data are being used and we’re not somehow paying them for that kind of data or in some way helping them out with it, there’s no reason for them to do it. About a decade ago, the chair of my department, Dan Brass, made a strategic decision that we were going to be excellent and we were going to be excellent in social networks and management. He started to bring some really good minds developed a really great concentration and that’s why I came. I was at Boston College and I came here because I couldn’t resist the idea of a management department that was focused on social networks. And it’s been a fantastic decision because the moment I came here my productivity went up. The College of Public Health has a lot of network people. I’ve seen new hires now in Communication and Education. Throughout the campus there’s a lot of interest and having that many people together makes it possible to do things that you just can’t do otherwise. We created the LINKS Center for Social Network Analysis, and one of the things that the LINKS Center does is that we put on a workshop every year to teach people how to do social network analysis. We have trained now over a thousand people. And we do that with a staff of 28 instructors and assistants, and the only way to field that many people is to have this huge concentration here and have all of our graduate students doing the same thing and all of our faculty. So it is an ideal place to do what I’m doing.


Borgatti was born into a poor rural family from the Province of Ferrara in northern Italy and grew up illiterate, according to the music-performance historian John Rosselli. This handicap did not prevent Borgatti from finding work as a bricklayer/stone-cutter. He was also called up by the authorities to discharge a compulsory period of military service. Luckily, a wealthy patron happened to hear him sing. Struck by the inherent quality of Borgatti's voice, the patron arranged for him to have professional singing lessons and acquire basic educational skills. His voice teachers included Alessandro Busi in Bologna and, later, Carlo d'Ormeville.

In 1892 (some sources say 1893), Borgatti made his operatic debut at Castelfranco Veneto, singing the role of Faust in the opera of the same name by Charles Gounod. A string of performances at other Italian opera houses ensued in mainly lyric parts. Eighteen ninety-four saw Borgatti successfully undertake the role of the Chevalier des Grieux in a notable production in Venice of Giacomo Puccini's Manon Lescaut. Later that same year he appeared at another major venue, the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan, as Lohengrin (his first assumption of a Wagnerian part). His career was now gaining real momentum but he would not become a major opera star until 1896 when, at Milan's La Scala, he sang in the premiere performance of Andrea Chénier to great acclaim.

Although Borgatti continued to appear in a number of Italian operas after 1896, earning particular renown for his performances in works by Giuseppe Verdi, Puccini and the various verismo composers, he fell strongly under the spell of Wagner's music dramas. He worked closely with La Scala's principal conductor, Arturo Toscanini, from 1898 through into the early 1900s, and proceeded to master all the main tenor parts of the Wagnerian repertoire, namely, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Walther, Tristan, Siegmund, Siegfried and, finally, Parsifal. In 1898, he toured South America with a first-class troupe of Italian singers which included his fellow tenor Francesco Tamagno, the soprano Luisa Tetrazzini and the baritones Mario Sammarco and Eugenio Giraldoni. He also visited Spain and Russia.

In 1901, he took part in a "grand concert" at La Scala that had been organised to mark the recent death of Verdi. Toscanini conducted the concert and among the array of soloists participating in it with Borgatti were Tamagno and the rising tenor star Enrico Caruso. Borgatti was accorded the honour of being the first Italian tenor invited to sing at Germany's Bayreuth Festival in 1904. Both Cosima Wagner (the composer's widow and the festival's director) and the important Wagnerian conductor Hans Richter praised Borgatti's voice and artistry. In 1906, he made a different venture into the field of German opera when he sang Herod in the La Scala premiere of Salome by Richard Strauss. Two years later, he was called upon to perform at the new Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.

Good-looking and solidly built—as photographs attest—Borgatti is described in contemporary reviews of his performances as having possessed abundant reserves of stamina and strong histrionic ability in addition to a smooth, well-schooled voice of robust size. Modern-day critics, including Scott, J.B. Steane and John Freestone, have praised him, too, for the clarity of his diction, the limpidity of his tone and the fineness of his phrasing. He took pride in the fact that even after he took on the heavy Wagnerian repertoire, he was still able to put across a bel canto aria like "Una furtiva lagrima" (from Gaetano Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore) with lyrical ease. Oddly enough, despite his exceptional attainments as a singer and interpretive artist, he never performed in London or New York City.

At the height of his career, in 1907, Borgatti began losing his sight due to glaucoma. This affliction grew steadily worse, obliging him to retire from the operatic stage seven years after its onset, even though his voice was still in excellent condition. He kept giving concerts, however, and the theatre in his home town of Cento was named in his honour in 1924. By this juncture, he was blind in both eyes. His last public performance occurred in Bologna in 1928. He taught singing in Milan following the curtailment of his opera house career. His best known pupils were the English lyric tenor Heddle Nash (1894–1961) and the German lyric baritone Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender (1897–1978).

Borgatti married one of his singing teachers, Elena Cuccoli. They had a daughter, Renata Borgatti (1894–1964), who became a concert pianist. Borgatti died at a resort town near Italy's Lake Maggiore in 1950, aged 79.


Giuseppe Borgatti's singing is preserved on fewer than 20 acoustic discs that he made in Milan for Fonotipia Records and the Pathé company in 1905 and 1919 respectively. They include extracts from four different operatic works by Wagner, all sung in Italian, and one aria each by Verdi ("Niun me tema" from Otello) and Puccini ("E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca; Borgatti had been La Scala's original Cavaradossi in 1900). For some reason, he recorded nothing from his breakthrough opera, Andrea Chénier, or from some of the other Italian operas with which he had become especially associated, such as Mefistofele, Aida, La traviata, La Gioconda, Pagliacci, Manon Lescaut and Fedora. He did, however, commit to wax his interpretations of two short examples of lieder by Robert Schumann. Like the Wagner pieces, they are sung in Italian. Borgatti's acoustic recordings are available on various CD anthologies, including those issued by the Symposium label (catalogue number 1199), EMI's "La Scala Edition, Volume One" (CHS 7 64860 2) and Nuova Era Records (PH 5110).

In 1928, he recorded several rare sides electrically for the Columbia company.

Overall, Borgatti's recordings did not sell well; and are major rarities in the record collecting world. The electric recordings made in 1928 are as rare (perhaps rarer) as the earlier recordings. The general view (see Scott and Steane above) is that Borgatti's art was too subtle for commercial success on record. It must be added also that for all the conoscenti's admiration, some of his work (on record) is as slipshod or dull as any other singers' work. For example, the electric recording of Niun mi tema (from Verdi's Otello) has for the most part little insight, nor breadth of phrasing compared with the supposed musically illiterate Francesco Tamagno whose every utterance holds the listener's attention. Those cursed with perfect pitch and others will notice also that Borgatti's intonation (his ability to sing in tune) is sometimes slightly suspect.


  • Scott, Michael, The Record of Singing, Volume 1, Duckworth, London, published 1977.
  • Rosenthal, Harold & Warrack, John, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera, second edition, Oxford University Press, London, published 1979.
  • Steane, John, The Grand Tradition: Seventy Years of Singing on Record, 1900-1970, Duckworth, London, 1974.
  • Freestone, John, liner notes to Symposium Records, UK, Compact Disc 1199, published 1997.
  • Rosselli, John, Singers of Italian Opera, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, published 1992 and reprinted 1995.
  • Phillips-Matz, Mary Jane, Puccini: A Biography, Northeastern University Press, Boston, published 2002.
  • Biographical sketch
This page was last edited on 18 March 2018, at 21:09
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