Renata Scotto & Octavio Roca
More than a Diva
Foreword by Placido Domingo
Robson Books, 1986
This is the nice autobiography of one of the outstanding sopranos of the XIX century: Renata Scotto, written in collaboration with Octavio Roca and with an introduction by Placido Domingo. The first thing I have to notice is that this book has been written directly in English and there is no translation into Italian, which is a pity considering that many of her fans have been deprived of the opportunity to know her in her own words. It is also strange and somehow funny, for an Italian reader, to read in English and after a moment find many names of Italian places – not big cities, but very little ones or also villages… But this is only my personal impression and I immediately stop bother you with it and I start talking of the book.
It is entitled More than a Diva, but I have to say that, if you will look strictly at the text, not considering some other aspects such as the writer-singer personality and style, you may conclude that actually this book talks for the great part of Scotto’s career and musical opinions and there is very little space for that promised “more”. She talks very little about her personal life, even if she provides a sketch of her husband’s early life, and also the initial chapters (devoted to her first years) are very careful about what to say: she talks of the war, of the first opera she saw at the theatre, her living in a convent during her years of studies in Milan and finally she arrives rapidly to her debut and international career.
About her career, she never tries to show off herself and limits the accounts of her performances to applauses and journalistic reportages, lingering on extensive quotes only for few operas, and also when she talks about quarrels with colleagues or theatres, she never blames with malice, but skates over: this is the case of Maria Callas’s or Toti dal Monte’s unpleasing behaviours, of the disagreement with the Metropolitan about her repertoire or of La Scala’s attitude during the Moscow tour.
The other important aspect of the book is the author’s effort to explain her ideas about the music she sang. She is a paladin of Verdi and Verismo and talks at length about them, devoting even entire chapters to both.
In the end, I have to say that the “more than a diva” of the title is not to be found in the story, but in Scotto’s style: she is kind, sympathetic and elegant, sometimes she tells also some funny anecdotes, so you can easily imagine her as an accomplished woman with great intelligence and grace. This is the real achievement of More than a Diva.