GIUSEPPE KASCHMANN, signore delle scene by Giusy Criscione

Edizione Communita di Lussinpiccolo, pp 406  Trieste 2012

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About a year ago the “Community of Lussinpiccolo” published this magnus opus about one of their homegrown kids the legendary baritone Giuseppe Kaschmann. Lussinpiccolo (Mali Lošinj in Croatian) is a town and municipality in the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, on the island of Lošinj, in western Croatia. The “Community” is an Italian association of people from Lussinpiccolo no longer living on the island. The association (about 2000 members) was founded in Trieste in 1998 for the purpose of maintaining and spreading the culture of the island of Lussino. The Kaschmann biography is one of their more recent publications.
Born (1850) on the island of Lošinj (Lussino) in what is nowadays Croatia, Joseph Kaschmann was the son of an Austrian father who would die seven years later and a local mother, Eugenia Ivancich, from Lussinpiccolo (Mali Lošinj). Being possessed of a fine natural voice and a facility with languages, he abandoned a planned career in law, studying singing instead with Ivan Zajc in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. He also took lessons from Alberto Giovannini in Udine, Italy.

His first public performance occurred in Zagreb during 1869. He was some time later cast in the lead role in a production of the first full scale Croatian opera, Mislav, on October 2, 1870. Six years later he made his Italian operatic debut at Turin (in Gaetano Donizetti's La favorita). Engagements in Venice, Rome, Bologna and Trieste followed. Before long he had established himself as one of the best baritones in Italy, making an impressive debut at La Scala, Milan, in 1878 in Don Carlo.

(photos courtesy Charles Mintzer collection)

He reached the peak of his success as a singer in the 1880s and 1890s, building an international reputation (as Giuseppe Kaschmann) and performing at such important venues as the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in Germany (in 1892 and 1894) and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City (in 1883 and 1896), as well as continuing to appear at La Scala. Audiences in Spain, Portugal, Russia, Monaco, Egypt, Brazil and Argentina also had an opportunity to hear him perform during his prime but he never sang in England. In 1907, he was granted permission to go back to Zagreb by the Austrian government, which in those days controlled Croatia. For many years he had been prevented from returning to Croatia because, as a young man, he had allegedly deserted from the Austrian army following the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This ban was lifted only after Papal intervention on his behalf. Kaschmann’s final years were spent as a teacher at the Naples conservatory. Salvatore Baccaloni studied with him. Kaschmann died in Rome in 1925. His daughter Bianca remembered that shortly before dying he hummed, with the sweetest of voice, the main theme from Hans Sachs’s aria. A sudden hiccup broke the voice; he stopped and uttered “Me, who never hot a wrong note!”

Kaschmann was particularly renowned for his performances in operas by Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner. Towards the end of his stage career however, as the quality of his voice began to deteriorate due to age, he switched to the buffo repertoire of Rossini, Donizetti and other composers of comic operas. In 1903, he made 5  recordings in Milan for the British Gramophone & Typewriter Company and (1) They show that he possessed a fluent and flexible Italianate voice which was characterised by an extremely prominent vibrato (which was not liked in English-speaking countries) and aristocratic phrasing. Reputedly he was an accomplished actor, too, exuding a memorable stage presence.


As late as 1921-22, he was still singing roles in comic operas such as Don Pasquale and Il barbiere di Siviglia. He also taught singing. His finest student was Salvatore Baccaloni, a celebrated Italian buffo bass. Rome became his final home and he died there in 1925 as an Italian citizen (by adoption).
The book (high quality printing ) written by Giusy Criscione ( a great-great granddaughter of the baritone’s sister) is a marvel. Criscione has drawn on the family archive and the numerous high quality illustrations (black and white and in colour)  alone are worth purchasing the book. Collectors will delight to see that the chronology included was done with the help of Carlo Marinelli.  Another asset is the separately included detailed genealogical table (in colour). A repertory index is also included yet a general name index is sadly missing. If classical vocal singing history is your thing get the release before it is out -of-print, it is likely to be so before too long.

(1) the five G&T recordings (arias from Don Carlo, Ernani, Amleto, I Medici and Otello) have been released on CD by Symposium  (CD 1065). Ward Marston’s release ‘The Edison legacy’ (vol. II 53014-2) added three more previously unpublished recordings (arias from Dinorah, Otello and a song).