borgo Rodolfo Tanzi, 13
Arturo Toscanini was born on 25 March 1867 in this house located in “Oltretorrente”, formerly known as Borgo San Giacomo, a proud and politically-restive working-class Parma neighbourhood with a passion for music, especially opera. Toscanini maintained a lifelong bond with this strong and somewhat rebellious part of Parma.
Toscanini’s descendants donated the building to the municipality of Parma in 1967, paving the way for the establishment of the museum, which is rich in historical documents, images, and objects. The Museum, which was thoroughly renovated and overhauled in 2007, is not just a pretext to celebrate one of the greatest musicians in Italian history, but also an opportunity to explore the reasons behind such greatness.
After his studies at the Royal School of Music in Parma and the Milan Conservatory, Toscanini began his musical career as a cello player. His astonishing career as a conductor began in 1886 in Brazil, where he was asked to replace an orchestra conductor who had abandoned the podium: at the tender age of 19, he directed, by heart, Verdi’s Aida. He then performed successfully in the leading European and American theatres, and in 1898 he began a 30-year professional relationship with the La Scala. He was the conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York from 1908 to 1915, when he returned to Italy. In 1928 he became the principal conductor at the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. A committed anti-fascist, Toscanini was hit in the face by a group of thugs in 1931 in Bologna, after refusing to perform the fascist hymn. He thus fled to the United States. In 1936 he inaugurated in Israel the newly-established Palestine Orchestra. In 1937, RCA created for him in New York an orchestra for radio performances, which were broadcast worldwide. In 1946 Toscanini returned to Italy to conduct the inaugural concert at La Scala, rebuilt after being bombed during the war. In spite of his many projects and commitments, his precarious health led to long periods of forced rest. He died on 16 January 1957 at his home in Riverdale, New York City.
The museum’s halls display many meaningful images, including many portraits – paintings and photographs -, a number of personal items, some rare autographs by himself and some of the artists he worked with – from Verdi to Puccini, Ravel, and D’Annunzio -, valuable artistic objects and memoirs from an exemplary life. Some of his most famous photographic portraits still strike the public imagination, and have become icons of opera conducting and sophisticated music in general. Toscanini embodies a highly modern idea that owes much both to his way of understanding the role and function of a conductor, and to the close relationship he established with communication media: from records to radios, and from the printed page to television.