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The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts > Italian Dance

Walter Toscanini, Bibliophile and Collector,
and the Cia Fornaroli Collection of the New York Public Library

Part I

By Patrizia Veroli

This essay was originally published in Dance Chronicle (Volume 28, number 3; 2005), 323-344, and is reprinted with permission of Dance Chronicle (Routledge Taylor & Francis Group). 

©2005 Patrizia Veroli.

The first dance items of what is now known as the Cia Fornaroli Collection entered The New York Public Library in 1954, donated by Walter Toscanini, the eldest child of the great conductor Arturo Toscanini, in memory of his wife, Cia Fornaroli, a celebrated dancer.  Walter was a collector with a mission: to document Italy’s dance heritage and give it the recognition he felt it lacked.  Despite the importance of that heritage in the birth and development of theatrical dance in Europe, at least until the end of the nineteenth century, no history of Italian dance then existed—and still does not.  However, the fact that such a history can now be written is mainly the result of Walter Toscanini’s collection of material that covers nearly five centuries of dance history.  Some documents may be found at other libraries and archives, but only at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division (as it is now known) can one find such a wide array of information in a single place.  A red leather bookplate portraying a ballerina on pointe raising a shawl stamped in gold identifies the items belonging to the Toscanini collection, which Walter chose to call the Cia Fornaroli Collection.

Walter Toscanini was born on March 21, 1898, in Turin, where his father was the principal conductor of the Teatro Regio.  (The choice of name was Arturo’s homage to his recently deceased friend Alfredo Catalani, Walter being the male protagonist of Catalani’s opera Loreley.)  Ten years older than her husband, Cia Fornaroli was born in Milan and was one of the last Italian ballerinas born in the nineteenth century to acquire international renown.  Trained by a number of Italian masters, including Cesare Coppini, Raffaele Grassi, and Caterina Beretta, at the ballet school of La Scala, she was twenty-two when in 1910 Guilio Gatti-Casazza hired her as première danseuse for a season at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where Arturo Toscanini was a principal conductor and where she danced for three seasons, marking the start of a glamorous international career.[a]

From Brazil to Portugal, from Argentina to Spain, in Vienna and several Italian cities Fornaroli was in demand, ultimately crowning her career at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala as prima ballerina during Arturo Toscanini’s directorate, from 1921-1929.  After the death of Enrico Cecchetti in 1928, she was appointed head of La Scala’s ballet school on his own recommendation.  In January 1925 Mussolini began to build his Fascist dictatorship, and in the following years strengthened his grip on Italian institutions.  Because of its international prestige, La Scala was naturally one of his most important targets.  Arturo Toscanini’s resignation in 1929 from the theatre’s directorate—the result of a variety of factors, including his antifascism—left La Scala unprotected from the Fascists, who were waiting in the wings to take control, and Cia’s love affair with Walter, as strongly antifascist as his father, was the main reason for her being removed from the school in 1932.[1]  Mussolini’s military alliance with Nazi Germany, along with increasing blatant political repression that culminated in 1938 in the issuance of racial laws, made life unbearable for Arturo Toscanini and his son.  The maestro, who had stopped conducting in Italy in 1931 as a form of protest against the Fascists but had hesitated to emigrate, made up his mind to leave for the United States to continue his career with the NBC (National Broadcasting Company) Symphony Orchestra.  A few days after his father, it was Walter’s turn.  Forced to resign from the post he held in the advertising office of the Mondadori publishing house,[b] he, his wife, their nine-year-old son Walfredo, and his mother, Carla, boarded the Conte di Savoia in Genoa on October 12, 1938, bound for New York City where all but Carla would live for the rest of their lives.

At that point Walter was forced to leave behind most of the book collection he had begun to amass many years before.  After the first Allied air raids over Milan, which seriously damaged the city and its opera house, relatives packed in boxes Walter’s books, together with the Toscanini family’s furniture, paintings, and valuables, and took them to Ripalta Guerrina, near the town of Crema, a few kilometers away from Milan, where Arturo and Carla Toscanini owned a large farm.  The collection already included such precious items as Gaspero Angiolini’s libretto of the ballet Semiramis (1765), which, while a lieutenant in the Italian army during World War I, Walter had found in an abandoned villa and which he would come to regard in later years as a talisman bearing the sign of his future.[c]

Someday a scholar will be tempted to reconstruct the history of twentieth-century dance collecting.  Every collection is shaped by its owner, but at the same time it serves as a metaphor and representation of the world, shaping its owner’s identity.  The first important dance collector of the last century, Serge Diaghilev, aimed to gather objects representing his taste, his culture, and the quality of a life—his own—which he assumed to be, and which certainly was, unique.  He must also have felt that his status as a collector of art and antique books and scores added much to his identity as an impresario, and he was keen on imparting the art of collecting to his dancers.[d] The nature of Rolf de Maré’s collection was broader than Diaghilev’s: as one of the last Romantic travelers in “exotic” lands, de Maré assembled masterworks of painting alongside tribal objects.  After giving the collection to the Archives Internationales de la Danse, which he founded in 1931, de Maré began to acquire not only precious objects, but also ephemera like contemporary ballet librettos and photographs, whose value was increased by the mere fact of being included in the Archives.  The purpose of the Archives Internationales de la Danse was, in fact, to preserve all traces of dance events and by so doing to create a new and permanent theatre of memory.

Of course, early twentieth-century collecting was indebted to positivism: the eagerness to build “sciences” tended to individualize phenomena, to analyze and categorize them so that the human mind could fully appropriate them.  At the same time, as a result of Romanticism, the need was felt to build a history where each fact, object, and idea could find its rightful place.  With dance, an ephemeral art that struggled to gain a status equal to arts for centuries considered major, the lack of a written repertoire and of a consolidated historiography was dramatically felt.[e] Gathering and appropriating primary sources was held to be essential for understanding things forever gone.  The founding of Walter Toscanini’s dance collection shared that kind of koine, even if, at the beginning, his collecting was restricted to books and linked to his career as an antiquarian book dealer and bibliophile.

Walter’s first bookstore, called Bottega di Poesia (Poetry Shop), opened in 1921 at number 14, via Montenapoleone, one of the most elegant streets of today’s Milan and at the time right at the center of a network of artists’ studios and art galleries.  As he intended, it soon came to be much more than a mere shop: before its closing in 1924, Bottega published a number of books of literature and music, put on sale new, old, and ancient publications, and held twenty-five art exhibitions.[f]  A long-standing desire to make the issuance of a book a cultural event, a desire the twenty-three-year-old Walter shared with a few older associates—all cultivated men with a talent for the arts—soon made Bottega one of the centers of the city’s intellectual life.[2] The space was divided into eight large rooms, three of which were the bookstore, one a reading room, and three for exhibitions and auctions of paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramic, glass, and the like.  The eighth was a room that could be used for lectures and debates.[3] Bottega’s editorial choices were very refined: papers were handmade, covers bore ornaments, bindings followed ancient Italian traditions, and the layout was often enriched by decorations.  The poet and playwright Gabriel D’Annunzio and the actress Eleonora Duse were among the house’s most frequent customers.  “Yesterday Duse was here for a couple of hours,” wrote Walter to Cia is [sic] 1922 “and this evening she has returned here amid my books for a few hours more.  Cia darling, what an enchanting voice she has, and how lively is her aged face, where her two young eyes are sparkling and flashing…she sings, she sings each word in a way old her gestures can surpass.”[4]

Walter had been in love with Cia since their first meeting in Rome in 1919.  This is possibly the time when he started collecting books on dance, along with others especially related to Milan, its history, poets, and artists throughout the centuries.  He was tempted, of course, by the editorial work and, while working at Bottega, took the opportunity to make a book on Cia.  Acquainted as he was with the gorgeous French publications on dance stars like Pavlova and Nijinsky, he produced in an edition of five hundred copies an eighteen-page booklet, L’arte della danza e dell’arte di Cia Fornaroli. A short, anonymous text, attributed to Fornaroli but written by Walter (a practice that became habitual with him),[g] introduced fourteen sepia and bluish reproductions of photographs of Cia.  The cover bore a drawing by the painter Daniele Crespi that portrayed a ballerina on pointe raising a green ribbon that curls to form the letters of Cia’s name.

Besides being in charge of publishing and working in the bookshop, Walter edited Bottega’s bibliographical bulletin, Libri da leggere (Books to Read), in which he informed the readership about the house’s recent acquisitions of old and early books as well as about other new issues.  Thus, when Mussolini passed a law on July 8, 1924, suppressing a free press, Walter did not let the event pass unnoticed in the bulletin’s pages.  However, his associates, and in particular the president of the company, Count Emanuele Castelbarco (his future brother-in-law), decided against taking a strong stand against the regime.  Financial problems helped make this sad decision necessary and Walter resigned from Bottega.  In 1925 he opened an antiquarian bookshop in Milan at number 58 in the Galleria de Cristoforis, now destroyed.  Inaugurated in 1832 and famous throughout the century for its dancing masquerades and splendid shops, the Galleria was a glass-covered street, similar to the contemporary and fashionable “passages” of Paris.  Also, owing to its location a few steps from Piazza San Babila and not far from La Scala, the Galleria provided the city with a glamorous meeting point.

In May 1926 Walter published his first catalogue: manuscripts, incunabula, autographs, Alidine and Bodonian editions, and other treasures of the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries, with the books and their elaborate bindings in leather with golden leather accurately described by Walter according to the rules of the antiquarian bibliographic profession.[h] The shop, however, did not sell enough to cover its costs, being too slow in taking root in a restricted and elite market which was also sensitive to the family’s outspoken opposition to Mussolini, so at some point, in an effort to expand his market, Walter also made his antiquarian catalogue available in English and sometime around 1929 he moved the shop to number 19 via Cerva, a space belonging to his father.  The Toscaninis had lived for years in a three-story seventeenth-century building set between via Durini (with a stately entrance at number 20) and via Cerva, so that Walter, who still live with his family, could reach the shop just by crossing a few inner courtyards.  The transfer, however, could not save the enterprise and he felt forced to accept a post at the important Mondadori publishing house.  In 1933 he also decided to live with Cia and their son, Walfredo, who was born in 1929, at first in a small flat belonging to the Toscaninis at 7 via Ciro Menotti, and a year later in another of their apartments, at 1 via Vitali, a building at the corner of broad and bus viale Maino.  Walter could finally have his own studio and fill the shelves with his many books, marked with the bookplates he commissioned from famous painters and decorators.  He was helped financially by his family, who gave him a monthly allowance and bought him a car, a useful tool in his underground antifascist activities, which intensified during the 1930s.  Walter also assembled and published a series of prints he called La vecchia Milano (Old Milan).  He even pursued his interest in novelties and children’s games and in 1936, on his return from a trip to New York he created with three partners the “Società Editrice Giochi,” a toy company that sold the Italian edition of Monopoly, licensed from Parker Brothers.[i]

A romantic young man, nourished since his adolescence on Nietzsche and symbolism, he approached anything he did with an overflowing passion and temperament.  He could read and write English and French ever since he was fifteen, and had inherited from his father a boundless eagerness for good literature, philosophy, and political theory.  He also inherited the ability to concentrate and a memory almost equal in capacity to his father’s.  In this early period of his life, he often gave expression to his thoughts and feelings in poetry.  During World War I, both father and son were active in the conflict, Walter as a seventeen-year-old volunteer, the maestro as director of military bands, an experience that resounded for a long time in his memory.[j] Immediately after the way, like thousands of other young soldiers facing unemployment and disappointed by politicians in charge, Walter became infatuated with Benito Mussolini’s first political program, where a feverish nationalism joined democratic and socialist demands later rejected by Fascism.  In 1919 Arturo Toscanini himself agreed to stand for Parliament on Mussolini’s slate but was not elected.  Father and son were soon disappointed by the would-be dictator, and their antifascism became more radical as a consequence.

As an only son,[k] even though not musically inclined he closely followed his father’s career but felt the need to establish his own identity.  His family called him “the encyclopedia” because of his wide range and depth of knowledge.  Walter also had a gift for photography, as shown by the pictures he took of Cia and of La Scala’s other ballerinas, now in the Fornaroli Collection.  Early on, he had shown interest in sound recordings.  His father had an intense distaste for recording, owing largely to the very unpleasant experience he had had in Camden, New Jersey, making acoustic recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company with the La Scala Orchestra during its 1920-21 transcontinental tour.  Despite this distaste and unknown to his father, Walter in October 1926 hid a recording machine inside a La Scala box and made test recordings of fragments of his father’s rehearsals in preparation for a Beethoven cycle to commemorate the approaching centennial of Beethoven’s death.  Later, in the 1940s and early 1950s, Walter was to play a crucial role in helping to overcome his father’s resistance to recording.

A passionately adventurous young man, his outstanding scholarship did not change his character over the years or leave him detached from life and its pleasures.  That may help to explain his exhaustive research on Pietro Aretino’s Sonetti Lussuriosi (Lewd Sonnets), a book that had caused a scandal when it was published in 1527, early in the history of printed books in Italy; it contained some poems paired with woodcuts depicting various sexual practices in vivid detail.  Walter enjoyed retelling the story of purchasing the book from a priest who bright it to him hidden in his cassock; although the cleric recognized the nature of the book, he did not want to see it destroyed.  Walter’s research on editions of Aretino and sexual mores of sixteenth-century Italy resulted in a collection of books and documentation that would be noted by the Kinsey Institute on Sexual Research.

His father’s enormous renown could obviously be a rare advantage, but at the same time it pushed Walter to distinguish himself.  He often escorted his father on tour abroad and in 1929 he went with him to New York, where Arturo was to conduct the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra.  For the occasion Walter brought some of his rarest and most expensive books to display in a room of the Hotel Astor, on Times Square, where he and his father were staying.  In an article on Walter in the New York Times, he was portrayed as “an extremely serious young man of business…in spite of the fact that he wears a single eyeglass screwed tight under his right eyebrow.”  Under the caption “Rare books of interest”, a photograph showed him with the detached attitude of a young learned scholar.  He was reported as enthusiastic about the Morgan Library and highly appreciative of the munificence of sponsors whose lack, he stressed, was much resented in Italy.

He did not miss the occasion to describe some of the jewels he had with him, such as a tiny edition of Dante, printed in 1511 in microscopic type, and to tell the story of his career with a touch of self-conceit: “It may seem strange to you to hear a young man like myself saying that he remembers having seen in the Library of the University of Bologna a missal with illuminations dating from the thirteenth or fourteenth century when he was on 14 or 15 years old, but my passion for books dates back to my 11th or 13th year.  I liked games then, as I do now, but I loved books better.  Now I need to make my avocation a vocation.”[5]  He also had some success as a dealer, since, as a daily newspaper reported, he sold Albrecht Dürer’s Passio Christi, printed in Nurnberg in 1511, to the New York Public Library.[l] Of course his family name kept him in the public eye, and in 1932 an article in the glossy Fortune magazine would note that “he sells first editions through his own firm…and writes literary articles for Italian magazines, often under the nom de plume ‘L’intristito (the Saddened Man).”[m] Some time later he would also receive front-page coverage when he uncovered one of the most notorious Mozart forgeries in the twentieth century—fabricated by Tobia Nicotra, who, curiously, was the earliest biographer of Arturo Toscanini.

As an antiquarian book dealer, he received catalogues produced by colleagues all over Europe, and he was informed about the appearance on the market of precious prints, etchings, and books.  In 1930 he bought Carlo Blasis’ Code of Terpsichore from a London shop and in 1932 he purchased the so-called “Giorgio” manuscript, one of the versions of Guglielmo Ebreo’s De pratica seu arte tripudii of 1463, an item in his collection, which he particularly cherished and on which he would do the most research.

During the 1920s Walter had the opportunity to deepen his knowledge of dance and theatre.  Close as he was to his father, who struggled to impose an unfailing respect for musical scores, he must have had the opportunity to reflect on dance, an art with no museums or sound historiography, and no specialized criticism.  Sharing the international milieu of his family, Walter kept himself up to date with what was happening in countries like France and England.  Cia’s dancing was, for him, the revelation of poetry in ballet.[n]  But too much was needed to change dance culture in Italy and his love for Cia pushed him occasionally to act as an impresario and a dance critic under the name Gualtiero de Martini, which he had used since his war poems in 1917-1918.[o]

Fornaroli’s career had been crowned by being named prima ballerina of La Scala by Arturo Toscanini in 1923, once the ballet school was restarted and ballets could be featured during the opera seasons.  Those were legendary years indeed, and not only for Cia.  The eight theatrical seasons from December 1921 to May 1929 marked a period of true splendor for the Teatro alla Scala.  When it reopened after World War I, Arturo Toscanini had managed to transform it into a nonprofit corporation, finally free from stockholder control.  Not only did he conduct most of the operas and concerts, but also he oversaw the house with his uncompromising professionalism.  He completed the renewal of the theatre’s activity he had started between 1898 and 1903, when among other things he imposed the darkening of the house during performances and a lowered orchestra pit.  Now he could form a permanent singing company as well as a permanent repertoire, which included Wagner’s Ring cycle.[p] Brand new operas like Puccini’s Turandot and the Italian premiere of Debussy’s Martyre de Saint Sébastian (starring Ida Rubinstein) contributed to the high-profile seasons regularly covered by the international press.  He also organized a Stravinsky evening (May 9, 1927), at which the composer conducted Petrouchka and Cia danced the Ballerina and Le Rossignol, and welcomed a tour of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, with performances on January 10, 11, and 16, 1927 and of Ida Rubinstein’s company on February 28, March 5, 10, 12, 14, and 17, 1929.  Toscanini was also busy conducting elsewhere, including New York, where he was a guest conductor for the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra for the 1926-1927 and 1928-1929 seasons, associate conductor to Wilhelm Mengelberg in 1929-30, and principal conductor from 1930 until 1936, which included the orchestra’s tour of Europe in 1930.  At the invitation of Wagner’s son, Siegfried, Toscanini conducted at Bayreuth in 1930 and 1931, and after the advent of the Nazi government, when he refused to work in Germany, at the Salzburg Festival from 1934-1937, again refusing to return following the Anschluss in 1938.

While watching operas and ballets regularly, Walter developed precise ideas on the needed modernization of the ballet school, and thanks to Cia’s expert advice and to Walter’s interest, Arturo Toscanini engaged Enrico Cecchetti as the director of the ballet school.[6]  After Cecchetti died in 1928 and Cia was appointed director of the school, in letters he wrote in Cia’s name to La Scala’s managers Walter advocated reforms like the opening of classes to males.[q] He also took the opportunity to get familiar with the La Scala Theatre Museum, which, once a mere archive for the house’s administrative papers and now considerably enriched by donations, was turning into a modern museum.  That was certainly the occasion for him to browse through files of papers and shelves of old librettos and books in the history of ballet in Milan and at La Scala, a topic on which he would write extensively and even consider making a book.[r] Walter contributed articles to La Scala e il Museo Teatrale, the new journal of the association of Gli Amici della Scala, and edited two monographs, Verdi: lettere inedite (Verdi: Unpublished Letters, 1929) and La Scala nel 1830 e nel 1930 (1930).  Both volumes mark the last examples of a refined printing style, which had become the rule during his father’s directorate and which the new Fascist directors would soon abandon.

In La Scala nel 1830 e nel 1930, a survey of once century of the theatre’s activity, a reprinting of Beniamino Gutierrez’ Il 1830 delle scene scaligere e della patria ( 1830 on La Scala’s Stage and in Our Motherland) was accompanied by several articles related to the 1930 season conducted by Arturo Toscanini.  It was illustrated by rare nineteenth-century prints and almanac covers (a few of them reported as belonging to a “Raccolta Cia Fornaroli”, that is, to Walter’s already existing dance library) and it was financed by businesses whose names appeared in refined color advertisements made by some of the most prominent designers of the time.  That Milan had been one of the most ardent centers of the Risorgimento, the Italian nationalist movement sweeping the country during the Romantic age, could still be felt in the volume’s old chronicles.  The closeness of past historical and musical glories to the artistic excellence brought about in the theatre by Arturo Toscanini conveyed the idea (certainly the maestro’s idea and also Walter’s) that the construction of a free and internationally powerful Italy was tightly linked to the highest standards in art.

            In 1932 Walter and Paolo Fabbri, a journalist, started a dance journal, La Danza, the very first (and until 1953 the only) Italian specialized journal of its kind.  Although a number of theatre periodicals featured articles on dance (together with opera), they were owned by impresarios and covered performances with the obvious intention of promoting their artists.  Dance scholarship as such was unknown.  On a handbill produced to launch the journal, the two editors boldly stated that they would accept articles on both classical and modern dance, on music, theatre, social dance, set design, dance history, and even cinema.  The intention was liberal, but the taste and personal aesthetics of both Toscanini and Fabbri rather inclined toward classicism.  Their idealization of Romantic ballet joined with a taste for contemporary design on the cover of the journal: a nineteenth-century print portraying Maria Taglioni in La Gitana was framed by modern silhouettes of ballerinas sketched by the painter Dabovich.  The frontispiece was one of Cia’s most famous photographic portraits, framed by elaborate eighteenth-century decoration.  The message conveyed was clear:  Fornaroli was the Taglioni of the day.

            Although involved in struggling for a high level of professionalism in dance, Walter did not understand modernism, which, like many classicists in the ballet community of the time, he was inclined to see as amateur practice.  Finding much of the present difficult to understand and accept, his dance collection allowed him to enclose himself in a past that he was free to select and order.  Late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century collections were also an answer to the startling technological innovations that were spreading and bringing about a new perception of time and space, which was reflected by the avant-garde arts.  Italy, too, had its Roaring Twenties, years when old social habits seemed to be dramatically changing and comfortable certainties seemed no longer to hold up.  And one has to consider that the strongly conservative shift implied by Fascism was not felt up to about 1928 or 1929.[s] The Toscanini family, however, was artistically conservative: the maestro’s taste would not go as far as Futurism, and Walter shared his views. Collecting gave him a way to manipulative time at will.  As Susan Stewart has remarked about collecting, “Its function is not the restoration of context of origin, but rather the creation of a new context, a context standing in a metaphorical, rather than a contiguous, relation to the world of everyday life.”[7] He could create his “Noah’s Ark”, a world that could help him to keep a consistency in turbulent times.  In order to do so, though, the collection had to become specialized.  Dance was there to provide him a domain where Italy’s past greatness needed to be restored.  Like his father, Walter was an ardent patriot and chose dance for his cultural struggle: the reconstruction of time past as his service to a homeland where Fascism was inventing its own traditions and making the myth of ancient Rome the banner of political predominance and colonial oppression.

            In the early 1930s, however, Walter’s collection seems not as yet to have specialized in Italian materials.  The list of documents named Bibliothèque de Madame Cia Fornaroli, Milan that was sent to de Mare’s Archives Internationales de la Danse (possibly in exchange for other lists of dance items) included autograph letters by Emilie Bigottini, Mlle Duthé, Saint-Léon, Elssller, Preobrajenskaya, and Pavlova as well as prints portraying Augusta Maywood and Céleste Mogador.  Still, there was a stress on Italian artists and ballets: already there were documents on Angiolini’s famous controversy with Noverre on the ballet d’action, together with autograph letters, caricatures, and prints related to Romantic icons like Taglioni, Cerrito, and Grisi and to more recent stars like Sofia Fuoco, Rita Sangalli, Virginia Zucchi, Giovannina Limido, Rosita Mauri, and Maria Giuri, while the Cecchetti dynasty was granted a place of honor.[8]  Not only was each item described, but also each artist was documented with a short biography, often including an appreciation of his or her art.

            Walter’s name as a collector was hidden once more under Cia’s, a stipulation he would insist on all his life.  Was it a desire to magnify the ballerina’s cultural and social status in a dance community where modernist dancers were cultivated women, belonging to a social class usually higher than then one from which ballerinas traditionally came, or was it rather a kind of shyness that kept him from openly using his own name?  His father’s authority and renown must have been clearly embarrassing.  His family name was so much the talk of the musical world that, whatever he did, it might seem too easy for him to attain his goals or too obviously have his success credited to others.  While he contributed to building his father’s everlasting fame (and legend), as he did to Cia’s, he firmly kept his own name from appearing.[t]

            By the mid-1930s Walter’s collection was internationally well known among connoisseurs and dance writers.  In his Preface to his Complete Book of Ballets, Cyril Beaumont acknowledged Walter’s “researches in the history of ballet in Italy,” together with his generosity in allowing him “to draw upon his collection of material relating to Viganò and Manzotti.”[9]  The correspondence kept in the NYPL Dance Division between Toscanini and Lillian Moore proves that the American dance historian addressed him during the preparation of her first book, Artists of the Dance, in 1938.  Still, once settled in the United States, it was probably his wife, Cia, who provided him with a link and an introduction to the dance community.

            When he landed in New York, Walter had no job.  As an exile, he felt bitter and expropriated, although his idealism helped in making the United States his new home.[u]  He had wished to find a post as a librarian at the New York Public Library or at Columbia University through David Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA).  In 1937 Sarnoff had just created for his father the NBC Symphony Orchestra, which was making Toscanini’s conducting even more familiar to millions of American families.[v]  Instead, Sarnoff hired Walter for the RCA-Victor Record Company’s sales and advertising office and used him as a link to his father, whose long professional association with NBS would last through mid-1954.  Walter had to separate momentarily from Cia,[w] who stayed in New York with Walfredo while he rented a house in Philadelphia until, in 1941, the family were finally reunited in Haddonfield, New Jersey, where they lived in two rented houses.  In 1943 Walter was transferred to another office of RCA, based in New York City, and the three of them moved to 2731 Palisades Avenue, an Italianate villa now demolished, two miles from Villa Pauline, where Arturo already lived.  Only in January 1948 did they settle at Villa Pauline itself, at 655 West 254th Street.

            Situated in Riverdale, an area of the Bronx northwest of Manhattan, Villa Pauline was an imposing three-story, twenty-eight-room mansion overlooking the Hudson River, built in the early 1900s in a Tudor Revival style.  It was surrounded by five acres of land, where a stable-garage and another small house had previously been the servants’ lodgings.  Arturo Toscanini, who had immediately fallen in love with the house, rented it in 1939 and, against his wife’s opposition, bought it in 1946.[x]  Carla Toscanini did not like to run such a large house and began to spend more and more time in Italy.  That soon created the need for someone to manage a home that employed several servants.

            Walter and Cia settled on the third floor and, in 1949, when it was clear that his mother, whose health was deteriorating, would not return from Italy again, they moved to the second floor, where Arturo had his bedroom and his musical archive in a studio overlooking the river.  Walter also had a studio that shared the same view and a large, sunny terrace and on the third floor an office with files and shelves for his many books, together with the dance collection, which was kept apart and was equipped with a card catalogue.  As his life became more and more absorbed by his father’s career, Walter’s longing for matters pertaining to the dance contributed to shape the only word that could belong exclusively to him, the place of his solitary questionings and reveries. 

            In 1949, at the dawn of the era of tape recording, Walter realized that preservation of his father’s phonograph recordings, already deteriorating, was vital.  In the 1940s the maestro did not even have a sophisticated audio system in his home, so to overcome both problems, and in the hope of further encouraging his father to embrace the new recording process, Walter, initially with his own funds, purchased the first professional Ampex tape recorder and other audio equipment, which he installed in a basement recreation room converted into a sophisticated sound studio.  From this studio connections were made to a state-of-the-art speaker system installed in the great room above, where Maestro Toscanini could listen at leisure to his recorded performance.  His father later took over these expenses and used them as tax deductions.  What became known as the Riverdale Project finally gave Arturo Toscanini the opportunity to listen to his concerts and recordings through a state-of-the-art, custom-built professional audio system in a most comfortable listening environment.  In so doing, Walter also provided his father, during the last two years of his life after retirement, with a source of enjoyment and continuing contact with the world of music.

            Over the next twenty years the Riverdale Project played an important role in the preservation and promotion of Toscanini’s legacy.  Walter also realized that there was no comprehensive biographical account of his father’s career.  Little or no effort had been made to collect programs and memorabilia, which his father did not encourage or even approve of.  After World War II Walter also brought to Riverdale the printed documents on his father’s career that had been kept in the Milanese family home on via Durini, and added this to the archive he had gathered over more than thirty years.  Among his father’s papers were important letters from famous composers, artists, and writers.  These and other items were later divided among the heirs to the estate, but only after they had been microfilmed at the New York Public Library in 1969.

            In the same detailed and patient fashion as he had assembled the ballet collection, Walter undertook the task of recreating his father’s entire life and career from the very beginning until his death, and beyond.  Every concert he ever conducted was researched, either directly through correspondence or via researchers he hired in Italy, much in the same manner for the history of Italian ballet.  Original and microfilm copies of newspaper articles, reviews, and other documents were assembled.  He salvaged discarded documents and recordings whenever possible from NBC, other institutions, and private individuals.  He collected books and articles in several languages about his father or referring to his father.  In this way he put together as comprehensive a picture of the maestro’s life and career.  He also collected 78 rpm and LP recordings of singers who sang with his father during the Metropolitan and La Scala years, and recordings by other conductors of repertoire he had performed in order to give some historic context to the collection.  Together with the American composer Don Gillis, the producer of the original NBC symphony broadcast concerts, he created the award-winning NBC radio series Toscanini- The Man Behind the Legend (1963-1967), which featured interviews with musicians and friends of the maestro.  In so doing, he assembled, in the unedited tapes, an oral history of their opinions and stories.

            Even more extraordinary was his foresight to record his father reminiscing and discussing musical matters with colleagues and friends as he entertained at his Riverdale home in the 1950s.  While some fragments of these tapes were used on the NBC radio series, the complete set will reveal additional important insights into his father as artist and man.  This radio series was only one of several different types of radio programs produced in the final years from the Riverdale Project.  In addition to the recorded and biographical archive must be added Arturo Toscanini’s personal music library, including scores and orchestra parts, many annotated with musical comments and changes in orchestration.  Everything of importance was saved.  The magnitude of Walter’s accomplishment and the single-minded determination, despite some family opposition, to assemble his father’s legacy—recorded and printed materials as well as photographs and films—is quite extraordinary.  After fifteen years in storage at the New York Public Library, in 1986 the collection was donated to the library by Walter’s sisters, Wally, Countess of Castelbarco, and Wanda Horowitz, and by his son, Walfredo, on behalf of Walter.[y]

            We may assume that Walter kept enriching his dance collection after 1945.  Now precious books and prints on sale in Europe could be quite within his means, since he had a regular salary and could easily buy at prices that were very low in countries the war had left in financial disarray.  Moreover, since the early 1940s he received a percentage of his father’s royalties for his work on the recordings.  In the spring of 1946 he accompanied his father to Milan, where on May 18 Arturo was to conduct the first concert when La Scala finally reopened after the bombing, which had devastated it in 1943.  The trip was long and tiring, since travel routes were still interrupted.  Father, mother, and son had to take a military flight, landing at Harmon Field, a military base in England, then fly to Geneva, catch a train to Chiasso, on the Swiss-Italian border, and finally reach Milan by car.  The view of his hometown, which had been severely bombed by the Allied forces, shocked Walter enormously.  When they arrived at the farm in Ripalta in the late evening, “I felt moved when I saw our bookshelves, the sofas, the high chair, the lamps, and my own books,” he wrote to Cia.[10]  But the sight of debris all over Milan and the buildings left with just a façade, buildings that had once housed friends and resounded with voices, filled him with anguish.  In vain would his eyes search for things and corners he remembered.  “I feel a true foreigner here.  I cannot feel attached anymore to this town of ours, I can’t miss our past and the everyday life we lived…. This is a dead world far away in time, which not even the objects we have recovered—books and furniture—can echo anymore.”[11]

[a] At the Metropolitan Opera she danced under her given name, Lucia, but soon adopted professionally the diminutive Cia, by which she was commonly known.  NB: Notes in this series were originally printed as footnotes.

[b] Fascist constraints obliged the publishing house to fire him. Possibly in order not to damage Arturo Toscanini’s name, Arnoldo Mondadori proposed that Walter go to Switzerland and work for him there, but when he refused, asked him to resign. However, Walter was given a short time to settle his affairs. (Walter Toscanini, letter to Alfredo Segre Milan, September 26, 1938; Walter Toscanini, letter to A. Segre, no date [October], while on the Conte di Savoia; Walter Toscanini, Walter Toscanini, letter to A. Segre, September 8, 1945. Walfredo Toscanini Archive, New Rochelle, New York. Hereafter WTA.) Walter officially listed his reason for leaving Mondadori as the decision to move to the United States (Walter Toscanini, letter to Arnoldo Mondadori, undated [October 1938]. Mondadori Archive, Milan).

[c] This story is told by Toscanini himself in the opening pages of his reprint of Angiolini’s Dissertation sur les ballets pantomimes des anciens, which he had printed at his expense in Milan in 1956.

[d] For example, in 1917 Massine’s collection of art works was already imposing. When exhibited in 1917 in the foyer of the Rome Royal Opera House, it included works by some of the most famous avant-garde painters. Was it truly the twenty-two-year-old dancer’s collection? Or was Diaghilev presenting him as a collector in order to add importance to his status as a dancer? Later, Serge Lifar built several important collections related to dance.

[e] By the late nineteenth century, collections if theatrical items had been established by culturally prominent individuals, such as Alexis Bakhrishin in Moscow, where the first theatre museum was opened in 1894, and in Italy, Carlo Schmidl (1859-1943), for whose theatrical memorabilia a museum would be built in 1924. Dance bibliographies also began to be published, the first Cyril W. Beaumont’s list of dance in 1929, followed by the German Alfred Sandt for the journal of the Archives Interationales De la Danse (begun in 1933), and by Paul Magriel in 1936. Beaumont’s volumes of ballet narratives started in 1938. During the 1920s, the private dance libraries of P. J. S. Richardson, Doris Niles and Serge Leslie, and Friderica Derra de Moroda were being enriched and would later be housed in public institutions. Lincoln Kirstein began assembling his dance library and dance collection in the 1930s in Europe through Magriel (Paul Magriel, interview conducted by Paul Cummings at the artist’s home in New York City, November 12, 1970. Smithsonian Archives of American Art).

[f] Among them was an exhibition of the set designs the theatre pioneer Adolphe Appia conceived for Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, which was conducted by Arturo Toscanini at the Teatro alla Scala in 1924, the only opera performed with Appia’s designs in an Italian theatre in his lifetime. Owing to their modernity, they stirred hot debate.

[g] He would also report in Cia’s name on her pedagogical methods (see Toscanini manuscript, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts [hereafter NYPL-DD], Cia Fornaroli Collection, uncatalogued, and Fernand Diviore, Pour la Danse [Paris: Éditions de la Danse, 1935], pp. 177-81).

[h] In 1929 Walter edited and published La rilegatura piemontese nel ’700 Eighteenth Century Piedmontese Book Binding). Altogether he published around a dozen catalogues, two of them on theatre and dance. On Toscanini’s early dealing with books, see Patrizia Veroli, “Walter Toscanini: un bibliofilo e la danza. La Fornaroli Collection della New York Public Library,” Charta, No. 55, November-December 2001, pp. 34-37.

[i] After World War II, Walter assisted his partners in obtaining the licensing rights to market the Barbie doll in Italy. He later sold his shares in the company, which is still operating.

[j] In October 1918, shortly before the war was over, Italy would definitively defeat the Austro-Hapsburg troops at Vittorio Veneto. Walter suffered a painful injury to his right leg, an injury that would be a contributing factor to the debilitating stroke he would suffer in May 1968. Shrapnel from this injury was surgically removed as late as the 1950s.

[k] Another son, Giorgio, born in 1901, died at the age of five. Wally, Walter’s first sister (1900-91), was a beauty of her time and a muse of artists. Married to Count Castelbarco, she had a flair for socializing. In the early 1940s her relationship with Allen Dulles, the head of the Office of Strategic Services in neutral Switzerland, provided Arturo and Walter Toscanini with a link to aid financially a few Italian antifascist expatriates. Walter’s younger sister, Wanda (1908-98), married Vladimir Horowitz and totally devoted herself to her husband’s career.

[l] He wrote to Cia about the deal, which was negotiated for $900 (Walter Toscanini, letter to Cia Fornaroli, March 1929. WTA).

[m] “Toscanini in his Island Retreat,” Fortune, December 1932 (press clipping. WTA).

[n] “I do not think I have understood something new on dance, but I believe I have grasped what dancing should be and what it is. Let me honor your art and tell you that it was on watching you dancing that I could understand dance” (Walter Toscanini, letter to Cia Fornaroli, September 13, 1923. WTA). For more, see Patrizia Veroli, “Walter Toscanini’s Vision of Dance,” Proceedings of the 20th annual Society of Dance History Scholars conference, Barnard College, New York City, June 19-22, 1997, pp. 107-17.

[o] His book of poems, Canti della bufera (Songs from the Storm), remained unpublished, and Walter bound the manuscript during his years at Bottega. One poem, “Lacrime senza ferita” (Tears from No Wound), was printed in Gazzetta dei Teatri, October 13, 1921, p. 8. De Martini was his mother’s maiden name. Occasionally he would later sign articles as “Alfredo del Rio” and possibly with some other pen names.

[p] Arturo Toscanini would train excellent singers, including the tenor Aureliano Pertile, the baritone Mariano Stabile (with whom Verdi’s Falstaff finally achieved popular success and entered the regular repertoire), and the soprano Toti Dal Monte. Toscanini tended to bring forward to early November the opening of the season (formerly according to old tradition December 26, Saint Stephen’s day), which lasted to the end of May. A concert series in the fall preceded a new opera season and there was also a spring concert series.

[q] Letters were written in 1929, 1930, and 1932 (Fornaroli Collection, NYPL-DD, uncatalogued) always in Cia’s name. See also Patrizia Veroli,”Walter Toscanini e la scuola di ballo,” in Spettacolo della Scuola di ballo a 185 anni dalla Fondazione (Milano: Edizioni del Teatro alla Scala, 1998), pp. 23-27.

[r] R. See, for example, Gualtiero de Martini, “L’Academia di ballo della Scala e le sue danzatrici,” Almanacco della Donna Italiana (1932), and V. R. [Virgilio Ramperti] and G. d. M. [Gualtiero de Martini], “La Scala,” Les Archives Internationales de la Danse, October 15, 1935, pp. 4, 106-11 (originally published al “”L’Imperiale Regia Accademia di Ballo della Scala,” in La Scala e il Museo Teatrale, Vol. 2, Nos. 2-4, giugno-dicembre 1928, pp. 93-124). In 1932 he informed the Italian theatre writer and director Anton Giulio Bragaglia of his intention to write a book on the Italian Romantic ballet. “A very good idea,” Bragaglia wrote back. “I possess Viganò’s biography and there one can have a first idea of the topic…. Isn’t everything you need at the Scala? There and at the Paris Opera Library, you’ll find everything.” (Anton Giulio Bragaglia, postcard, May 1932. WTA). It is worth noting that Walter ostentatiously renamed the La Scala ballet school “Accademia,” as it was in Carlo Blasis’ time.

[s] Despite the atrocious misdeeds perpetrated by armed Fascist groups, until then a Fascist ideology was still far from dominating Italian cultural life.

[t] All that applies also to the anti-Fascist activity Walter pursued in the early 1940s together with leading Italian expatriates like the historian Gaetano Salvemini (then teaching at Harvard University), the art historian Lionello Venturi, the writer Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, and prominent politicians like the priest Don Luigi Sturzo. Dozens of letters in American and Italian archives provide evidence of the large and important network of contacts with which Walter regularly communicated. Episodes like the article “To the American People,” published in Life, September 13, 1943, and the propaganda film Hymn of the nations, produced by the Office of War Information in 1943-1944, are most obviously linked to the name of his father. For Walter’s essential role in this, see Michele Affinito, “La propaganda dell’Office of War Information e gli esuli antifascisti negli Stati Uniti: l’Hymn of the Nations,” Proceedings of the conference “La Seconda Guerra Mondiale e la sua memoria,” Istituto Universitario Suor Orsola Benincasa, Naples, September 17-18, 2004 (Rome: Rubbettino, forthcoming).

[u] Possibly on New Year’s Eve of 1938 he wrote in a letter to his son, “Your grandfather and I have always refused to submit ourselves to the despotism of dictators…. Only on the day on which I realized that it was practically impossible for me to give you a free education and that you, my son, would be educated like a slave and deprived of all those rights that are the real wealth of a free man, thought and free speech, did I take the decision to immigrate to a nation in which the Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal…. May you find here the happiness that was unknown to us” (undated transcript. WTA). 

[v] In a letter of March 26, 1938, Walter had asked Margherita de Vecchi, the daughter of a prominent Italian doctor in San Francisco and one of his father’s oldest friends, to wrote to Sarnoff and ask him whether he could help him to get a job as a librarian. (WTA)

[w] In the early 1940s Fornaroli, whose health was impaired by a heart attack, tried, against Walter’s wishes, to teach ballet and for a time she rented a studio, possibly previously belonging to Michel Fokine, at 154 West 56th Street, New York, and conducted “ballet classes in the Cecchetti method for professionals, beginners and advanced students,” as cited by an undated leaflet (WTA). In 1950 Ted Shawn asked her to teach at Jacob’s Pillow, but she had to refuse, owing to her poor health (Ted Shawn, letter to Cia Fornaroli, 1950. WTA).

[x] Between 1942 and 1946, the Toscaninis lived in a nearby house that still stands; since 1960 it and the surrounding estate have been a city landmark known as Wave Hill and are now a horticultural and art center.

[y] I want to thank Mr. Arthur M. Fierro for the detailed information related to Walter’s work for his father. I have taken the liberty of including it in my text almost verbatim.

[1].  For Cia’s career in general, see Patrizia Veroli, Baccanti e dive dell’aria. Donne, danza e società 1900-1945 (Perugia: Edimond, 2001), pp. 243-68.

[2].  See Giovanni Gavazzeni, “La Bottega dei Toscanini” and “Bottega di Poesia. Le pubblicazzioni,” in Betteghe di editorial tra Montenapoleone e Borgospesso. Libri, arte e cultura a Milano 1920-1940, ed. Anna Modena (Milan: Biblioteca di via Senato/Electa/Fondazione Arnoldo e Alberto Mondadori, 1998), pp. 43-7 and 69-94. See also Patrizia Veroli, “Walter Toscanini e la Bottega di Poesia (1922-1944),” Terzo Occhio, Vol. 24, No. 2 (1998): pp. 9-14.

[3].  See C. d’or [Carlo d’Ormeville], “I propositi della Bottega di Poesia,” Gazzetta dei Teatri, September 30, 1920, p. 4, and the unsigned “Bottega di Poesia,” Gazzetta dei Teatri, March 31, 1921, p. 3.

[4].  Walter Toscanini, letter to Cia Fornaroli, August 5, 1922. Walfredo Toscanini Archive, New Rochelle, New York (hereafter WTA). All translations mine. 

[5].  “Toscanini’s Son a Book Expert: Maestro’s Son Is Amazed at Morgan Library. Priceless Jewels, He Says. Son Of Orchestra Conductor Is Here on a Visit,” New York Times, March 5, 1929. WTA. 

[6].  Patrizia Veroli, “Enrico Cecchetti direttore della scuolo di ballo del Teatro alla Scala,” in Viaggio lungo cinque secoli, ed. José Sasportes and Patrizia Veroli (Rome: Bulzoni, 1998), pp. 107-22. 

[7].  Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1993), p. 152. 

[8].  The list does not include any books. It was probably sent to the Archives Internationals de la Danse at the request of its curator and librarian, Pierre Tugal (AID 250, Bibliothèque de l’Opéra, Paris). 

[9].  Beaumont, Cyril W. Complete Book of Ballets: A Guide to Principal Ballets of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1938), pp. xxiv. 

[10].  Walter Toscanini, letter to Cia Fornaroli, Milan, May 18, 1946. WTA

[11].  Ibid.