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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 II

By Patrizia Veroli

This essay was originally published in Dance Chronicle (Volume 28, number 3; 2005), 344 – 362, and is reprinted with permission of Dance Chronicle (Routledge Taylor & Francis Group).

©Patrizia Veroli.

Once back in the United States, collecting Italian dance items possibly became for him a way to envelop his present in a past more and more idealized.  During the war he had been involved in anti-Fascist activities and had been wishing for a complete renewal of things once Mussolini had been deposed.  After 1945 daily Italian chronicles were to cruelly disappoint his idealism.  Politics was the land of compromise and he was not a man who betrays his principles.  Collecting shaped the only Italy he could love unreservedly, the homeland of authors, ballerinas, and artists forever gone.  There, in books, prints, and letters, they could people a landscape of pure beauty.  Walter could replace memories of his own past with an aestheticized landscape, the only one left for him.  History was replaced by classification; a complex and contradictory reality was supplanted by order.  Still, as Susan Stewart has noted, the collector’s “Noah’s Ark is a world not of nostalgia but of anticipation.”

[1]  The dance collection had to be revealed to scholars: they were the only ones with whom Toscanini could share his own Italy.  That was also the only way the homeland of his dreams could become true: it would radiate in future books and articles nourished and inspired by its treasures.

Although in the early 1930s he had focused on Romantic ballet and ballerinas, his American postwar years were devoted to Angiolini and Guglielmo Ebreo.  Walter’s love for antiquarian and rare documents was coupled with his thirst to get to know whatever could explain and place in context each individual item.  Not only was he in search of original books or librettos to buy, he also tracked down rare items anywhere in the world and had them hand-copied by destitute friends, like the old dancer and mime Toni Corcione, whom he could thus help to earn a living.  His network of contacts included national libraries and private collectors, antiquarian book dealers and scholars of all ages, old dancers, and dear friends committed or ready to submit to his yearnings.  On reading his correspondence, one is astonished by his constantly up-to-date knowledge of whatever old or antiquarian dance item that popped up on the international market or whatever autobiographical recollection a dancer published in a minor Italian gazette.  How could he keep alert to so many and varied bibliographical events happening across the Atlantic?  Walter was haunted by his search for primary sources: there was no single bit of data that could exhaust his eagerness to know more.  Dates and names reported in an old chronicle might prove false and even names in original programs might be contradicted by last-minute decisions, which only after-the-performance reviews revealed.  How, after all, can one remain free of perpetuating errors?  As with his father, perfectionism was his torment.

As a collector, the more he replaced the narrative of history by the narrative of the collection he was constructing, the more he was haunted by subjectivity.  His research on Angiolini, which took him several years, he poured into a long typescript that he would always refuse to have published.  “I have been sketching out a 160-page typescript in English and there are people who find it interesting,” he wrote to a friend at the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence.  “The only one who is not convinced is me, since I know how many voids there are, and how much searching has still to be done.”[2] In 1955 he finally published just a short article on the topic in Opera News.[z]  His studies on Guglielmo Ebreo and the Jewish dancing masters of the fifteenth century were left in manuscript; although he provided the “Giorgio” with extensive notes, he was almost upset by suggestions to publish it.  As with Angiolini, only a short essay came out of it all.[aa]

In 1949 Walter first crossed paths with twenty-four-year-old Genevieve Oswald, a music librarian and part-time dance specialist on the music staff of the New York Public Library.  A graduate of the University of North Carolina Women’s College in Greensboro, Oswald was a singer and a graduate student in the Juilliard School when in 1947 she decided to join the Music Division then located in the library’s main building at Forty-Second Street and Fifth Avenue.  “At the time,” John Martin wrote, “the dance collection was a smallish affair working out of a corner of the Children’s Room [sic].”[3]  Oswald had a passionate interest for dance, having written music scores for college theatre and dance performances as a composition major.  When she was invited by Carleton Sprague Smith to develop the Music Division’s dance materials, she was elated.  There were not more than four hundred dance books, when, being in charge of organizing an exhibition, Oswald one day saw in an Italian book the caption “Raccolta Cia e Walter Toscanini” under Randolph Swabe’s famous portrait of Cecchetti.[4]  She contacted Walter and asked him if she might borrow the portrait.  Walter agreed.  He also said that for Christmas she would get a thousand dollars from Walter and an equal amount from Arturo Toscanini—an enormous sum for the time—for the archive.  Oswald was an enthusiast, a visionary, and a hard worker, and in 1965 she would finally manage to obtain for the dance archive independent status within the library.

By 1949 Oswald had already made some notable acquisitions, including Ted Shawn’s sizable collection of Denishawn materials and the Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman Collections.  In 1951 a Dance Magazine-Universal Films Benefit provided funds to buy rare and fine books and a private collection of eighteenth century and nineteenth century prints and lithographs, both European and American, and in 1954 the Dance Collection was recognized ad the most extensive ever assembled in the United States.  In 1956 a Rockefeller Foundation grant was awarded, which freed Oswald to be a “full-time curator” with assistants, and as the archive became widely known in the American dance community there were more gifts as well as new acquisitions.

In 1954, when Oswald had a child and was not expected to resume her job, the dance historian Lillian Moore took her place for a time at the Dance Collection. One day in September, the two women were invited for lunch at Villa Pauline.  Walter was now a widower. Cia Fornaroli had died the month before, struck by a heart attack on August 16, her son’s twenty-fifth birthday. Since 1953 she had suffered from heart trouble and was practically bedridden, only descending from her second-story bedroom on Christmas and New Year’s Eve to join her family in the main hall. During that time, Walter must have long meditated on the future of his wife, himself, and his dance archive. Having organized auctions, he could imagine only too well the sad fate of collections abandoned by their owners in an act of God.  His own creation could not be left to chance and dispersion.

At lunch, Walter informed Oswald that he was considering donating his dance collection to the library under the condition that she return to her position there.  “Why don’t you give it to Teatro alla Scala?” she responded simply, to Moore’s horror.  “Just because you have asked such a question,” said Toscanini with a smile.[5]  Beyond this pleasant anecdote, Walter must have considered that only a donation to an American institution would preserve the individuality of his collection and Cia’s name.  Had all his collection poured into the Teatro alla Scala Museo Teatrale, with its thousands of Italian books, only a part of it would fill voids in the theatre’s collection, while duplicates would be set aside, and sooner or later his items would be dispersed into a much large entity.  The neat features of the historical and aesthetical landscape he had been so painstakingly shaping for years would blur and disappear.  Walter was convinced that the New York Public Library was indeed the right and only place: its public use, efficiency, the richness of the Dance Collection, and the great interest in dance clearly shared by a large community bore no comparison with Italy, where the serious financial problems of the postwar years gave dance a low status among the arts. Still, Walter felt a moral duty to provide the Italian libraries, and in particular the La Scala Theatre Museum, with whatever they might be lacking and that could easily be found on the rich shelves of the New York Public Library.  In December 1954 he felt the need to explain his choice to Stefano Vittadini, then curator of the La Scala Theatre Museum: “An Italian section is totally missing at the Library for a number of reasons.  First, dance books in Italy all along the centuries are few in comparison with what was issued in France, England, or Germany.  Second, our language is not that familiar and international, and third, our dance books, documents, and leaflets have never been either scientifically gathered or catalogued and are lying scattered on the shelves of a number of Italian libraries and archives.  And in order to pick them up, one has to penetrate the secrets of the various cataloguing systems!”[6]  This is why he finally chose the New York Public Library as the recipient of his gift of Italian materials.  At the same time he offered to send to Vittadini’s museum duplicates of more recent foreign books.

Toscanini’s donation to the Library was officially announced by its director, Edward G. Freehafer, on May 27, 1955. [7]  The gift was presented in Cia’s honor, and Walter would go on stubbornly to insist that her name not be replaced by his own. [bb]  It included prints, ballet scores, clippings, rare books, and also a fund to pay the cost of microfilming the materials, especially the rare items, and distributing copies to libraries in all parts of the world.  In the following months, under Oswald’s direction and with Walter acting in an advisory capacity, the first such microfilm was made, concerning Salvatore Viganò.  Original libretti, pamphlets, early reviews, and contemporary engravings illustrating scenes from his ballets and the dancers who appeared in them were filmed and by the end of 1955 copies were sent to a number of Italian libraries as wall as to libraries in London, Paris, Vienna, Copenhagen, Munich, São Paolo, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, along with a request for a list of their holdings, if possible on microfilm.  As replies started to arrive, information was exchanged, and items were transferred to the library from Riverdale, where Lillian Moore worked once a week to sort out the materials, Walter’s profile as a donor started to take shape. 

His abundant correspondence with Oswald (to whom he would sometimes write twice a day) shows that he wanted the library to get a broader knowledge of each donated item, of its identity and rarity.  “I took out all the duplicates,” he warned Oswald after donating a collection of prints, “and those I left which appear to be duplicates are not, because there is always some little difference either of paper or of the time and place of printing.”[8]  The bibliophile was transmitting his lifelong experience in handling old materials.  There are letters motivated by Oswald’s request for some details, with a long and accurate description of items, and a list of bibliographic references that even today would save scholar days of work.  One has the impression that Toscanini felt he had found a colleague and a friend in Oswald, and certainly she was the main reference for researches that his donation, far from interrupting, just made more urgent.

In the early 1950s Walter gave the library a manuscript in an unknown hand titled Tarantella.  Ballo Napolitano.  After long searches and comparisons, he could finally ascertain that it was the draft for the work by Pasquale Chiodi with lithographs drawn by Gaetano Dura, published in Naples in 1834.  Still, he was haunted by a doubt: was the manuscript by Dura himself or made by a copyist?  The library cataloguers had to hold up the printing of the catalogue card until Walter obtained from abroad (probably through the library) microfilms of several other editions on which he had obtained information and that he could study in detail, which took around a year.  Finally some misspellings of the text, the dancers’ positions, the presence of a scarf, the visibility of one hand and other minor and tiny differences proved to him that he had given the library sketches made by Dura himself. [cc]

This provided the occasion for him to suggest that Oswald “make as soon as possible more research and study about the Italian popular dances,” as he was extremely interested in the topic.[9]  During the 1930s, Fascism had conceptualized Italian society as an organism and favored the frequent revival of local customs and dances.  At that time Italy was still very rich in popular dancing and Walter profited from the many festivals patronized by the regime to hire researchers and to bid on books and transcriptions, although such gathering inevitably came to a halt when he left Italy.  In 1955-56 he envisaged making a microfilm on the tarantella, which would contain reproductions of any book written on the subject and any existing transcription as well as reproductions of all available prints, drawings, photographs, and postcards.  Finally, the film would include a complete bibliography and index [10].  In Walter’s vision, the New York Public Library should become able not only to offer originals to scholar of Italian dance, but also, at a time when inexpensive photocopies did not exist, to provide them with an array of microfilms, photographic reproductions, and transcriptions from other libraries all over the world.  He believed that information on a given topic should be as complete and accessible as possible.

 Only gradually did the Cia Fornaroli Collection go to the library.  In the meantime, Oswald often had the opportunity to visit Walter and to browse among his possessions to choose items for the library’s exhibitions: at Riverdale she had a drawer where she could put items she was interested in analyzing, borrowing, and having donated sooner than others.[11]  Walter often sent money to the library, either “ to plan more microfilms or to buy some of the rare books occasionally offered to the Library.” [12]  Over time he paid half the sum needed for one of Cesare Negri’s treatises,[13] contributed to the purchase of Edward Gordon Craig’s Duncan collection, and located a particularly rare volume of the nineteenth-century series L’Indice deglu Spettacoli Teatrali. [dd]  In May 1960 Oswald received an urgent telephone call from George Chaffee offering his collection of Romantic prints and statuettes for ten thousand dollars, a large sum that neither the library nor the Harvard Theatre Collection could afford.  Not only was the deal expensive, but it also had to be concluded in a matter of hours, as the following morning his collection was to be sod as bulk material in an unannounced sheriff’s sale for nonpayment of rent.  Oswald phoned Walter and asked him if he was interested in buying a lot of very valuable material.  She gave him no more details.  Walter made a hurried appointment to join her in Manhattan.  A short time later they met in a recording studio’s parking lot and he handed her a check for the needed sum, without even asking what exactly she had in mind to buy.  Later that day when she told him about the urgent need for money that had prompted Chaffee to sell his collection, he suggested that she and the library not publicize the purchase, as they would usually do in such cases; he imagined that Chaffee had built his very reputation on his dance material, so that as long as the deal was kept secret, his status as a collector would remain unchallenged.  Otherwise, Chaffee would suffer too greatly.[14]  The episode reveals Toscanini’s attitude toward his own dance collection and in part explains the many stages of his gift to the library.

Money could arrive at the library in Walter’s name, in that of his father, or those of old friends whom he made aware of the Dance Collection’s many needs.  Finally, the decision was made that the library would keep all books and librettos on permanent loan, and legal title would be transferred over a number of years.  A lot of 127 rare prints passed into the library’s possession by the end of 1961.  “You have so enriched the Dance Collection through the past six years with the veritable ‘library of treasures’ that you have deposited here in the memory of your wife…” Oswald wrote.  “This is not only a wonderful gift to us, but one to the City of New York and to the country as a whole…you have enabled us, a new library in a relatively new country, to assume a position of leadership and competition to the great national libraries of Europe.  Certainly we could not have done this ourselves.”[15]  Over the years a relationship of mutual admiration and understanding grew between Oswald and Walter.  “I wanted to tell you one thing,” he wrote her in 1962.  “I am deeply touched by your tremendous work to build up the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library, and I firmly hope that sometime this branch of the Music Division will become a separate unit like the Dance Archives and that you will have space enough to expand more and more the Dance Library so as to make a real Dance Archives of the Dancers of the world.”[16]  They were two idealists enthusiastically committed to their jobs, and shared an idea of dance culture that admitted no borders of language and country.

Bit by bit, Walter deprived himself of his private landscape of Italian dance and history: pieces were physically going to the library.  Still, it was the final act, the one that marked the passing of the possession, the mourning of the true and definite loss.  And the items he most cherished were the last to leave.  In 1965, when the Dance Collection as a new, separate division moved into its new home at Lincoln Center, the Library and Museum of the Performing Arts, his wish for the Collection had come true.  Characteristically, his great gift of the “Giorgio” manuscript marked this event.  That year Walter was sixty-seven.  His mother had died in Milan in 1950 and his father on January 16, 1957, at Villa Pauline.  Financial problems started to arise in the early 1960s as profits from record sales were becoming less than the cost of keeping the whole recording apparatus working.  In June 1966 John Corbett, an NBC engineer who served as technical curator of the recorded archive, returned to NBC at Walter’s request.  Corbett had worked at the Riverdale home for more than a decade on the preservation and preparation of Toscanini recording masters for release on RCA Victor Records, and on the many radio programs of the Man Behind the Legend series.  Walter also released full-time and later his part-time secretaries, until Arthur M. Fierro, an energetic and reliable young man who had became Walter’s part-time administrative assistant in 1963, was the only employee left.  In the mid-1960s Walter had to start considering selling Villa Pauline.  It was the end of an era, and possibly too much of a trauma for him.

An inveterate smoker for most of his life until the 1950s, he was hit by a first stroke in May 1968, which left him with limited motion on his right side and without the use of his right arm.  His communication skills, both verbal and written, were almost entirely destroyed.  However, his mind remained sharp and clear, his remarkable memory intact, and his inexhaustible thirst for knowledge gave him partial relief.  He spent most of his days reading books, newspapers, and periodicals, and watching a bit more television than was his normal habit.  He was not able to work in the standard sense, but he was able to communicate his wishes, sometimes with great frustration and difficulty.  By the end of 1969 Villa Pauline was sold[ee] and after two months of packing, Walter settled down in a duplex apartment at 2500 Johnson Avenue in Riverdale, together with Maria Flebus (known as “Isolina”, the family’s faithful domestic servant) and twenty-four-hour nurses.  It was up to his son Walfredo and to Arthur Fierro, by now his full-time assistant, to work on many complex issues, problems, and management of his medical needs.  Walter originally requested that the balance of the ballet collection still at Villa Pauline—the ballet books in Cia’s bedroom (left largely untouched since her death), ballet books and files in his own bedroom and third-floor office including the massive card index, and other books in the adjacent outer corridor—be packed and shipped to the Cia Fornaroli Collection at the New York Public Library.  At the last moment, however, he changed his mind.  Such a separation must have seemed to him quite unbearable.  Instead he asked his assistant to ship the material to his apartment.  In the days prior to his initial stroke, he was intently working on an extensive article about the ballerina Maria Teresa Flogliazzi (Gaspero Angiolini’s wide), but never completed it; the handwritten draft and thirty-five-page typed transcript were sent to the library in 1972, after his death.  His final retouching of his manuscript on Angiolini would occur in March 1971, just a few months before his death, when he crossed out certain lines on some pages near the end of the typescript, correcting the birth date of Pietro Angiolini, and having Fierro type out additional changes based on more recent readings.

He kept working at his archive up to the very last, when he died after a second stroke on July 30. 1971, at the age of seventy-three.  His ashes were taken by his son to the Toscanini chapel, located in the Cimitero Monumentale of Milan, to be placed at the feet of his wife, Cia, as he had requested.

At Walter’s death, the donation had not yet been entirely transferred to the library.  It was Walfredo who continued his father’s gift with additional material.  Of course the largest part of the collection had become the property of the library during the 1950s and 1960s.  Unfortunately, the full extent of Walter’s donation is not easily recognizable, since a number of items only indirectly related to dance but important in understanding particular dance issues flowed into other sections of the library (mainly into Humanities, Theatre, and Music Divisions) and their original context was not retained.[ff]  Walter’s painstaking and lifelong research assembled hundreds of publications, either original or copies,[gg] that are connected directly or indirectly to Italian dance.  However marked by his subjectivity as a scholar his work has been, a catalogue of his donation would prove of great value. 

“Walter’s gift started the historical archive of the Dance Collection,” Genevieve Oswald has remarked.  “He could have sat on all the boards and committees of the library had he wanted to.”[17]  His insistence on standing apart and not having his name appear was equaled only by the generosity with which he welcomed any serious scholar who addressed requests for material or advice.

The importance of this collection was immediately appreciated and it was considered a jewel not only of the Dance Collection at the Library and Museum of Performing Arts, but also of the library as a whole, where Cia Fornaroli Collection was engraved on the marble columns bearing names of major gifts at the Fifth Avenue entrance of the main building.  In 1957 the library chose Marian Eames, who had been on the staff of the Museum of Modern Art and worked for a time as co-editor of Dance Index with Lincoln Kirstein, as the editor of a booklet, When All the World Was Dancing: Rare and Curious Books from the Cia Fornaroli Collection, in which some of the most precious volumes were described and commented on.  It accompanied an exhibition of the most important items donated so far, which were displayed in the library from August 16 to October 16, the date of Cia’s birth and death, as certainly requested by Walter himself.  The titles included a few eighteenth-and nineteenth-century books and treatises, not only famous ones (like a translation of Lucian’s dialogue Della Pantomima, and some of Blasis’ treatises), but also little-known pieces, like a 1707 reply by German writer Johann Paschens to the then current vilification dance.  And from an anonymous poem written in 1778 to a Madamigella Cecilia Castellini, one might guess that dancing on pointe was already practiced.

In addition to several hundred dance books, almanacs, and yearbooks, mostly rare and covering five centuries, Walter’s total gift includes a number of treatises, starting with the “Giorgio” manuscript as well as later treatises, including the fundamental works of Fabritio Caroso, Pierre Rameau, Giovanni Battista Dufort, Gennaro Magri, Jean-Georges Noverre, and Carlo Blasis.  A very large section of the Fornaroli Collection comprises ballet and opera libretti from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.  One still-uncatalogued box of valuable material includes the results of research Walter conducted over the years in European libraries.  In addition, two manuscript ballet librettos, L’Amazzone:balletto, by an unknown choreographer (ca.1725), consisting of twelve pages of choreographic diagrams and music, and Antonio Evangelista’s eight-page Balletto per la S.A.R. il Principe di Galles composto da Bartolo Ganasetti (1729), both in Feuillet notation, are still uncatalogued.

The passionate interest Walter long nourished in Angiolini and his family accounts for the very large quantity of material related directly and indirectly to him.  Walter searched widely for any documents that could help to portray the turbulent life and career as a choreographer of Angiolini, whose ideas and theatrical achievements, along with Noverre’s, were instrumental to the reformation of eighteenth-century ballet.  He bought books, librettos, theatrical posters, and prints, but from his youth he also copied documents in libraries anywhere he went.  Part of what he found (including autograph material by the choreographer and his wife) fills four boxes of items still uncatalogued; it is not necessary to say that Walter’s biography of Angiolini needs to be edited by a scholar and published.  Also worth mentioning are 126 still uncatalogued holograph letters and manuscripts from 1738 to 1798, mostly written by singers, dancers, and theatre people of Turin to Baron di Carpené, who was Ispettore del Teatro Regio, in Turin.  Included are eighty-five signed letters, eighteen letters unsigned or signed by otherwise unknown writers, and twenty-three miscellaneous documents.  These manuscripts supply unique, unpublished information on dance and theatre in Turin in the eighteenth century.

Throughout his life Walter had been working on a sort of register of the Italian dancers and choreographers, picking up data about their life and career.  In that sense an eloquent picture of him as a collector is given by his twenty-six drawers of research files, which the library has maintained as he used them.  Partly encyclopedic, partly bibliographic, they cover ballet history from its beginnings to the early 1960s and they present, of course, a problem for public consultation.  Folders bring together original letters, current articles from journals or newspapers, and rare librettos, whatever he found connected with a certain object.  A method of preserving his research and at the same time making these documents available to scholars has yet to be found.

Iconography is a strong point of the Fornaroli Collection.  The more than one thousand prints and drawings include around 150 set designs by the famous Alessandro Sanquirico for ballets by Giovanni Galzerani, Francesco Clerico, Salvatore Viganò, and Salvatore Taglioni.  The seventeenth century is represented by etchings by Jean Callot and Stefano Della Bella and engravings by Jean Lepautre.

Salvatore Taglioni’s career is another focus of the collection; as the title of a modern study runs, this choreographer was a kind of “King of Naples” from 1806 to 1868.  There are a number of manuscript scenarios of his ballets and also cast lists, production notes, and drawings, together with poems, private correspondence and printed scenarios.  Material documenting the career of Salvatore Viganò constitutes another formidable part of the collection.  Also represented are choreographers like Filippo Taglioni, Pasquale Borri, Antonio Cortesi, Luigi Danesi, Antonio Casati, Cesari Coppini, and also Luigi Manzotti, of whom a number of holograph letters, photographs, description of his dances, and clippings life still uncatalogued.

In the nineteenth century Italian choreography and style of dancing were probably more influential than ever.  The Fornaroli collection gives ample evidence of the role played by Italian ballet masters and dancers in the Romantic ballet and later on in the shaping of the new style which, introduced in the West by Diaghilev, would take the world audience by storm.  Apart from ballet librettos, a large number of letters and manuscripts are included in connection with the ballerinas Maria Taglioni and Fanny Cerrito.  These precious lots include satires, articles, poems, contracts, clippings, excerpts from programs, and much that helps to draw a vivid picture of the theatrical life of the time.  And the collection of 128 lithographs relating to Romantic ballerinas that Walter donated in 1961 had to be mentioned; most of them are very rare, one of the most precious being an Italian lithograph of Taglioni by Focosi.  A great many letters, manuscripts, and typescripts refer to some of the Italian ballerinas who reached the apex of their fame in Russia by the end of the nineteenth century, like Caterina Beretta, Maria Giuri, and Carlotta Brianza.  But by far the largest number of dance items dating to this period refer to Enrico Cecchetti, the dancer and teacher long active in Russia and then in Europe with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, including letters, cards, programs, photographs, and newspaper and magazine clippings.  Of special importance are a still uncatalogued volume of ballet exercises handwritten by Cecchetti as well as the variations and music for class he copied and used while in Warsaw.

Of special interest for the history of ballet in the United States are a number of items related to the three dancers who came out of the school of Teatro alla Scala of Milan in the late 1850s and early 1860s and then made their careers in America—Rita Sangalli, Giuseppina Morlacchi, and Maria Bonfanti—as well as Rosina Galli, who danced and choreographed at the Metropolitan Opera in the early twentieth century for more than twenty years and then taught in New York.

In the fall of 1984 a large exhibition documenting the Italian contribution to dance and ballet, featuring the work of Salvatore Viganò, opened at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.  As Il coreografo perduto (The Lost Choreographer), it was the first loan exhibition undertaken by the Dance Collection, appearing at the Teatro Municipale “Romolo Valli” of Reggio Emilia, Italy, from June 22 to July 15, 1985.  A few years later, in 1992, a small exhibition at the Dance Collection would pay a first tribute to Walter’s gift: with the title A New World Look at Old World Dance: The Cia Fornaroli Collection, it featured fifty-one items, mainly prints and photographs.

To turn to music, in 1957 the Fornaroli Collection already included 119 bound scores and 716 pieces of unbound music, the latter constituting almost a history of Italian dance.  The bound volumes are ballet scores, mostly dating from the nineteenth century.  The loose music includes solo dances, intermezzi, ballet excerpts from operas, original manuscript scores, lesser-known works of great composers, modern editions of dances taken from Renaissance sources, holograph scores of dances created for specific ballerinas, folk dances, and much more.  Subsequent donations by Walter and his son may have increased the musical section.  Among the most interesting items in the initial gift are the orchestral score for a waltz, “La Bella,” danced by Virginia Zucchi, the “divine” nineteenth-century ballerina about who Ivor Guest wrote one of his best books, and a “Taglioni Walzer” written by Johann Strauss for Maria Taglioni and bearing a print of the dancer on its cover.  The Zucchi item in particular has been exhibited many times, while well over twenty exhibitions mounted by the Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts have drawn heavily from the Fornaroli archive.

With the exception of a number of outstanding items related to the Ballets Russes (including many original programs, a gouache by Natalia Goncharova for Firebird and a watercolor by her for Les Noces), the early twentieth century appears mostly in material related to La Scala and its famous school, founded in 1813, and to Cia Fornaroli.  If La Scala is represented by many ballet programs, hand-drawn floor patterns in the style used by Luigi Manzotti, photographs, and much printed material, Cia’s life and career are understandably given a place of honor with several hundred photographs, nine large charcoal portraits and eight ink sketches by the Italian painter Anselmo Bucci (1887-1955), statuettes of her by the well-known ceramist Francesco Nonni of Faenza (1885-1976), and depictions of her by other artists as well as a few set and costume designs for ballets she danced and choreographed in the early 1930s.  Dozens of letters exchanged by Cia and Walter from 1919 up to the 1930s, which remain, in their son’s hands, allow researchers to follow step by step the fascinating story of a partnership and the making of one of the most impressive dance collections of the twentieth century, whose highlights are to be shown at an exhibition scheduled for 2006 at The New York Public Library.

The depth and breadth of Walter Toscanini’s intellect and achievements as a bibliophile and collector cannot be underestimated.  In both temperament and purpose hew as well suited to the tasks he undertook.  The extraordinary determination, energy, vision, and insights he brought to each of his efforts were remarkable.  In memory of his beloved wife he has left scholars a legacy on the history of Italian ballet unmatched in the world, and an equal achievement in the preservation of his father’s legacy.  He shared Arturo Toscanini’s ethical principles, his passion for life and for defending human rights against the onslaught of Fascism.  Clearly, Walter was a remarkable human being and, in every sense, a gentleman and a scholar.


My first contacts with Walter Toscanini’s son, Walfredo, date back to the early 1990s, when I was reconstructing the Italian ballet history of the 1930s for my biography of the choreographer Aurel Milloss.  On discovering the richness of the Toscanini private archive and the importance of the Cia Fornaroli Collection at the New York Public Library, I inevitably became involved in the Toscanini saga.  In 1993 and 1995, thanks to the generosity of my old friends Sarai Sherman and David Jaffe, I could stay for many weeks in New York and meet Mr. Toscanini several times.  One day he brought to the apartment where I was staying an old suitcase containing dozens of letters exchanged between Walter and Cia from 1919 through the 1930s.  It was for me an overwhelming trip into the past.  Further research was made possible by a scholarship from the Italian Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, which in 1997 allowed me to work for two months in New York as a visiting fellow of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University.  Several of Walter’s file cabinets and towering piles of yellowed material and old newspapers were moved into two offices of the Casa Italiana at Columbia University, where I could read much of Walter’s notes and correspondence.  Maristella de Panizza Lorch, a staunch enthusiast for Italian culture of any age and field, and the new director of the Casa Italiana, Richard Brilliant, both generously encouraged my research.

I want to thank Walfredo Toscanini and the maestro’s biographer, Harvey Sachs, for having been patiently available for years to answer my innumerable queries.  Since 1997 Genevieve Oswald has contributed to my understanding of a truly unique researcher and donor, whose catalogued and uncatalogued treasures Madeleine Nichols and her staff at the now Jerome Robbins Dance Division have been ready to display special rarities to me on more than one occasion.  I also want to thank Arthur M. Fierro for his additional insights and for his precious memories related to Walter’s work on his father’s legacy; his unfailing loyalty to Walter has included a painstaking care for this manuscript.  Thanks also to Barbara Sparti for sharing a number of Walter’s letters related to the “Giorgio” manuscript and to Carlo Marinelli Roscioni, a major Italian scholar in the field of theatrical chronologies of all eras.  Finally my gratitude goes to José Sasportes, who in the late 1980s first aroused my attention to the importance of Italian dance throughout the centuries.  His perspective on dance, so close indeed to Walter Toscanini’s, is shown by the journal La Danza Italiana (1984-1990; 1998-99), of which he was the founding editor, and his generosity as a scholar has always been invaluable.

[z] Walter Toscanini, “Gaspare Angiolini,” Opera News, April 4, 1955, pp. 8-9. Two years before he had asked the Milan dance monthly Il cignoto reprint a letter written by Metastasio to Angiolini, and accompanied the text with long and meticulous footnotes. Metastasio’s letter was identified as belonging to the “Toscanini Fornaroli Archive,” but Walter’s name did not appear.  NB: Notes in this series were originally printed as footnotes.

[aa] Walter Toscanini, “Notizie e appuntisui maestri di ballo ebrei in Italia nel ’400,” Il Vasari, Rivista d’arte e di studi rinascimentali, Anno 18 (n.s. 4), fasc. 2-3, 1960, pp. 62-71. Genevieve Oswald had suggested in 1980 that Barbari Sparti edit the “Giorgio” manuscript, but Sparti decided to publish another version of the De Praticainstead and the “Giorgio” manuscript was finally edited by Andrea Francalanci and published in Basler Jahrbuch für historische Musikpraxis, Vol. 14, 1990, pp. 87-179.

[bb] In a burst of irritation he wrote to Oswald on December 2, 1955, “Referring to your draft of your letter to the Libraries related to the Viganò film, I would suggest that in your letter and in all other communications you emphasize the fact that this collection is the CIA FORNAROLI Collection and not the Walter Toscanini Collection. I notice, also, in the four microfilms of the Tarantella manuscript [sic], it is quoted as belonging to the Toscanini Collection….I am a little hurt by the fact that I cannot impress upon you that it is a CIA FORNAROLI book” (copy. WTA).

[cc] Toscanini’s research was made harder by the fact that the only copy of Dura’s work known at the time was at the National Library of Naples and that another edition of the same Tarantella existed, with lithographs by Dura, French captions by L. Puccinelli, and titled Souvenir de la tarantella napolitaine, a copy of which was owned by P.J.S. Richardson. He finally managed to buy a 1841 edition of Tarantella. Ballo Napolitano, with nineteen uncolored lithographs of dancers, which is amont the material donated to the library in 1986 by his son Walfredo. Walter’s very interesting remarks on the Dura manuscript are in a letter he wrote to Oswald on July 30, 1956 (copy. WTA).

[dd] Edward G. Freehafer officially acknowledged his financial support in 1961 (letter to Walter Toscanini, June 6, 1961. WTA).

[ee] It would eventually be demolished by the property’s new owners, despite a verbal understanding at the time of sale to preserve Toscanini’s home.

[ff] For example, among the items not mentioned in the online catalogue as Walter’s gifts are Raffaello Barbiera’s many books on min-nineteenth-century Milan, which include several portraits of ballerinas; Giuseppe Rovani’s famous historical novel, Cento anni (One Hundred Years), crowded with intellectuals who belonged to the Milanese Englightenment and applauded contemporary ballets; and the twelve volumes of letters written by two outstanding eighteenth-century intellectuals, the brothers Pietro and Alessandro Verri, filled with hints about ballets by Angiolini and other contemporary choreographers, and published between 1911 and 1940. The same applies to books on the Teatro alla Scala, like Giovanni Aldini’s Memoria sulla illuminazione a gas dei teatri e progetto di applicarla al Teatro alla Scala, as well as to a number of volumes by the eighteenth-century poet and ballet librettist Pietro Metastasio. A very limited check can be done, thanks to copies of the several list of books and other items given to the library (WTA).

[gg] A list of 124 boxes of microfilms passed into the ownership of the Dance Division in 1970. It included many librettos by Angiolini and Noverre, and many issues of the nineteenth-century L’Incice degli Spettacoli Teatrali, as well as other important periodicals.

[1]. Stewart, On Longing, p. 152.

[2]. Walter Toscanini, letter to Irma Merolli Tondi, February 10, 1955. Copy, Walter Toscanini Archives (hereafter WTA).

[3].  John Martin, untitled article in The Fifth Annual Capezio Award, Honoring Genevieve Oswald, March 7, 1956, program booklet.

[4].  Genevieve Oswald, interview by the author, New York, 1997. The book in question was Raffaele Carrieri’s La danza in Italia 1500-1900 (Milano: Editoriale Domus, 1955), whose rich iconography was largely drawn from Toscanini’s collection.

[5].  Ibid.

[6].  Walter Toscanini, letter to Stefano Vittadini, December 17, 1954. Copy, WTA.

[7].  Press release, May 27, 1955. WTA.

[8]. Walter Toscanini, letter to Genevieve Oswald, August 3, 1955. Copy, WTA.

[9]. Walter Toscanini, letter to Genevieve Oswald, July 30, 1956. Copy, WTA.

[10].  Walter Toscanini, letter to Bianca Maria Galanti, August 13, 1955 (WTA). Professor in ‘Literature of Popular Traditions’ at the University of Rome, in 1942 Galanti published a monograph on the danza della spada, or sword dance.

[11].  Genevieve Oswald, letter to Walter Toscanini, November 23, 1955. WTA.

[12].  Walter Toscanini, letter to Genevieve Oswald, August 3, 1955. WTA.

[13].  Ibid.

[14].  Genevieve Oswald, interviews by author, New York, 1997 and 2004.

[15].  Genevieve Oswald, letter to Walter Toscanini, December 1, 1961. WTA.

[16].  Walter Toscanini, letter to Genevieve Oswald, April 17, 1962. Copy, WTA.

[17].  Genevieve Oswald, interview by author, New York, 1997. See also Lillian Moore, “The Dance: A Gift to the Library,” New York Herald Tribune, June 26, 1955. WTA.