Silvio Coscia

Biographical information

Silvio Coscia (1899-1977) came from a family of professional singers, including his father and his brother. At the age of eight, Coscia was accepted as a cantor at the St Ambrigio Cathedral in Milan under Mr. Cervi.  In 1910, Coscia entered the Municipal School of Singing, where he completed the regular three-year course under Mr. Corio. In 1913, he entered the Royal Conservatory of Music in Milan where he earned his degree and became proficient in piano, organ, French horn, and composition. 

In 1924, Coscia immigrated to the United States where he played horn in symphonic organizations. Subsequently, in 1928, Coscia joined the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra as its youngest member and remained there through 1964. While performing with the Met orchestra, Coscia also served as a vocal coach to well known artists such as Renata Tebaldi, Lily Pons, and Jerome Hines. During this time Coscia also began composing serious works for orchestra, symphonic band, winds, and voice.

Also while in New York, Coscia worked as an arranger for the Goldman Band and performed with the New York Symphony Band. Coscia’s compositions have been performed by the New York Symphony, the Halifax Symphony, the New England Conservatory Symphony, the Municipal Band of Venice, the Detroit Concert Band, the Santa Fe Chamber Orchestra and the Goldman Band. In additions, Coscia’s songs have been performed at the Santa Fe festival, and in recital by Giuseppe Valdengo and Cesare Siepe. Coscia’s music has been published by Barron, Fox, and Ricordi. He is sometimes referred to as Sylvius C.

After retiring from the Metropolitan orchestra, Coscia returned to Milan for awhile and later returned to the United States, where he was hired by his friend Gunther Schuller to serve on the faculty of New England Conservatory. Coscia taught voice and operatic diction at NEC from 1967-1975. Upon Coscia’s death, his widow Virginia Coscia donated many of his compositions to the library at New England Conservatory.

Coscia was the recipient of The Silver Medal of Merit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy and was knighted by the President of Italy.

Biographical information taken from materials in this collection’s Clippings/Publicity file as well as: McGee, Randy Brent, Silvio Coscia: A Brief Biography and Performance Edition of Selected Vocal Works., PhD. Dissertation, University of Colorado, 1996.

Physical description

This collection consists of 2 drop front boxes of papers, primarily containing photographs as well as a few paper files. In addition there are 10 manuscript boxes of Coscia's compositions.


The Coscia Papers and Music Collection was a gift of Silvio Coscia’s widow, Virginia Coscia, donated in January 1978


Access to the Silvio Coscia Papers and Music Collection is granted by the Archivist. Appointments must be scheduled in advance. There are no restrictions pertaining this collection.


Please contact the Archivist regarding copyright restrictions and publication permissions. This collection should be cited as: NECA 19.6. Silvio Coscia Papers and Music collection, New England Conservatory Archives, Boston, MA.

Scope & Content

The Silvio Coscia Papers are organized into the following six series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Programs
  3. Clippings/Publicity
  4. Biographical sketches
  5. Miscellaneous
  6. Photographs
  7. Music

There is one folder of correspondence, primarily consisting of letters to Coscia from various singers and conductors. Much of the correspondence is from G. Lauri-Volpi. Other correspondents include Tamaki Miura, Cesare Siepi, Gunther Schuller, Carlo Gatti[?], and Franco Dante. While two letters date from the 1920s, most date from the 1950s and 1960s.

The programs folder primarily contains programs featuring works by Coscia(sometimes listed as Sylvius). There are several programs from Giuseppe Creatore Memorial concerts. Featured in these programs are Coscia’s Begli occhi lucenti, Concert Piece in C major, Special numbers (Satanic Minuet, The Old Music Box, Fire Dance), Musical sketches in three moods, Neapolitan Day (in Three Moments) as well as program notes for Coscia’s Swedish Rhapsody. Other programs include two given by the Bande Municipale di Venezia featuring Coscia's Drammatica Elegia.

The third series, Clippings/Publicity, contains a brochure from the Stadtisches Theater Wurzburg, as well as articles about a performance of The Barber of Seville that took place there in 1965. There is an issue of Opera News from 1949 that contains a “Meet the [Met] Orchestra” feature; a concert review of a performance by Cesare Siepi that featured Coscia’s Begli occhi lucenti; 2 copies of a press brochure about Coscia; two copies of a works list of pieces by Coscia published by M. Baron; and a short biographical sketch.  Also included are a memorandum to publicist Charles Forrester, a mention in the "Honors to Members" section of ASCAP Today (July 1968) and several Coscia obituaries.

The fourth series consists of one folder containing brief biographical sketches and as well as comments regarding specific aspects of singing for several of the singers with whom Coscia worked. These include: Licia Albanese, Lucine Amara, Ettore Bastianini, Kurt Baum, George Cehanovsky, Jerome Hines, Frederick Jagel, Eva Likova, Lauri- Volpi, Giovanni Martinelli, Margaret Matzenauer, Nicholas Moscona, Patrice Munsel, Herva Nelli, Elena Nicolai, Lily Pons, Aldo Protti, Norman Scott, Cesare Siepi, Antonietta Stella, Rise Stevens, Brian Sullivan, Richard Tucker, Frank Valentino, Leonard Warren, and Robert Weede.

The miscellaneous series consists primarily of Silvio Coscia’s teaching/written materials including “A Study on Singers and Musicians Musical Hearing,” a description of an NEC Italian diction course, and the article "Come Scegliere un Maestro di Canto" from la follia di new york - dicembre 1968).

The Photograph series in this collection has been organized into the following categories:

  1. Photos of Silvio Coscia, 1 folder
  2. Photos of ensembles, 1 folder
  3. Photos of other groups/miscellaneous, 1 folder
  4. Photos of various artists (singers and conductors). There are 12 folders of these photos, organized alphabetically by artist’s last name.  The majority of them are autographed to Coscia. The last folder contains photos of individuals who have not been identified.

Finally, Coscia's music compositions, primarily holographs dating from 1916-1971, comprise the largest series in this collection.



Container List

Box 1

Box 1 – Folder 1
Box 1 - Folder 2
Box 1 – Folder 3
Box 1 – Folder 4
Biographical sketches/vocal notes
Box 1 – Folder 5
Box 1 – Folder 6
Photographs, Silvio Coscia
Box 1 – Folder 7
Photographs, Ensembles
Box 1 – Folder 8
Photographs, Other groups, miscellaneous

Box 2

Box 2 – Folder 1
Individuals, B
Box 2 – Folder 2
Individuals, C
Box 2 – Folder 3
Individuals, D-F
Box 2 – Folder 4
Individuals, G-I
Box 2 – Folder 5
Individuals, J-L
Box 2 – Folder 6
Individuals, M
Box 2 – Folder 7
Individuals, N-O
Box 2 – Folder 8
Individuals, P
Box 2 – Folder 9
Individuals, R
Box 2 – Folder 10
Individuals, S
Box 2 – Folder 11
Individuals, T-Y
Box 2 – Folder 12
Individuals, Unknown

Box 3
Music, A-B

Box 4
Music, C

Box 5
Music, D

Box 6

Box 7

Box 8

Box 9

Box 10

Box 11

Box 12
TR-W, and arrangements