Ernesto Barbini. Conductor, b Venice 15 Jul 1907, d Toronto 17 Nov 1985; baccalaureate piano and organ (Benedetto Marcello Cons) 1925, master of organ 1927, baccalaureate theory 1928, master of piano 1929, and master of composition 1930 (all at Cesare Pollini Cons), honorary D LITT (York) 1980. His studies 1913-26 with Gino Tagliapietra (piano) and Oreste Ravanello (organ) at the Benedetto Marcello Cons, Venice, and 1926-30 with Ravanello at the Cesare Pollini Cons, Padua, led to a 1934 conducting debut in Boito's Mefistofele at La Fenice. He joined the staff of the Chicago Opera School in 1938 and toured South America in 1940. After service in the US Army in World War II and engagements with the Cincinnati Civic Opera in 1945 and the Chicago Civic Opera in 1946, he served 1946-52 as an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera. He toured Canada in 1949 with a cast from the Met and made his formal Met debut conducting Cavalleria Rusticana in 1952. Recommended by Edward Johnson, he was invited to join the RCMT, where he founded the Collegium Musicum (Toronto) in 1953 and was coach and conductor 1953-69 of the Royal Cons Opera School; his appointment continued when in 1969 the school became a department of the University of Toronto Faculty of Music and lasted until his retirement in 1975.
Opera School productions under Barbini's direction included Prokofiev's The Love of Three Oranges (1965), Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex (1967), Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande (1968), and Verdi's Falstaff (1973). In 1954 at Edward Johnson's instigation he established the Guelph Civic Symphony and Chorale and the Barbini String Orchestra, which performed intermittently in Toronto until 1965. For the COC he conducted 1953-76 a dozen operas by Puccini and Verdi and also The School for Fathers (1954), Carmen (1956), The Merry Widow (1957), Cavalleria Rusticana (1961), The Barber of Seville (1967, 1973), Faust (1970, 1974), and Lucia di Lammermoor (1971). He also conducted concerts by the CBC Symphony Orchestra (1958, 1959) for CBC radio, Otello (1962) and Rigoletto (1964) for CBC TV, Messiah (1964) with the TSO and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Cavalleria Rusticana (1964) with the Edmonton Professional Opera, and Mercure's Triptyque with the Belgrade Philharmonic (1965). Barbini was music director of the Manitoba Opera 1975-7, conducting its productions of Rigoletto, Aida, Faust, Manon Lescaut, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Un Ballo in Maschera, and Lucia di Lammermoor. At the Banff SFA he conducted the 1979 festival production of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. A series of strokes curtailed his activities in 1983. Barbini was respected widely for his affectionate and idiomatic readings of the Italian repertoire and his memorable Faust. The Italian Republic made him a Knight Officer (1964), then a Knight Commander (1967) of the Order of Merit.