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Hazon, Roberto (1854–1920)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Roberto Hazon (1854-1920), by unknown photographer

Roberto Hazon (1854-1920), by unknown photographer

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24213360

Roberto Hazon (1854-1920), conductor and music teacher, was born on 25 September 1854 at Borgotaro di Parma, Italy, son of Eugenio Hazon, Crown barrister, and his wife Ottavia, née Devoti. He was educated at the Scuola del Carmine at Parma and at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Milan. At Milan he was a pupil of Franco Faccio, conductor at La Scala, then for six years conducted opera at the Teatro Dal Verme. On 9 February 1879 he married Clotilde Capredoni.

Engaged by Martin Simonsen as musical director for his New Royal Italian Opera Company, Hazon arrived in Melbourne in the Lusitania on 27 November 1886. Throughout 1887 the company played in Melbourne and Sydney and visited other capitals: Hazon conducted many operas, some for the first time in Australia. The Australasian, commenting on Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, claimed that 'Signor Hazon … has infused the whole performance with his own enlightenment, enthusiasm, and good taste'. In 1888 Hazon decided to remain in Melbourne and was joined by his wife and son. In July before an audience of 2000 at the town hall he conducted Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.

Hazon was engaged by George Rignold for concerts at Her Majesty's Theatre, Sydney, in May 1889. In July he became conductor of the (Royal) Sydney Philharmonic Society, and on 2 October he skilfully directed the English baritone (Sir) Charles Santley and 450 performers in Mendelssohn's Elijah. Settling happily in Sydney, Hazon taught 'singing, harmony, and orchestration' and by 1902 lived at Strathfield. From 1889 to 1895, when he visited Italy, he also conducted the Metropolitan Liedertafel. The Philharmonic Society, under Hazon's baton, gave notable performances of many popular oratorios and of less well-known works by Australians Charles Packer and Alfred Hill and, for the first time in Sydney, Berlioz's La damnation de Faust.

Efforts between 1889 and 1891 to found a permanent professional orchestra failed, but late in 1891 Hazon founded the Sydney Amateur Orchestral Society. 'Night after night this fierce-eyed man was bathed in perspiration, gesticulating almost madly, shouting encouragement in English and swearing in unintelligible Italian'. At his annual concert series he introduced many new works (occasionally his own compositions) to the public and was associated with the distinguished musicians who visited Sydney, notably Johann Kruse in 1895 and Paderewski in 1904.

In 1901 Hazon visited Italy to engage singers and the orchestra for the J. C. Williamson Italian Opera Company; he was musical director and conductor for the season. The company staged many old favourites and presented for the first time in Australia Puccini's La Bohème, Verdi's Otello and Giordano's Fedora. On the opening night in Melbourne on 1 June, Hazon conducted Aida with such gusto that he built up 'as it were, a wall of sound between the hearers in front and singers on the stage'.

With a black, curling moustache and neatly trimmed beard, Hazon had a 'high-spirited almost boyish gaiety of exuberance' as well as temperament (rehearsals were often stormy). He was always willing to help young musicians, to conduct at charity matinées or to judge competitions. In May 1907 he resigned because of increasing ill health. At his emotional farewell concert in the Sydney Town Hall on 24 September he was presented with a testimonial and £600 by the governor Sir Harry Rawson. Hazon returned to Milan and conducted at La Scala for a time. In 1910 he visited Australia as conductor and director of Williamson's Grand Opera Company with the French soprano Bel Sorel and Amy Castles singing Madame Butterfly, in English, on alternate nights.

Hazon died at Milan on 9 September 1920; he was survived by his wife (d.1921), a son and two daughters, who were harpists.

Select Bibliography

  • J. K. Gill, A Souvenir of the Golden Jubilee of the Royal Philharmonic Society of Sydney 1885-1935 (Syd, 1935)
  • R. H. Todd, Looking Back (Syd, 1938)
  • W. A. Orchard, Music in Australia (Melb, 1952)
  • Australasian Manufacturer, 2 Apr 1927
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 4 Dec 1886, 29 Jan 1887, 21 Jan, 7 July 1888, 14 Dec 1894, 8 June 1901, 3 Dec 1910
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Oct 1889, 14 Dec 1894, 2 Nov 1895, 26 Sept 1907, 28 Mar 1910, 30 Sept, 2 Oct, 6 Nov 1920
  • Catholic Press, 2 May 1907, 17 Feb 1910
  • Punch (Melbourne), 28 July 1910
  • theatre programmes, and Sydney Philharmonic Society papers (National Library of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Hazon, Roberto (1854–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/hazon-roberto-6618/text11395, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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