Opera Scotland

Carlo Bergonzi Suggest updates

Born Polesine, Parma, 13 July 1924.

Died Milan, 25 July 2014.

Italian tenor.

Carlo Bergonzi had a long career as one of the world's leading operatic tenors, with a voice that combined warm lyricism and a majestic sense of line with substantial reserves of power when required. He was a superb interpreter of most of the major tenor roles of Verdi and Puccini.

Like many tenors, Bergonzi began his career as a baritone, singing Rossini's Figaro in his debut at Lecce in 1948. He retrained as a tenor after three years, making his tenorial debut at Bari in 1951, as Andrea Chénier.

He sang in London quite early in his career, as a member of one of the Italian touring companies that visited in the early fifties. His British debut, as Don Alvaro, was at the Stoll Theatre in May 1953. These companies usually toured to Scotland, but if Bergonzi came then, hedoes not appear in the casts we have found. It seems very unlikely as Forza was not taken on the national tour in 1953. As his career was gathering momentum, this was also the year of his debut at La Scala. And he was lead tenor for that season at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires.

Bergonzi sang frequently at the major Italian houses. Debuts elsewhere included Chicago (Luigi 1955) and the New York Met (Radamès 1956), becoming a great favourite at both houses. He was a relatively infrequent visitor to Britain, not making his Covent Garden debut until 1962 (Alvaro again), returning in 1969 for performances of Un ballo in maschera. He appeared as Cavaradossi in 1973 and 1975, and again as Alvaro that same season. His final role at Covent Garden, in 1985, was as Edgardo, opposite an equally ageless Joan Sutherland in the final revival of the famous Zeffirelli staging of Lucia.

Some of his Verdi recordings are superbly stylish. There is a huge list, including Riccardo in Oberto (with Gardelli and Dimitrova), Ernani (with Schippers and Price), Jacopo in I due Foscari (with Giulini and Vitale), Foresto (with Gardelli and Deutekom), Macduff (with Leinsdorf and Rysanek), Carlo in I masnadieri (with Gardelli and Caballé),  Duke of Mantua (with Kubelik and Scotto), Manrico (with Serafin and Stella), Alfredo (with Pritchard and Sutherland), Gustavus (with Leinsdorf and Price), Don Alvaro (with Gardelli and Arroyo), Don Carlos (with Solti and Tebaldi) and Radamès (with Karajan and Tebaldi). The quality of the artists who worked with him tells its own story, even with our highlighting of conductors and prima donnas.

Equally impressive in Puccini, he left memorable recordings of Rodolfo (with Serafin and Tebaldi), Cavaradossi (with Prêtre and Callas) and Pinkerton (once with Serafin and Tebaldi, later with Barbirolli and Scotto). Further wonderful examples of his art include Edgardo in Lucia (with Schippers and Sills), Enzo Grimaldo in La gioconda (with Gardelli and Tebaldi), Turiddu (with Karajan and Cossotto) and Canio (with Karajan and Carlyle).

It seems that Bergonzi's only visit to Scotland was for a recital at the Glasgow Theatre Royal, under the auspices of Kelvin Concert Promotions. This took place on the evening of Sunday, 16 May 1982, accompanied by pianist Vincenzo Scalera. The essentially 'traditional' programme was as follows:

                                    Donaudi            O del mio amato ben.

                                    Trindelli             O Primavera.

                                    Giordani            Caro mio ben.

                                    de Crescenzo     Rondini al nido.

                                    Tosti                 Ideale.

                                                            L’ultima canzone.

                                    Massenet           Pourquoi me reveiller      Werther.

                                    Handel              Ombra mai fu                Serse.

                                    Chopin              Tristezza.

                                    Mascagni           Serenata.

                                    Pietri                 Io conosco un giardino     Maristella.

                                    Galdieri             Quella dolce Madonnina.

                                    Loysel               Pourquoi fermer ton coeur?

                                    Verdi                 Tutto parea sorridere        I due Foscari.

                                                            La mia letizia infondere    I Lombardi (encore).

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