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13 JULY 1924 - 25 JULY 2014



By Joel Kasow

PARIS, 5 AUGUST 2014 — Carlo Bergonzi, one of the great tenors of the second half of the 20th century, died the other day at thee age of 90. Even in the age of the matinée idol Franco Corelli, the leather-lunged Mario del Monaco, the often-larmoyant Richard Tucker, Bergonzi more than held his own, with his unique approach to interpretation that made so many of his portrayals unforgettable.

Riccardo/Gustavo in Ballo in Maschera was the ultimate aristocrat in phrasing and dynamics that other tenors envied, his Nemorino in Elisir d’Amore was the ultimate country bumpkin but was sung with a fervor that allowed audiences to forget his dumpy figure. An impressive recorded legacy has him opposite Renata Tebaldi in Aïda, Boheme and Butterfly, Birgit Nilsson and Leontyne Price in his two recordings of Ballo in Maschera, Price again in Ernani, Maria Callas in her second Tosca, Joan Sutherland and Montserrat Caballé in recordings of Traviata, Anna Moffo in Luisa Miller and Lucia di Lammermoor, an astounding Rigoletto with Renata Scotto and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. He recorded a 3-record album (now on 3 cds) with all the tenor arias written by Verdi, operatic duets with Fischer-Dieskau as well as several recitals.I saw many of his performances at the Met during the 1960s, never once disappointed by his ability to convince audiences through sheer sonar means that he was the character he was portraying. At the same time he was clearly enjoying himself at a 1968 gala performance when his "O paradiso" displayed all the attributes that made him a connoisseur’s delight, over-shadowing his tenor colleagues on that occasion.

Photo: Tenor Carlo Bergonzi as Radames in Verdi's Aida in 1956, the year of his Metropolitan Opera debut.
Metropolitan Opera Archives

Joel Kasow is the Operanet editor at Culturekiosque. He has been opera critic for Opera (U.K.) and Opera News (U.S.A) for over thirty years and was elected to the International Music Critics Association (UNESCO) in 1996. Long before the existence of "blogs", Mr. Kasow kept an Opera Diary for Culturekiosque.

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