Saturday, July 26, 2014

Carlo Bergonzi



The great Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi has died, age 90. You can make a case that he was the greatest of postwar Italian tenors, for the elegance of his line, the beautiful sound, and the scrupulous musicianship. He wasn't the loudest (probably Del Monaco) or the flashiest (Corelli, I guess), but he was a great Verdian and superb in Puccini and bel canto.

He hardly sang in SF, appearing only in an otherwise undistinguished Forza in 1969, in a better-cast Ballo in 1985 (with Neblett and Cossotto), and in a 1986 recital. He sang more than 300 performances at the Met, which was admittedly about 2500 miles closer to home than SFO. He had a very great career worldwide.

I only heard him live once, from an unusual vantage point: I was in the unidiomatic college-student chorus that participated in a concert performance of Il Corsaro at Town Hall in 1982. He was 58 but the sound remained very beautiful.

Parterre Box has a tribute to him posted.

RIP, Carlo Bergonzi.

8 comments:

Robert Gordon said...

Age 90, actually. A long, long career, and an important post-career career as teacher and coach.

I only saw him live once, but it was a corker: late 60s Ballo at the Met, with Leontyne Price, both of them wonderful (I can't remember who sang Renato).

Lisa Hirsch said...

Argh, typo. Thanks.

That sounds pretty great! I think I have a 60s Met Ballo floating around, although....it might be a 60s Aida....

Mary Jane Leach said...

He and Margaret Price were singing a concert version of Giovanna d'Arco with the St. Lukes Orchestra in 1985, when I was working there. I couldn't get a ticket, but I was at the final rehearsal. One of them decided they needed to mark their part. So, not to be outdone, the other decided to mark their part too. Would have been nice to have heard them in full voice.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Oh, too bad!

He seems to have always been willing to sing in the less-known early Verdi.

winpal said...

My first year going to SFO was 1969 and I remember the great excitement here around Bergonzi's debut. He sang beautifully in Forza and the duets with Ingvar Wixell were quite exciting. Arthur Bloomfield has an apt description in his book 50 Years Of The San Francisco Opera, "When he arrived on stage he looked more like the proprietor of a fine Italian restaurant (which he is) than a romantic hero, and he acted as if the semaphore were his own invention, but his spinto tenor was possibly the most fluidly Italianate and freshly blooming instrument heard since the departure of Tucker."

Lisa Hirsch said...

Lucky you - 1969 would have been a prime year for him. Of course, he had an unbelievably long prime....

Robert Gordon said...

I've been checking the Met archives to see if I can identify the Ballo performance I saw. Price and Bergonzi did two runs together: 4 performances in 1966 and 3 in 1968. Since I'm sure I saw them at the New Met, that narrows it to 1968. I almost certainly went to a week-end performance, which would eliminate everything except Saturday evening, March 30:

Amelia..................Leontyne Price
Riccardo................Carlo Bergonzi
Renato..................Robert Merrill
Ulrica..................Nell Rankin
Oscar...................Joy Clements
Samuel..................Lorenzo Alvary
Tom.....................Louis Sgarro
Silvano.................Russell Christopher
Judge...................Andrea Velis
Servant.................Robert Schmorr
Dance...................Patricia Heyes
Dance...................Ivan Allen
Dance...................Anthony Santiago

Conductor...............Thomas Schippers

Pretty great, huh? I just wish I could remember more about it than the general sense of a terrific evening (although I do have a pretty clear memory of how beautiful Price's Morrò, ma prima in grazia was).

Anyway, it was my first Ballo (and my third time seeing Price). While not expecting something like this, I plan to see it in SF in October.

Lisa Hirsch said...

There has to be a bootleg from that run available.