The great tenor Carlo Bergonzi died today at age 90. Bergonzi’s voice was not the most glorious instrument of his time, but his style, phrasing, lyric line, and his vocal longevity made him one of the finest tenors of the mid 20th century. He was especially renowned for his singing of the big Verdi parts. I first heard him at the old Met in 1957 as Radames in Aida. I last heard him as Nemorino in L’Elisir D’Amore in Chicago in 1981. He filled in for an absent Luciano Pavarotti and was in spectacular form.
Bergonzi sang at every major opera house on the world. He gave 323 performances at the Met between 1956 and 1988. He returned to New York in 1996 to sing Quando le sere al placido from Luisa Miller at James Levine’s gala.
He also ran a hotel – I due Foscari – in Verdi’s home town of Busseto. The hotel had a very good restaurant attached to it. Bergonzi actually attended to the day to day operations of the place.
Here is the late tenor in one of his signature roles – Don Alvaro in Verdi’s La Forza Del Destino. La vita è inferno… O tu che in seno agli angeli