Carlo Bergonzi

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This article is about Carlo Bergonzi the singer. For Carlo Bergonzi the violin maker, see Bergonzi.

The Italian singer Carlo Bergonzi (born 13 July 1924) is one of the most admired tenors of the post-war period. Although he performed and recorded various bel canto and verismo roles, he is above all associated with the operas of Giuseppe Verdi, including a large number of his lesser-known works which he helped revive. Essentially a lyric tenor, Bergonzi is greatly admired for his beautiful legato and elegant phrasing.

Bergonzi was born in Vidalenzo, near Parma. He began his studying singing after an audition at age 14, originally as a baritone. During World War II, he was imprisoned in a German prisoner-of-war camp for anti-Nazi activities. When the war ended and he was released, he returned to Italy and began studies at the Boito Conservatory in Parma.

In 1947, at the age of 23, Bergonzi made his professional debut came as Schaunard in La Bohème followed by Figaro in Rossini's The Barber of Seville in Lecce in 1948. After retraining his voice, he made his debut as a tenor in 1951 in André Chénier, The same year, to mark the 50th anniversary of Verdi's death, the Italian state radio network RAI engaged Bergonzi for a series of broadcasts of lesser-known Verdi operas.

In 1953, Bergonzi made his La Scala debut, creating the role of Masaniello in Napoli's opera, his London debut as Alvaro, his American debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1955, and his Metropolitan Opera debut the following year. His Covent Garden debut, again as Alvaro, was not until 1962. In 1966, he performed and recorded I Pagliacci with Herbert von Karajan.

Bergonzi continued to sing through the 1970s at major opera houses. In the 1980s, he concentrated more on recitals.

In 1994, Bergonzi participated in at conductor James Levine's twenty-fifth anniversary gala at the Metropolitan Opera. He have his American farewell concert at Carnegie Hall on 17 April that same year. However, an announcement that on 3 May, 2000, he was to sing title role in a concert performance of Otello, conducted by Eve Queler and the Opera Orchestra of New York attracted intense interest, particularly given the fact he had never performed the role onstage. Bergonzi was unable to finish the performance, and a substitute singer took over. Bootlegged tapes of the dress rehearsal of Otello, before his allergies kicked in, revealed Bergonzi's voice sounding rich and fresh.

Now retired, Bergonzi spends most of his time at Il due Foscari, his restaurant in Busseto, the birthplace of Verdi.


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