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Category Archives: Baritones

MICHEL DENS, * Baritone * 22 June 1911 in Roubaix + 19 December 2000 in Paris;

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Michel Dens (22 June 1911 in Roubaix – 19 December 2000 in Paris) was a French baritone, particularly associated with the French repertory, both opera and operetta.

Born Maurice Marcel, the son of a journalist, he studied at the Academy of Music in Roubaix. He made his debut at the Opéra de Lille, as Wagner in Gounod’s Faust, in 1934, and remained there as a member until 1936. Thereafter he sang at the Opera Houses of Bordeaux, Grenoble, Toulouse and Marseille. In 1943, he was heard at the Monte Carlo Opera as Escamillo, Valentin, and the Count in Le nozze di Figaro.

After the Second World War, he began a very successful career at the Opéra-Comique and the Palais Garnier in Paris. His roles at the Opéra-Comique included; Figaro, Lescaut, Zurga, Frédéric, Ourrias, Dapertutto, Alfio, Marcello, Scarpia, et al., he took part there in the creation of Emmanuel Bondeville’s Madame Bovary, on 1 June 1951.

His debut role at the Opéra in 1947 was in the title role of Rigoletto, he also sang there as Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Hérode in Hérodiade, Athanaël in Thais, et al. He appeared with success at the Aix-en-Provence Festival and at most of the great Opera Houses of France.

He also appeared in Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, and North Africa.

He enjoyed a remarkably long and successful career, singing in opera as late as 1979, and also attaining magnificent success in French and Viennese operettas, notably in Lehár’s The Land of Smiles and The Merry Widow. He also sang in works by Louis Varney, Robert Planquette, Charles Lecocq, André Messager, and others. As late as 1992, he gave concerts in Paris and Marseille. He was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur.

Dens sang an estimated 10,000 performances during his long career.

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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Baritones

 

JOHN CAROL CASE, Baritone * 27 April 1923, Salisbury, England + 28 December 2012, Thornton-le-Dale, North Yorkshire, England;

The English baritione and music pedagogue, John Carol Case, was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, where his father was an undertaker and a keen amateur singer, and he was given the middle name Carol so that if he ever wanted to become a professional musician he could call himself John Carol instead. He attended Bishop Wordsworth’s grammar school, and then won a choral scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge – at first as a counter-tenor rather than a baritone. After studying music for a year, in 1942 he volunteered for the army, returning after World War II to graduate in 1947 with Bachelor of Music and Master of Art degrees. David Willcocks, organ scholar at King’s at the time, recalls that he gave John his first paid engagement with the Cambridge Philharmonic Orchestra while they were still students. This was the beginning of a long professional association between the two which included 20 consecutive Palm Sunday performances of the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in the Royal Festival Hall with The Bach Choir. In 1968, John and the then treble Bob Chilcott were the soloists on David Willcocks’s recording of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem with the King’s College Choir Cambridge.

On leaving university, finding it difficult to get work as a solo singer in the austerity years after the war, John Carol Case took the jobs of Director of Music at King’s College school, Wimbledon, and National Music Advisor (or Director) of the Townswomen’s Guild Choir. In 1948 a teaching colleague put him forward as the soloist in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols, with the composer himself conducting. Other performances directed by the grand old man of British music followed, not only of his own compositions, but also of the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244), in his home town of Dorking, Surrey. Case regarded the recording he made in 1968 of R. Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony with the soprano Sheila Armstrong and Adrian Boult conducting the London Philharmonic choir and Orchestra as a career highlight. Five years later the same forces recorded R. Vaughan Williams’s Dona Nobis Pacem, and in 1974 Case sang Christ on Adrian Boult’s recording of Edward Elgar’s The Apostles.

The other composer whom John Carol Case had a notable working relationship with was Gerald Finzi. They met after a 1951 concert in the newly opened Royal Festival Hall in London. John had performed Finzi’s set of five Shakespeare songs, Let Us Garlands Bring, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under George Weldon, and the composer invited him to his home in Ashmansworth, Hampshire, to go through more of his works. Finzi died aged just 55 in 1956, and Case then premiered two song collections, I Said to Love and To a Poet. He subsequently recorded all Finzi’s settings of Thomas Hardy with another composer, Howard Ferguson, at the piano.

During the mid 1950’s John Carol Case began to be recognised as one of England’s leading baritones and he became associated with all the great choral societies and festivals. He became a regular broadcaster on BBC radio and television and made concert appearances in Europe and Canada. He was best known for his many performances of the part of Christ in J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion (BWV 244). His great love of language shone through in the clarity of his diction and the way he could energise the text, thereby clarifying its meaning. As a result he was much in demand as an interpreter of 20th-century English music, and of the two composers’ work in particular – Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gerald Finzi.

John Carol Case recorded widely for EMI and Lyrita, especially choral works, songs and opera. One of his early performances was in EMI’s recording of Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera The Yeomen of the Guard, in the small role of Second Yeoman, conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. His choral recordings include solo parts in J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) (with both R. Vaughan Williams and Otto Klemperer), Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem and numerous works by Edward Elgar and R. Vaughan Williams. Among his opera performances is as the Evangelist in Sir Adrian Boult’s recording of R. Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress. His English song recordings include the works of Gerald Finzi, notably the Thomas Hardy song cycles for baritone.

Once he had achieved all he could hope to as a singer, John Carol Case retired from performing in 1976 at the relatively early age of 52 and returned to teaching, now keen to pass on his expertise to students, both as a professor at the Royal Academy of Music, and as a freelance singing coach. In 1989 he retired fully to Thornton-le-Dale, North Yorkshire, where he sang in the village choir. In 1976 the Royal Academy made him an honorary RAM, and in 1993 he was awarded OBE from the Queen in recognition of his services to music. For All Saints Church, Thornton-le-Dale, he wrote carols, which have been published by Banks Music Publications. He died in December 2012, at age 89. He is survived by his partner of 55 years, Bob Wardell.

Source: Bach Cantatas Website

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Baritones

 

APOLLO GRANFORTE, Baritone * 20 July 1886, Italy + 11 June 1975, Milan, Italy;

Apollo Granforte (20 July 1886, Legnago – 11 June 1975, Milan) was an Italian opera singer and one of the leading baritones active during the inter-war period of the 20th century.

Early years and education
At 9 o’clock on the morning of July 22, 1886, when Granforte was two days old, he was left in a basket at the Ospedale Civile in Legnano, wrapped and wearing a bonnet to which a brass medal was attached by white cotton thread. The nuns at the hospice remarked on his large body and strong profile and thus dubbed him Apollinare Granforte, the name which the president Giovanni Tebon wrote down in the hospice’s official records. He was adopted by Gaetano Brigo e Rosa Uccelli, a couple from Noventa Vicentina. At nine years old, he was an apprentice cobbler and enjoyed acting and singing at the small theatre in town. At 16, he took a tenor part in Lucia di Lammermoor, put on by a small company that traveled the countryside and performed in town squares.

On October 5, 1905 Granforte married the eighteen-year-old Amabile Frison. They had a daughter Maria in the same year and emigrated to Buenos Aires in Argentina to be with Granforte’s brother Erminio Brigo. He continued to work as a shoemaker and on Sundays sang for the Italian immigrants in local taverns. There he was heard by a wealthy music lover named Pedro Valmagia (a.k.a. Pietro Balmaggia), who paid for him to study at the La Prensa Conservatory of Buenos Aires. He then transferred to the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in the same city, studying with masters Nicholas Guerrera and Guido Capocci.

Granforte made his stage debut in Rosario, as Germont, in 1913 when he was 27. In that same year he debuted in a concert in La Plata, singing “Eri tu” from Un ballo in maschera and the “Ciel! mio padre” duet from Aida with a soprano student of the Verdi Conservatory in La Plata.

In 1913, at the age of 27, Granforte made his stage debut as Germont at the Rosario Politeama. His success there led to successive engagements at other provincial theatres in Buenos Aires. By 1915 he had also appeared at the Buenos Aires Politeama, the Solis of Montevideo and at Pelotas, Rio Grande and Porto Allegre in Brazil. In one four-week period at Montevideo he sang Silvio in Pagliacci, Marcello in La bohème, Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana, Germont in Traviata, Enrico in Lucia, Rigoletto, Barnaba in La Gioconda, Valentin in Faust, Amonasro in Aida, and Alfonso in La favorita.

During this time in Argentina, Granforte and Frison had two more daughters, Ofelia and Leonora. At the outbreak of World War I, Granforte and family returned to Italy sponsored by Valmagia, who had earlier helped the baritone begin his studies. Granforte enlisted at Parma as a grenadier. He took ill and was found unsuitable for the front lines. He then toured the war zone entertaining the Italian troops, alongside Alessandro Bonci Elvira de Hidalgo.

Career
After the war, while Granforte was singing at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, his fourth daughter Costanza was born. The director of the Opera, Emma Carelli, sent Granforte to Milan for finishing touches to his vocal technique and repertoire. He studied there with the bass Luigi Lucenti and coach Tullio Voghera.

In 1919, Granforte was at Naples and there met the composer Pietro Mascagni, with whom he would become a lifelong friend and collaborator, the latter always choosing the baritone as his protagonist under his baton. In 1921, the impresario Lusardi introduced Granforte to La Scala in Milan. Conductor Arturo Toscanini entrusted the role of Amfortas to him, and in 1921 he made his debut there. In 1924, he went to Australia on a successful tour with Nellie Melba. During Granforte’s subsequent tour of Australia in J. C. Williamson’s 1932 Grand Opera season, Frank Thring Sr.’s Melbourne-based Efftee Productions filmed him with the Williamson-Imperial Grand Opera Company in a selection from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. This relatively brief footage was released on VHS in 1989 by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

Granforte possessed a big, rich, vibrant voice and he quickly established himself in the great baritone roles of Verdi and the verismo composers. He sang some Wagner, too, and also took part in the creation of Nerone by Mascagni in 1935.

His farewell to the opera stage was on February 26, 1943 in Pizzetti’s Fedra at Trieste’s Teatro Verdi. Granforte had in career taken part in around 1,800 performances.

After retiring from the stage, he taught at the Music Conservatory of Ankara, then at the Prague Opera and Milan, where he opened a music school at his residence on Via Arici in the Crescenzago section. Among his pupils were the soprano Leyla Gencer, bass Raffaele Arié, and tenors Flaviano Labò and Jesús Quiñones Ledesma. He participated in musical life into his 80s and was often an adjudicator for music competitions. Besides his musical life, Granforte was also a successful businessman, being an inventor of certain kind of rotating or swiveling lamp. Along with an associate Luigi Devizzi, he owned the factory that produced these lamps, as well as a farm—both situated at a large villa in the Milan suburb of Gorgonzola. It was there that he died on June 11, 1975.

He can be heard on recordings of Il trovatore, Otello, Pagliacci and Tosca. Granforte also recorded 78-rpm discs of individual arias and duets in the 1920s and 1930s, and the best of these have been reissued on a CD anthology from the Preiser label.

Granforte is considered to have been one of the great Italian baritones of the 1920s and 1930s, taking his esteemed place alongside the likes of Mariano Stabile, Carlo Galeffi, Cesare Formichi, Carlo Tagliabue, Benvenuto Franci and Mario Basiola, among others.

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(Master teacher, Apollo Granforte seated in the center amongst his students and Enayat Rezai (standing third from the left), Devlet Music Conservatory, 1955. Photo courtesy of Enayat Rezai)

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Baritones

 

FREDERIC AUSTIN, Baritone * 30 March 1872, London + 10 April 1952, London;

Frederic Austin

Frederic Austin had an important career as a baritone, particularly in the leading roles of Wagner. He went on to play an influential part in operatic management, and was an important teacher.

His debut was as Gunther in Götterdämmerung, when Hans Richter conducted the famous English Ring at Covent Garden in 1908. When the cycles were performed by the Denhof company a couple of years later, he repeated that part, having sung Wotan at the previous three evenings. He quickly added the Dutchman and Sachs to his Wagnerian repertoire.

One of his greatest successes came in 1920, when he prepared an edition of the by then largely forgotten Beggar’s Opera. This opened at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, and ran for a couple of years as well as touring. Austin himself appeared in the early performances, singing Peachum.

He then collaborated, from 1922, on the management of BNOC, which toured successfully through the twenties. During the later phases of this he also worked with Sir Thomas Beecham on a scheme to create the Imperial League of Opera, an interesting attempt to initiate an early form of corporate sponsorship – prosperous individuals and businesses in specific communities were invited to provide financial support for the company’s visits. Sadly, while some cities had a positive outcome, the results of this were not uniformly encouraging – the onset of the great depression can hardly have helped.

Courtesy: Opera Scotland

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2017 in Baritones

 

PIERO CAPPUCCILLI, Baritone * 09 November 1926, Trieste, Italy + 12 July 2005, Trieste;

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Italian operatic baritone who enjoyed a 35-year career during which he was widely regarded as the leading Italian baritone of his generation; he was particularly known for his tendency to insert unwritten high notes into his performances. Cappuccilli’s official debut was at the Teatro Nuovo in Milan in 1957 as Tonio in Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, and he first sang at La Scala in 1964. Cappuccilli performed in opera houses throughout Europe and in the U.S., where he had a long association with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He was best known for his interpretations of Giuseppe Verdi’s operas, in which he sang 17 roles. After a serious auto accident in 1992, Cappuccilli quit performing and concentrated on teaching.

Piero Cappuccilli e Maria Callas:

Piero Cappuccilli e Maria Callas

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Jose Carreras and Piero Cappuccilli Autographs on Private Photo. CoA

1979, Wien: Private photograph , hand signed by Jose Carreras and Piero Cappuccilli. Photographed and signed at the Vienna States Opera House.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2017 in Baritones

 

ANDRÉ GASTON BAUGÉ, Baritone * 4 January 1893, Toulouse – 25 May 1966, Clichy-la-Garenne;

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André Gaston Baugé (4 January 1893, Toulouse – 25 May 1966, Clichy-la-Garenne) was a French baritone, active in opera and operetta, who also appeared in films in the 1930s.

Life and career
The son of Alphonse Baugé, a vocal teacher, and Anna Tariol-Baugé a soprano active in operetta, he studied with his parents and appeared in the French provinces billed as André Grilland.

He made his debut at the Paris Opéra-Comique as Frédéric in Lakmé in 1917. A pensionnaire at the Opéra-Comique until 1925, he appeared as Clément Marot in La Basoche, Sylvanus in Au Beau Jardin de France, Figaro in Le Barbier de Séville, Escamillo in Carmen, Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana, Don Giovanni, Clavaroche in Fortunio, Lescaut in Manon, the title role in Mârouf, savetier du Caire, Ourrias in Mireille, Jean in Les noces de Jeannette, Silvio in Paillasse, Pelléas, d’Orbel in La Traviata, Marcel in La boheme, and Albert in Werther. He sang in the first performances at the Salle Favart of Béatrice, Masques et Bergamasques and Véronique., and in 1925 at the Opéra played Germont in Traviata and the title role in Mârouf, having been heard as Escamillo also in Monte Carlo the previous year.

In 1925 he sang in the French premiere of Monsieur Beaucaire and moved into the field of comédie musicale and Viennese operetta. A succession of appearances in that genre followed: Venise (alongside his mother) in 1927, Paganini in 1928, Vouvray in 1929 (for which he wrote the text), Le Clown amoureux in 1929, Robert le Pirate in 1929, Cinésonor in 1930 (also writing the text), Nina-Rosa in 1931, Valses de Vienne in 1933, Au temps des Merveilleuses in 1934, Au soleil du Mexique in 1935 and Le Chant du tzigane in 1937.

On film he appeared in La Route est belle, one of the first films with sound (1929–1930, music by Szulc) and other films up to 1935 when he returned to the theatre. As well as contributing to the books of several productions (Vouvray, Cinésonor) he designed the cover for the score of Venise by Richepin. He was for a time the director of the Trianon-Lyrique in Paris.

He was the author of the libretto of an opéra-bouffe in three acts entitled tableaux Beaumarchais, using Rossini’s music arranged by Eugène Cools (1877-1936), which was premiered at the Théâtre des Variétés in Marseille in 1931. After the war he taught at the École Normale, returning to the theatre in 1958 as Johann Strauss senior in Valses de Vienne. He left recordings of songs from many of his roles, and some of these have been re-issued on CD.

His wife was the singer Suzanna Laydeker (who also appeared as Laydeker-Baugé and died in 1980)

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Posted by on January 28, 2017 in Baritones

 

ETTORE BASTIANINI, Baritone * 24 September 1922, Siena, Italy + 25 January 1967, Sirmione;

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Image result for ettore bastianini born

 

Among the baritones whom I have seen on stage, Ettore Bastianini had the
most beautiful voice and was the most impressive in appearance. Others
have certainly shown a greater flair for drama, and he was not among the
most adventurous in terms of repertoire. Intonation was not always
fastidious and there was, at times, a lack of passion in his phrasing,
but there was no sound like his in my experience. It has been described
by others as “burnished”, but it was much more than that. It was a
perfectly centered voice, able to sustain itself without stress
throughout its range, and it had both an amazing resonance below the
staff and a glorious bloom at the top. It ended much too quickly.
Bastianini died at the age of forty four after a five year struggle with
cancer, a battle that was courageously fought both in his private life
and on the stages of the world. This is his story.

Ettore Bastianini was born on 24 September 1922 at Siena, Italy and,
after completing elementary school, was brought by his mother to Gaetano
Vanni, who assumed responsibility for the young boy’s education and
musical training. Ettore was engaged by the Coro della Metropolitana
and, for several years sang in a variety of local events including the
annual Palio at Siena. He was conscripted into the Italian Air Force in
late 1944 and remained in the military for only a few months, as the war
was quickly winding down. On 28 January 1945 Ettore made his debut as a
soloist in a concert at the Teatro Rex of Siena, singing “Vecchia
zimarra” from La Boheme and “La Calunnia” from Il Barbiere di Siviglia.
Yes, Ettore Bastianini began his professional life as a bass and he was
to remain one for seven years.

In November and December of 1945 Ettore appeared at Ravenna and Forli as
Colline and in March 1946 he sang two concerts at the Teatro Comunale of
Firenze, where he received excellent reviews. Later in the year he sang
Sparafucile and Don Basilio at Rubiera, the Bonzo in Madama Butterfly,
Sparafucile and Don Basilio at Firenze, and debuted at Pisa’s Teatro
Verdi, again as Basilio.

Bastianini received his first international attention when he traveled
with an Italian troupe to Cairo in the winter of 1947. Gino Bechi was
the featured baritone and Dina Mannucci Contini assumed the major
soprano roles. Ettore sang in Rigoletto, Barbiere di Siviglia, and for
the first time in Lucia di Lammermoor. The company appeared at
Alexandria after which Ettore returned to Italy for a series of concerts
at Forli, Ferrara and Firenze. Later in the year he sang Ferrando in Il
Trovatore at Lucca and Ferrara and, at Ferrara he sang Alvise in La
Gioconda for the first time. During the winter of 1948 Bologna, Forli,
Ravenna, Ferrara and Como all saw him as Colline and in late February he
debuted at Parma’s Teatro Regio as Alvise. In April he sang Brander in
Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust at Genoa and on 24 April he debuted at La
Scala as Tiresia in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex with Suzanne Danco and Gino
Penno. September found him at Cento where, for the first time, he sang
Gounod’s Mephistofele and in December he debuted at Barcelona’s Liceo as
Il Talpa in Tabarro and Betto di Signa in Gianni Schicchi. The year
ended at Novara with his first assumptions of Ramfis. As with so many
others, Ettore was busy but the career was not assuming any particular
luster or notoriety. He confided to friends that he thought he might
try his hand at the baritone repertoire, in which he felt vocally
comfortable, but he was persuaded that his talents lay in the darker and
deeper areas of his voice and that he should persist in his chosen
course. After a period of soul searching, he decided that they were
right. But, not for long.

Bastianini returned to Cairo in the winter of 1949 where he appeared in
Il Trovatore with Maria Caniglia and Galliano Masini, Barbiere di
Siviglia with Tito Gobbi, Rigoletto with Gobbi and La Sonnambula. At
Alexandria he added Il Re in Aida and then traveled to Caracas where he
debuted as Ramfis. The season offered La Boheme, Lucia di Lammermoor
and Rigoletto. In December he returned to Barcelona for I Puritani and
Aida, again singing Ramfis, and closed the year at Parma with Fedora and
Madama Butterfly.

1950 found Ettore back in Egypt where he sang Lothario in Mignon for the
first time partnered by Gianna Pederzini, Grenvil in Traviata with
Virginia Zeani, Lucia di Lammermoor with Beniamino Gigli and in Il
Trovatore and La Forza del Destino with Carla Castellani. At Alexandria
he added Abimelech in Samson and Dalilah with Pederzini and Renato
Gavarini and Rigoletto with Gino Bechi. Later in the year, at Lucca, he
sang the Count in Manon with Clara Petrella and Timur in Turandot.
Turin’s radio station presented him in a broadcast of Smetana’s Bartered
Bride and in early 1951 he returned again to Cairo and Alexandria for a
long season in Aida, Barbiere, Turandot and Guglielmo Tell. In April he
sang his last performances as a bass when he repeated Colline at
Turin’s Teatro Alfieri. He was convinced that his role in opera would
be fulfilled as a baritone and he left the stage for seven months to
restudy both his technique and his repertoire.

On 17 January 1952 at Siena, Bastianini made his stage debut as a
baritone in the role of Giorgio Germont with Mannucci Contini and
Gustavo Gallo. It was not a success, and he was forced to leave the
stage again for a period of intense vocal exercise intended to secure
the top of the voice. When he returned to opera in July, it was an
entirely different story. After Rigoletto at Siena and Amonasro at
Pescara he sang Germont to the Violetta of Virginia Zeani at Bologna and
it was an enormous success. In fact, the top of his voice was the
center of praise in the press. He was immediately engaged by the Teatro
Comunale of Firenze for Tschaikovsky’s Pique Dame, when he sang Yeletzky
to the Lisa of Sena Jurinac and the Countess of Gianna Pederzini. 1953
began with a guest appearance at Hamburg as Michele in Il Tabarro and
from there he returned to Firenze for Lucia di Lammermoor with Maria
Callas and Giacomo Lauri Volpi. In March, at Firenze, he sang Rossini’s
Figaro for the first time and in April he appeared as Olivier in
Strauss’ Capriccio at Genoa. He returned to the Comunale of Firenze
during the Maggio Musicale and sang Andrej in Prokofiev’s War and Peace
with Rosanna Carteri and Franco Corelli. It was this engagement that
solidified his place in the opera centers of Italy. The reviews were
superb for all but Bastianini was particularly praised for his
magnificent tonal splendor. He returned to Germany for guest
appearances at Augsburg in Aida and in La Forza del Destino, the latter
with Leonie Rysanek.

After a few additional performances in Italy, including Pearl Fishers at
Trieste, Bastianini left for the United States and his debut at the
Metropolitan Opera. He had, miraculously, in less than two years,
established a firm enough reputation that he was about to sing in the
most important theater in the Western Hemisphere. On 5 December, he
debuted as Germont with Licia Albanese and Richard Tucker. The reviews
were somewhat disappointing. He was generously praised for his
beautiful voice but was generally found to be somewhat pedestrian in his
stage manner though extraordinarily handsome. In fact, it was his very
youthful appearance as the aging aristocrat that seemed most to put off
those who were initially not persuaded. However, response was very
enthusiastic and he later sang in Il Trovatore with Zinka Milanov, Elena
Nikolaidi and Kurt Baum and in Lucia di Lammermoor with Lily Pons and
Jan Peerce. New York’s love affair with the dashing new baritone would
continue for the next seven years.

Contracts were pouring in and Ettore was faced with making decisions
about engagements for the first time in his career. Como presented him
in Pearl Fishers, Trieste’s Teatro Verdi staged Thais, and he debuted on
13 February 1954 at Venice’s La Fenice in Lucia di Lammermoor with
Callas and Luigi Infantino In March he debuted at Genoa’s Carlo Felice
in La Forza del Destino with Caterina Mancini, Giulietta Simionato,
Roberto Turrini and Giorgio Tozzi and a week later the Genoese saw
Ettore in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors. In April he toured to
Strasbourg and other French cities in La Forza del Destino, again with
Mancini, and on 10 May he made his first appearance as a baritone at La
Scala. The opera was Eugen Onegin and his partners were Renata Tebaldi,
Cloe Elmo, Giuseppe Di Stefano and Raffaele Arie. It was a celebrated
occasion for all the participants and Bastianini was immediately engaged
for another Tschaikovsky work, Masepa, which was presented at the Maggio
Musicale Fiorentino with Magda Olivero and Boris Christoff.

After performances of Rigoletto at Augsburg, Bastianini sang in La Forza
del Destino at Enna with Adriana Guerrini and toured to Perugia, San
Benedetto del Tronto, L’Aquila, Macerata, Avezzano, and Chiangiano Terme
with Rigoletto also featuring the young Gianna D’Angelo. On 25 August
he debuted at Rome’s Caracalla as the hunchbacked jester, again with
D’Angelo as well as Di Stefano, and after La Boheme at Turin with Clara
Petrella, he returned to New York for a five month season with the
Metropolitan Opera company. Bastianini’s New York season included La
Traviata, Aida, Andrea Chenier, La Boheme and Don Carlo, during which he
took a short break to appear with the San Antonio Opera Company in Lucia
di Lammermoor with Lily Pons. Following his return to New York he
toured with the Met to Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston, Dallas and
Houston.

On 28 May 1955 La Scala presented the historic Visconti production of La
Traviata with Callas, Di Stefano and Bastianini under Giulini’s
direction. It is preserved on tape, Lp and CD and is among the author’s
most treasured recordings. All three soloists are at the peak of their
powers and there are moments throughout the performance that I consider
to have been unequalled in any documentation with which I am familiar.
Di Stefano was to leave after the first performance but Ettore remained
in the production for an additional three evenings, partnered at the
later performances by Giacinto Prandelli. In June he joined Prandelli
and Zeani at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera for two additional performances of
Traviata and in August, he debuted at Naples’ Arena Flegrea as Carlo
Gerard. In October Monterrey, Mexico saw him as Marcello with Victoria
de los Angeles as an exquisite Mimi, after which he traveled to Chicago
for his debut as Riccardo in I Puritani with Callas, Di Stefano and
Nicola Rossi Lemeni. The evening was remembered by Claudia Cassidy as
among the greatest expositions of bel canto style in her very long
memory. Following this unqualified conquest, Ettore appeared with
Callas, Ebe Stignani and Jussi Bjorling in the legendary, elusive and
fabled Il Trovatore, elusive because there have been recurring rumors of
the existence of a tape for lo these forty five years, though none has
ever surfaced.

Bastianini made a brief stop at the Met in Aida and Andrea Chenier,
after which he returned to Italy for Il Tabarro at Florence with Clara
Petrella and Mirto Picchi. And so, his year ended. It had been an
exceptional parade of triumphs, but it was only the first flush in a
pattern that would continue for several more years, until~E~E~E~E~E

His engagement at Firenze continued with La Gioconda on 7 January 1956.
In the cast were Anita Cerquetti, Ebe Stignani, Gianni Poggi and
Giuseppe Modesti. After a repeat of La Traviata at La Scala with Maria
Callas, he returned to the Metropolitan Opera for La Boheme, Rigoletto,
Lucia di Lammermoor and Il Trovatore as well as a Gala Concert in honor
of Italy’s president, Giovanni Gronchi, in which Bastianini sang
“Cortigiani”. In April he returned to La Scala for Un Ballo in Maschera
and later, to Firenze’s Maggio
Musicale for La Traviata with Tebaldi and Don Carlo with Cerquetti,
Barbieri and Siepi.
At Caracalla he portrayed Germont with Zeani and Gianni Raimondi after
which he sang Figaro at the Verona Arena.

In the late summer he sang at Bilbao in Il Trovatore with Caterina
Mancini and in Rigoletto, and at Seville, he debuted as Figaro. After a
brief visit to Mexico, he returned to Chicago for Il Trovatore, La
Traviata, La Forza del Destino with Tebaldi, Simionato, Tucker and
Rossi-Lemeni and La Boheme with Tebaldi and Bjorling. It was during
this season that the justly famous concert of 10 November was recorded,
with Tebaldi, Simionato and Tucker. He appeared for the first time at
Naples’ Teatro San Carlo on 1 Dec as Valentin in Faust and later in the
month he sang Figaro.

On 6 January 1957, Bastianini sang in Un Ballo in Maschera at Firenze
and it is preserved on record and CD. The author considers it to be the
greatest document extant of Anita Cerquetti, though the sound is
problematic. He returned to the Met for Il Trovatore, La Boheme, Aida,
Carmen with Rise Stevens, Don Carlo and La Traviata and after closing
the season in New York he toured with the company to Baltimore, Boston,
Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta and Dallas. In June Firenze presented him
in an all star revival of Ernani with Cerquetti, Del Monaco and
Christoff. It is well documented on recording and is a superb
performance, beautifully balanced and thrillingly conducted by Dimitri
Mitropoulos. In the autumn he returned to Mexico where, at the capitol,
Ettore sang in Carmen and Aida, and at Monterrey in Un Ballo in
Maschera, Carmen and La Traviata. The year ended with an opening night
at La Scala, Un Ballo in Maschera with Callas, Di Stefano and Simionato.
It is a well known performance, and it is not an exaggeration to state
that, in an evening of superb performances “Eri tu” was the highlight.
The ovation was enormous.

1958 was a repeat of the previous year, new productions at Italy’s most
important theaters and debuts at some of the world’s premiere opera
centers. On 15 March he appeared at Naples in another of his fabled
documented revivals, La Forza del Destino with Tebaldi, Corelli and
Christoff and at La Scala he appeared with Callas and Corelli in Il
Pirata, one of Callas’ few unrecorded operas at that theater. On 1
June Cerquetti debuted at La Scala in Nabucco with Ettore, Simionato,
Poggi and Nicola Zaccaria and on 20 June Ettore debuted at Brussels in
Tosca with Tebaldi and Di Stefano to an hysterical ovation.
On 26 July Salzburg saw him for the first time when he sang in Don Carlo
with Jurinac, Simionato, Fernandi and Siepi under the leadership of Von
Karajan, a highly truncated performance, beautifully recorded and
magnificently performed.

At Verona Bastianini sang in La Favorita with Simionato and Poggi and on
15 September he debuted at the Vienna Staatsoper as Rigoletto with Hilde
Gueden and Di Stefano. He was a sensation and continued his season with
Don Carlo, La Traviata and in Un Ballo in Maschera with Birgit Nilsson,
Simionato and Di Stefano. After another visit to Mexico, he returned to
Chicago for Il Trovatore followed by La Traviata with Eleanor Steber and
Leopold Simoneau after which he opened the Naples season in Andrea
Chenier with Stella and Corelli. The year ended at La Scala in Handel’s
Eracle with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Barbieri and Corelli. Ettore had
reached the pinnacle of his, by now, unequalled career. Opening nights
and new productions were the norm and he savored every minute of his
fame and adulation. There were a few mountains still to be climbed, but
they would be conquered.

1959 opened with La Boheme at La Scala. The first night cast included
Renata Scotto and Gianni Raimondi and there were twelve performances.
Ettore returned to Vienna for La Traviata and on 20 February he debuted
at Lisbon’s Sao Carlo as Di Luna partnered by a remarkably imperious
Regine Crespin. After performances of Ernani at La Scala, Bastianini
returned to Lisbon for Lucia di Lammermoor with D’Angelo and Alfredo
Kraus. The spring found him back at Milan for Il Tabarro with Clara
Petrella and Il Trovatore. At Vienna he appeared in Un Ballo in
Maschera, Don Carlo and Rigoletto and on 23 June he returned to Milan
for a gala concert in honor of Charles De Gaulle. Ettore appeared in
act three of Ernani with Gabriella Tucci and Corelli.

On 8 July Bastianini appeared at Firenze’s Giardino dei Boboli. Dan
Kessler remembers – “Bastianini appeared as Nabucco, the only time I saw
him. What a voice, a rich baritonal sound that I will never forget.
Margherita Roberti was the Abigaille”
.
Later in the month he appeared at La Scala in Carmen with Simionato,
Tucci and Di Stefano and at Verona in Il Trovatore with Tucci, Simionato
and Corelli. After a visit to Bilbao, Bastianini returned to Vienna for
Don Carlo, Un Ballo in Maschera, Tosca, Rigoletto, Carmen and Pagliacci.
He had firmly established his place as the major Italian baritone in
that city and would continue to sing a staggering number of
performances, to the delight of the Viennese until the very end of his
career.

At Dallas, he appeared in Lucia di Lammermoor with Maria Callas and in
Il Barbiere di Siviglia. On 28 November Naples San Carlo opened its
season with Adriana Lecouvreur, a revival that was intended for Renata
Tebaldi. Two days before the performance was scheduled, immediately
after the final dress rehearsal, Tebaldi announced that she was
indisposed and would not be able to appear. Into the breach came Magda
Olivero, who, with Ettore, Simionato and Corelli, gave one of the
defining performances of the century. It is preserved on CD for all to
hear, an astonishing display of vocalism from all four principals. It
remains among the greatest operatic documents that the author has ever
heard. On 13 December the San Carlo presented Ettore and Virginia Zeani
in Thais and on the 26 he ended the year at Rome in Un Ballo in Maschera
with Stella and Di Stefano.

1960 began at La Scala with Andrea Chenier. Tebaldi had recovered and
appeared with Ettore and Del Monaco in a memorable revival. Shortly
thereafter Bastianini returned to the Met where, on 1 February he
appeared in La Forza Del Destino with Rysanek, Tucker, and Siepi. Ed
Rosen remembers – “I recall a Forza that Bastianini did in 1960 with
Rysanek and Tucker. He was very hoarse most of the night, but his voice
finally came into focus in the great last act duet with the tenor.
Tucker kept patting him on the back during their curtain calls”.

The author remembers – “It was my first encounter with Rysanek,
Bastianini and La Forza del Destino. I was swept away with the grandeur
of the opera, of the singing and especially of the overture, which was
performed just before the Convent Scene. I remember very impressive and
sonorous voices rising over wonderful orchestral effects. I also
attended his single performance of Trovatore with Stella, Bergonzi and
Simionato, and a monumental performance of Andrea Chenier on 5 March,
the night after Leonard Warren’s death. Milanov, Bergonzi and Ettore
were all at their very best, but it is “Nemico della Patria” that
remains the indelible memory. The aria was thunderously received by a
capacity audience that demonstrated its appreciation for several
minutes”.

Ed Rosen, once more – “Bastianini always stopped the show with his
singing of “Nemico della Patria”. One could even make a good argument
that he stole the show”.

At this time, there was no other baritone career that could approach
Ettore’s. It was of a stature that will rarely be found in any annals.
La Scala presented him in Un Ballo in Maschera in April and Vienna
hosted him in Aida, Tosca with Gre Brouwenstijn and Di Stefano, La
Boheme, Un Ballo in Maschera, Carmen, Don Carlo, Andrea Chenier and
Rigoletto. The Chenier performance has been released on a Cetra CD and
is my favorite performance among those with Tebaldi. She, Bastianini
and Corelli are all in glorious voice.

After Don Carlo at Salzburg and Cavalleria Rusticana with Simionato at
the Verona Arena, Ettore returned to Vienna for Andrea Chenier with
Stella and Bergonzi, Aida with Leontyne Price, Un Ballo in Maschera with
Stella, Simionato and Di Stefano, La Forza del Destino with Stella,
Simionato and Di Stefano, Carmen with Jean Madeira, La Boheme, La Forza
del Destino, and Tosca. On 27 November, in Ernani, he again opened the
Naples season and on 7 December he and Corelli partnered Maria Callas in
her historic return to La Scala in Donizetti’s Poliuto. It is among the
greatest of his performances and among the most important historical
documents of this century. 1960 ended at Scala with his inimitable
Rodrigo.

1961 was little different from the preceding year; at La Scala
Bastianini sang in La Forza del Destino, I Puritani with Scotto, Lucia
di Lammermoor with Sutherland and Raimondi and in Don Carlo with Stella,
Fiorenza Cossotto, Flaviano Labo and Christoff. At Palermo he debuted
in Nabucco and in Vienna he sang in Boheme, La Forza del Destino, Andrea
Chenier, Un Ballo in Maschera, Carmen, Don Carlo, and Aida. In July he
sang in Carmen at the Verona Arena with Simionato, Scotto and Corelli
and in August he sang in Nabucco at Firenze. After a return to Vienna
for four operas, Ettore debuted at Berlin in Il Trovatore with Mirella
Parutto, Fedora Barbieri and Corelli. On 6 October he debuted at the
San Francisco War Memorial Opera House as Nabucco with Lucille Udovich,
Renato Cioni and Giorgio Tozzi, and he later sang in Un Ballo in
Maschera and Rigoletto, the last opera being repeated in Los Angeles.
At Dallas, in November, he sang in Lucia di Lammermoor with Sutherland
and on 7 December, Ettore again opened the Scala season, this time in
Verdi’s Battaglia di Legnano with Stella and Corelli.

In February 1962 Bastianini debuted at Covent Garden in Un Ballo in
Maschera with Amy Schuard Regina Resnik, Joan Carlyle and Jon Vickers
and was well applauded though it would be his only appearance at that
theater. His Scala season included performances of La Favorita,
Rigoletto, La Traviata and Il Trovatore while at Vienna he sang in Don
Carlo, Rigoletto, Un Ballo in Maschera, La Boheme and Aida. On 31 July
he Leontyne Price, Simionato and Corelli sang in an all star revival of
Il Trovatore at Salzburg and it is preserved on CD. It has been the
subject of superlatives for thirty five and more years, many people
considering it to be the finest performance of the opera ever recorded.
The author would agree with that assessment. In the autumn, Ettore
returned to Vienna for five operas and to San Francisco for Il
Trovatore, Pagliacci and La Boheme. In Los Angeles he sang in Tosca
with Dorothy Kirsten. After a return to Chicago for Rigoletto,
Bastianini again opened the La Scala season on 7 December in Il
Trovatore with Stella, Cossotto and Corelli.

During January of 1963 Bastianini sang seven roles in Vienna and then
disappeared from the stage for two months. It cannot be stressed
enough in telling this story that his illness was not known to anyone
but his family. He had gone to Bern Switzerland for cancer treatments.
The world understood that he was on a vacation. From this point until
the end of his career, Vienna was to be his center of activity and he
made relatively few appearances elsewhere. He repeated Trovatore at
Salzburg in the summer of 1963 and debuted at Tokyo in the same opera in
October. On 12 December he sang in Don Carlo at La Scala

After performances of Rigoletto at Zurich and Nabucco at Strasbourg in
January 1964, Bastianini again left the stage, this time for four
months, and still the opera world was told nothing other than that he
was taking it easy. Outside of a singe performance of Il Trovatore at
Prato, Italy, the rest of the year was spent on the stage of the Vienna
Staatsoper, and on 26 December, Ettore returned to Naples for Damnation
of Faust with Simionato. In late January, 1965, Bastianini returned to
the Metropolitan Opera for La Forza del Destino, Lucia di Lammermoor and
Tosca.

Ed Rosen, again – Unfortunately, my strongest memories of Bastianini
were his final performances at the Met. He sounded just dreadful.
Nobody knew he was suffering from throat cancer, and, he was booed,
especially after the Tosca. He made a disgusted gesture, walked of f
the stage and would not bow again.

Mike Richter remembers – ” I saw him once in Lucia di Lammermoor with
Moffo and Alexander in 1965. He was an excellent Enrico in that
company; solid and four-square with a voice that still rang out freely.”

The author remembers Tosca – ” I was rather stunned at the lack of
power in the voice and in its basic dryness. It was a benefit
performance and expectations ran high. He disappointed everyone, though
he still looked quite wonderful. Like Ed, I remember some booing. We
didn’t know the truth, and it makes it all the sadder”.

Ettore appeared in Cairo as Iago and Rigoletto, and after another visit
to Vienna he traveled to Tokyo for concerts. The end of his career came
in the United States, strangely enough. In San Francisco he sang in
Andrea Chenier with Tebaldi and Tucker, a performance that Tebaldi
remembered as pathetic and wrenching. At Chicago, Ettore sang in Aida
with Leontyne Price and he closed out his career in Don Carlo at the
Metropolitan Opera on 11 December 1965. The cast included Martina
Arroyo, Biserka Cvejic, Bruno Prevedi, and Jerome Hines.

Ettore retreated to his home where he remained in semi seclusion with
his dog, Zabo, being visited only by family members and Franco and
Loretta Corelli, who were constant sources of strength and encouragement
through the horrors of the next year. Ettore Bastianini died on 25
January 1967 and is buried in his beloved Siena. It was not until his
death was announced that the outside world, the rest of us, even knew
that he had been ill.

Kurt Youngmann remembers – “Lost in Siena a number of years ago, I came
across a street called “Via Ettore Bastianini”. I assume it was named
after him although he could have had the same name as someone else. In
any case, I was thrilled to see the street.” Kurt continues – “The
voice was described by someone as an ‘uncut diamond'”. The author
appends – “with no sharp edges”.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2017 in Baritones

 
 
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