Carlo Bergonzi

Carlo Bergonzi

Polesine Parmense, Provincia di Parma, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Death 26 Jul 2014 (aged 90)
Milan, Città Metropolitana di Milano, Lombardia, Italy
Burial Parma, Provincia di Parma, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Memorial ID 133367519 · View Source
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Opera Singer. A largely self-taught lyrico spinto tenor who certainly never looked the part of a romantic lead, he is remembered for performing the principal roles of the tenor repertoire for close to half a century. The child of a cheese maker, he was raised in Northern Italy and learned to sing in church. During World War II, he served in the Italian Army but was caught in anti-Nazi activities and spent three years in a German P.O.W. camp. After the conflict he determined to have a career in opera, studied at the Parma Conservatory, and made his 1947 professional bow at Lecce in the baritone role of Figaro from Rossini's "The Barber of Seville". Over the next few years he appeared in regional theatres in several baritone parts, among them the title Court Jester of Verdi's "Rigoletto", Marcello in Puccini's "La Boheme", Silvio from Leoncavallo's "I Pagliacci", Enrico from Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor", Sharpless in Puccini's "Madame Butterfly, and Sergeant Belcore of Donizetti's "L'Elisir d'Amore". Apparently realizing that he was really a tenor, he retrained and in 1951 at Bari had his second 'debut' as the doomed title lead of Umberto Giordano's "Andrea Chenier" and that same year was chosen for the role of Gabriele Adorno in performances of Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" marking the 50th anniversary of the composer's death. Carlo paid his dues in small venues, helped along by his strong work ethic and, to some extent, by the fact that he was a nice man in a profession not noted for them. Over the years he performed tenor leads ranging from the heavy dramatic such as Rhadames in Verdi's "Aida", Canio of "I Pagliacci", Manrico from Verdi's "Il Trovatore", the painter Mario Cavaradossi in Puccini's "Tosca", and the title lead of Verdi's "Ernani", to the light lyric typified by Edgar in "Lucia di Lammermoor" and the hilariously dimwitted "Nemorino" from "L'Elisir d'Amore", to fare in between like Alfredo of Verdi's "La Traviata", the duplicitous Pinkerton in "Madame Butterfly", Rodolfo of "La Boheme", and the lecherous Duke in "Rigoletto". Though not 'primo tenore' from day one, he built both his skills and his following; he made his 1953 La Scala Milano bow in the title lead of Jacopo Napoli's now-forgotten "Mas'Aniello" and that same year was first heard in London at the Stoll Theatre as Don Alvaro from Verdi's "La Forza del Destino". Carlo made his 1955 American debut with the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Luigi in Puccini's "Il Tabarro", gave the first of his more than 300 Metropolitan Opera performances on November 13, 1956 as Rhadames, was first heard at Philadelphia in 1961, also as Rhadames, and was Don Alvaro in his debuts with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden in 1962 and with the San Francisco Opera in 1969. He was chosen to participate in a March 1964 Metropolitan Opera presentation of the Verdi "Requiem" in memory of President Kennedy and, aided by his sound technique, continued his stellar performances on the world's premier stages well into his 60's. He gave a 1994 Carnegie Hall 'farewell' recital to thunderous acclaim but on May 3, 2000 was the title lead at a Carnegie Hall concert performance of Verdi's "Otello", taking-on the demanding title lead of a work he had never before sung in public on an occasion which the critics all agreed he should have skipped. Carlo retired to Verdi's hometown of Busseto his native Northern Italy, ran his hotel called I Due Foscari after a Verdi opera of that name, and died of the effects of advanced age. His recorded legacy of both 'live' and studio performances is massive and includes a number of recital discs as well as complete preservations of several operas including "La Traviata", "Tosca", "Ernani", "I Pagliacci", "Simon Boccanegra", "Rigoletto", "La Boheme", and a 1958 "Madame Butterfly", with Renata Tebaldi in the lead, which many authorities consider definitive. Alas, no documentation of his days as a baritone exists.

Bio by: Bob Hufford


Ritornato alla amata terra natale
da una vita di gloria nel mondo
qui riposa accanto agli affetti cari
Carlo Bergonzi
13-7-1924 26-7-2014
il più grande tenore verdiano
del Novecento
sommo artista del canto lirico
Maestro di vita e palcoscenico
alle generazioni futuri


In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Giovanni
  • Added: 26 Jul 2014
  • Find a Grave Memorial 133367519
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Carlo Bergonzi (13 Jul 1924–26 Jul 2014), Find a Grave Memorial no. 133367519, citing Cimitero di Vidalenzo, Parma, Provincia di Parma, Emilia-Romagna, Italy ; Maintained by Find A Grave .