Carlo Bergonzi is an Italian operatic tenor. Although he performed and recorded some bel canto and verismo roles, he is above all associated with the operas of Giuseppe Verdi, including a large number of the composer's lesser-known works that he helped revive. Essentially a lyric tenor with spinto capabilities, Bergonzi was greatly admired during the peak of his career for his beautiful diction, smooth legato, warm timbre and elegant phrasing. Above all he was acclaimed for his attention to the style required in Verdi's operas.
I only met Carlo Bergonzi once, yet I don't remember a time when I didn't know him. Growing up as the son of an opera-addicted father, and soon giving in willingly to that same habit, we would often talk of the Italian, or at least Italianate, tenors in terms of pairs. Most generations had their great, rich lyrical tenor and, staring at him from the other side of the mirror, the more dramatic counter-balance.
Renata Tebaldi (Madama Butterfly), Carlo Bergonzi (B. F. Pinkerton), Fiorenza Cossotto (Suzuki), Enzo Sordello (Sharpless), Angelo Mercuriali (Goro), Paolo Washington (The Bonze), Lidia Nerozzi (Kate Pinkerton), Michele Cazzato (Prince Yamadori), Virgilio Carbonari (The Imperial Commissioner), Oscar Nanni (Yakuside)
Chorus and Orchestra of Accademia St. Cecilia, Rome, Tullio Serafin
Recorded in 1958
“This is Tebaldi's second complete Butterfly and her voice is still incomparable in the title role.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2011 ***
Carlo Bergonzi, one of the greatest tenors of the 20th Century, died last night in Milan’s Auxologico Institute, just two weeks after celebrating his 90th birthday on 13 July.
Yet there they stood, facing one another, these great contenders for the tenor titles of each decade. Gigli and Tucker, Di Stefano and Del Monaco, Pavarotti and Domingo, Alagna and Licitra, there are many. Yet always -- always -- the discussion between my father and I would circle back round to Franco Corelli and Carlo Bergonzi. And Bergonzi, well, he was special.