Cher Public

O sommo Carlo!

In celebration of the 90th anniversary of the birth of Carlo Bergonzi, our friends at Opera Depot are offering discounts on their entire catalog of the legendary tenor’s performances, as well as a complimentary download of great moments from his career. (But aren’t they all?)

  • Rowna

    This is one of my favorite clips of him singing, and it is a video, so we can see how he physically moves his lips and jaw to make those gorgeous sounds. This is also perfect repertoire for the ardent timbre of his voice. Bravo, Carlo! We wish you a great day :)

    • actfive

      Thanks Rowna--fantastic clip! Did he ever sing Vasco de Gama in production?

    • oedipe

      Beautifully sung Italian opera.

    • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati

      There was a wonderful Gala which I attended at the Metropolitan Opera in 1968. The “gimmick” was each singer had to perform an aria from a role they had never sung at the Met. The artists that evening included: Joan Sutherland, Leonie Rysanek, Jan Peerce, Giorgio Tozzi, Mario Sereni, Richard Tucker, Roberta Peters, Sherrill Milnes, Nicolai Gedda, Fernando Corena, Leontyne Price, Cornell MacNeil, Ezio Flagello, Teresa Stratas, Franco Corelli, Robert Merrill, James King, Renata Tebaldi and others. Among this galaxy of singers the one who received the most applause that night was Carlo Bergonzi who sang ‘O Paradiso’. He was magnificent.

    • danpatter

      Wow! In my distant youth there were three tenors I loved, Vickers, Corelli, and Bergonzi. In some ways, Bergonzi was really the best. I’m so glad he is still with us, and I wish him many more happy, healthy years.

  • MontyNostry

    BBC Radio 3’s CD Review devoted a substantial slot to Bergonzi today. When I started listening seriously to opera back in the late 70s, I didn’t appreciate just how good he was -- conditioned, as I was, by listening to the more refulgent tone and predictable generalised ardour of the dominant tenors of the era. Hearing him now, though I still ideally like a richer sound, I can understand what all the fuss has always been about.

  • La Valkyrietta

    Starting in the 60s I saw him many times. Many operas I saw for the first time with Bergonzi, and I consider myself very lucky for that. For a long time not seeing Bergonzi in an opera was settling for someone not quite the best. I miss him at the Met. He was not handsome, short and a bit overweight, but his voice had a certain je ne sais quoi. The perfect Verdi tenor, and much more. Happy Birthday.

    • tatiana

      Buon compleanno, caro Maestro Bergonzi!!
      My first Andrea Chenier and a singer for whom my appreciation has only increased over the years.
      It’s true that he was not as good-looking or stage-savvy as others we could mention, but I’ve always thought he was handsome in this Radames picture La Cieca has used. And he could be adorable onstage. I have treasured memories of a late Met Nemorino that contained many moments of great charm.

  • Krunoslav

  • armerjacquino

    The ‘new’ 1973 BALLO they have on Opera Depot has a pretty stellar cast (Milnes, Gorr and Carlyle as well as Bergonzi). Can anyone (Kruno?) tell me about Angeles Gulin? It’s a name I’ve heard but I’ve never heard the voice.

    • Regina delle fate

      Armerj -- I heard her once live in Berlin Gioconda with Domingo and it was a huge instrument, a bit unwieldy and coarse in style but she blew Livia Budai’s Laura away in the duet and her voice was louder than Domingo. She is the mother of Angeles Blancas Gulin, which I suspect you know, but her daughter doesn’t have half of her mother’s voice.

      • Camille

        Reggie des Feés! Was it ANYthing nearly as good as this???:

        About as UN-Regie as it gets and an awful lot of fun, not to mention the singing!

        • Camille

          As Monsieur C. said about this: “As if Charles Ludlam collaborated with Werner Schroeter.”

    • Camille

      Yes, Armerjay, she had a rather large voice and a friend if mine who had sung with her called her a “pazzarella”, meaning she was a bit tetched in some way, I do not know exactly just what he meant.

      There is a recording of her singing the title role of Beatice di Tenda which I own and have tried dutifully, and ultimately, unsuccessfully to love. I don’t know quite how to describe her singing, other than say it is LOUD and out loud, take no prisoners and full sped ahead. I have no idea whatsoever how she sounds on the recording you mention.

      Now I am recalling another recording I’ve heard—-was it an early edition of Stffelio, with the stentorian Mario del Monaco??? It’s been fifteen years since I listened. Anyway, I seem to remember it, perhaps I’m wrong. That’s all I’ve got in the dossier.

      • Guestoria Unpopularenka

        Camille, dear, how are you? Back stateside?

        • Camille

          Oh, thank you for inquiring, I am fine but very, very busy these days and with little time for lirica!

          It was your innamorata, la Señora Madeleine Marschallina Claudine de Silva Y Frühbeck de Habsburg who was straying abroad. Ich bin immer hier!!

          Must turn in now. Say hello and good wishes to La Diva Marshie. I fear ahe works her fingers to the bone, always rushing to and fro, running hither and yon.


          • Guestoria Unpopularenka

            Weren’t you in Germany recently?? Ok, have a good night.

            • Camille

              Oh no, not at all. Antikitschychica IS currently in Germany and I was inquiring after her whereabouts to Unser Feldmarschallin. Perhaps that is how you go the idea.

              Hoping Marshie is all right.

              Thank you.

            • Guestoria Unpopularenka

              Oh, you really had me fooled!! lol

              And, no, I don’t know Marshon’s whereabouts. She’s your friend, you’re supposed to know it better.

      • Camille

        Oh good. I found it:

        The opening recitativo is one of my favourite moments in all Verdi. The cavatina is also very graceful and lovely. ‘Tis a shame they are buried in an opera but rarely done and, of course, Aroldo has even fewer hearings.

        Hoping this helps. Ascoltiamo!

    • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati

      armerjacquino: I heard Gulin’s one and only Met performance (VESPRI). She must have been the cover for Scotto, who sang all of the other performances in that run, leaving the last night for Gulin. It was not a good night for her: perhaps nerves, lack of rehearsal, who knows? She had no trouble filling the new Met as her voice was large but she had technical issues and the sound, passagework and emission was kind of wild, blowsy and not always under control. There are clips on YouTube which, all these years later, don’t sound as dismal as I remember that night so maybe she just had a bad night. She specialized in some very heavy, difficult rep which probably didn’t help: Nabucco, Turandot, Gioconda, Vespri, etc.

      • Camille

        That is a shame. One off night and it all goes down the tubes.

        I didn’t hold that fond an opinion of her singing before I went waddling down the garden path of YouTube Lane and found loads of materials--that La Gioconda she was on her game--so I am going to re-assess. Maybe the sound, which is very murky on my Beatrice di Tenda is off-putting.

        Anyway, on a good day, these days, we’d be damn glad to have her around, pazzarella or not, as my friend called her and I still cannot recall the tale which he told on her, much as I try. I am sorry now I haven’t written down all the colourful tales I have been told over a lifetime. They were so memorable at that time. Funny, as I thought I’d never forget them.

      • armerjacquino

        Thanks, all, for this. I had missed these responses until Camille brought them to my attention. I think on balance it’s worth risking the BALLO!

      • Krunoslav

        Yes, BF-T gets it just about right.

        Gulin had an enormous voice and an uncontrolled top, as that BALLO armer mentions shows, so far as I recall. “Gusty Gulin”, OPERA magazine called her.

        She was quite crude styistically, too. But great to hear that sound, at least until she tried (often without ANY success) to get into her upper register.

        Elena was about the LAST thing she should have been singing in 1982…

        • armerjacquino

          Having heard what I’ve heard about her, the ‘Teco io Sto’ with the always stylish Bergonzi should be fun…

      • phoenix

        Well, Bendetta Fungus or whatever your name is, you should be grateful to have heard her at all in your long, long, long lifetime. I was also at that performance of Vespri -- in comparison to all the complete broadcasts with her I have been listening to for many years, I thought she was in better control of her voice than usual that night in NYC, but histrionically she was a bit lackluster & didn’t seem comfortable. I went backstage to see her afterward. She looked a bit sad and she said she was tired.
        -- Gulin was an ‘interpreter’ like no other (you either loved her or you didn’t like her at all) and she was certainly NOT consistently accurate as far the printed score goes, but it didn’t matter to me then nor does it now. She was one of the most DISTINCTIVE singers I ever heard -- I can just think about her & recall the qualities of her voice (something I can’t do that often with other singers), Gulin was like no other I ever heard.

        • Camille

          Hey phoenix, that was of some real interest to me and I am really going to start all over with her again now that so many things have come available via YouTube.

          For she sure had a lot going on in the Gioconda, that is for damn sure even if stylistically many may carp. She certainly had the voice. Thank you for relating your personal experience with her and humanising someone I have heard spoken of in only a negaive sense for nigh onto thirty years now. It makes a difference to hear that she was sad in her lonely little camerino and already knew that that was IT!

          Anyway, thanks. Certain voices are harder to understand than others and it appears she is one. Everyone wants a neat tidy little package dkne up with ribbons.

          • phoenix

            Thanks Camille. You would have enjoyed her very much.
            -- Her personality comes through best in a Tabarro (on youtube from Teatro Zarzuela Madrid with Domingo, 1979 I think). She was already in her decline but it’s the warmth of her stage presence (and tone) combined with the way she modulates that strange voice. She leaves out the high note in ‘È ben altro il mio sogno!’ but it’s she herself & her interpretation that really matter here.
            -- My favorite performance with her is her Gulnara in Il Corsaro (Venezia 1971). It’s on CD but can’t find it on utube. It is one of the sonically better recordings with her. There is also a 1973 Napoli Stiffelio with an aging del Monaco -- de Fabritis conducting.

            • Camille

              Oh goody and muchas gracias for the directives. Yes I imagine Gulnara would have been a good role. Yes, it seems the sonics in the Beatrice are rather poor in relation to capturing her voice. Besides, it was purchased as much for Bruson and Carreras. On her Wiki entry I read, amazed, that she started her career as Queen of the Night!! Her voice changed THAT much, then, to end up as Gioconda. An unusual voice and one with particular exegencies and needs for care and maintenance, I would gather.

              Can’t believe she would leave out that top C in Giorgetta’s thingamajig, as they all luxuriate in that note for days and days. Very interesting choice. I am not to crazy about Tabarro, my least favourite Puccini, so I will try. Depends a lot for me on the baritone in this work. It’s his show.

              Yes, the StiffelioI listened to for a while about fifteen years ago, not long after seeing the work in theatre. Oh that reminds me, I have the score now so maybe I will listen to that one again.

              Now if I could only remember why my dear sweet friend referred to her as “una pazzarella”. I think it had to do something with a performance of hers in Turandot, but don’t remember what the brouhaha was all about.
              I’ll start with Stiffelio then head on to see if I can track downIl Corsaro and ultimately Tabarro.

            • phoenix

            • Krunoslav

              “Can’t believe she would leave out that top C in Giorgetta’s thingamajig, as they all luxuriate in that note for days and days. Very interesting choice”


              Her Cs were always hit or miss. Many sopranos leave out the C or ( (on recordings) have someone else take it.

        • tiger1

          Krunoslav, can I ask you to list the many sopranos who, while recording Georgetta, have left the first high C to another singer? Thanks.

          • armerjacquino

            I’ll tell you one who didn’t- I was listening to the Maazel TABARRO the other day, and as far as the high C there is concerned… well, let’s just say it’s definitely Scotto and leave it at that.

            • tiger1

              I am still waiting for. Krunoslav to come up with a few examples -- I think I will have to wait a very long time……

            • Krunoslav

              Only sometimes, Krunsolav has a life which keeps him from y;all.

              If you reread my statement I said that many sopranos leave it out- OR-- on recordings- have it taken by someone else. Many do leave it out-- do you doubt that?

              On recordings, Tebaldi is the one I was thinking of; no less than Mrs. John Claggart informed me once offlist that Dora Carra deputized for her.

              Have a blessed day.

            • Camille

              “Ein jedes Worrrrrrrrt ist FALSCHHEIT”!!!

              Sometime in the last millennium, “Nana” Clargartessa was my nurse when I was a foundling child. One fine day, she leaned over and whispered the truth into my tiny ear, with admonition to never tradir il segreto: it was Betty Blackhead!!!

              You see, after Betty *the Belle of the Bunker* had her jawdropping, breakout success plugging in the high C’s for Kirsten Flagstad in that immortal Tristan und Isolde, she secretly, and with full coöperation from her Herr Doktor Husband Legge, took over ALL the covert high C’s, in ALL future opera recordings, no matter the label, nor country, nor style, nor FACH.

              This is what La Grandissima e Divinissima Clargartessa, in the nursery, whispered into my ear and I do not doubt her, bless her big heart. Now that I have broken that ban, I tremble, awaiting my judgment, but the truth must come out.

              As I recall, Clara Petrella does sing her C, on the Cetra recording I had als Kind, but I wouldn’t swear to it anymore. The ones I have heard, usually do, like this nice lady, Amarilli Nizza, who comes to mind:

              I do not know what Hildegard did but I DO know who does.

  • Clita del Toro

    Bergonzi is one of my favorite tenors. I was at his Met double debut in Aida with Stella. An elegant singer. Happy Birthday.

  • Camille

    For many years I had a hard time understanding why Mo.Bergonzi was so highly esteemed. Never having the opportunity of hearing him on stage—and perhaps purposefully missing that unfortunate and very late assumption of Otello which he tried out with Eve Q, et al., well then, it was indeed a happy experince to find him singing in this opera, which was recorded at the very beginning of his career.

    (I hope they come through here as the link was a bit different)

    After this, I was able to begin to appreciate his very tine artist. May he live happily and hopefully pass on a part of his tradition.

    • Camille

      A fine artist, not a tin artist. Forgive.

    • I used to admire Bergonzi more than I liked him. I appreciated the elegance of his singing while it lacking in “oomph”. Now, I find him to be ideal in a lot of music, especially the more it requires bel canto skill. The voice was quite beautiful and had a fair bit of squillo until he got above the staff. Up there the voice lost brilliance and forcefulness the higher he went. But lately, when I hear his recordings, I’m pleasantly surprised to hear that he retains more power and lustre on top than I remembered. A great artist!

  • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati

    With the exception of Bjorling, I saw many of Bergonzi’s colleagues and rivals in the Italian tenor roles: Del Monaco, Di Stefano, Tucker, Corelli, etc. It’s somewhat interesting that he has outlived (and buried) them all. For me, the one who was the most consistently satisfying and stimulating was Bergonzi. Others perhaps had more beautiful natural sounds, or more powerful voices but Carlo was a wonderful musician, sang with intelligence and had great personal charm. He was not much to look at, his acting was usually rudimentary but absolutely heartfelt and that factor communicated directly to the audience. I was fortunate to have seen him many, many times in most of his roles. Everyone praises his Verdi and deservedly so, but he was no slouch in Puccini/Verismo either. For me his greatest roles were Riccardo in BALLO and Nemorino in L’ELISIR. I’ve not seen/heard them done better. I understand he is now not in the best of health, but he is, afterall, 90 years old. Happy Birthday and heartfelt thanks for many wonderful memories.

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      Thanks for a fair assessment of Bergonzi’s talent. I saw him many times at the Met in a variety of roles. He was a wonderful Radames. He didn’t look the part — other than Corelli few tenors have — but what singing. I’ll never forget a 1963 matinee (available on pirate) with Price, Gorr, Sereni under Solti. Bergonzi ends “Celeste Aida” with a lovely diminuendo. In later years he had to sing the last note full out. He had the power to make something of his last line in Act III. Everything he did was elegantly sung — bel canto — even Chenier and Pagliacci (for Karajan on DGG). Everyone mentions that he wasn’t much of a stage actor, but he always acted with his voice — found the character in his singing. Listen to his Pinkerton in Act I, particularly under Barbirolli with Scotto. And, yes, he is still the gold standard for Riccardo in BALLO.

  • peter

    I literally grew up on the Tebaldi/Bergonzi recordings of Boheme, Butterfly and Aida. They were the only opera recordings we owned when I was very young. He was the first tenor’s voice I became familiar with and I will always love that sound. It was creamy with a wonderful legato and elegant line. I heard him several times live more towards the end of his career and he wasn’t the most exciting singer on stage. He tended to hold notes a little longer than he should but he always retained that wonderful legato.

    • Perfectly said -- he was a real class act.

  • WindyCityOperaman

    A Lyric Opera evenings in 1981 -- Big P is scheduled to sing the opening of L’elsir, Big P doesn’t show up until the end of the run and Ardis is getting pissed. Guess who replaces him -- Bergonzi, and Mario Sereni as Belcore to boot! A wonderful evening and the man still had it then!