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20.12.04

Renata Tebaldi Soars above Her Last Finale

As you opera fans probably know, Italian soprano Renata Tebaldi passed away this weekend, at the age of 82. (If you are looking for a way to keep up on news in the opera world, you should check out AllAboutOpera.com, a site that has kindly linked to Ionarts: thanks for that! Their Today's Opera News page keeps track of the big stories, and there is an RSS feed.) Although there is not much for me to add to the chorus of lamentation, I will translate a portion of Christian Merlin's article (Disparition : Renata Tebaldi, la dernière diva, December 20) in Le Figaro:

Born in 1922 in Pesaro, Rossini's homeland, she came from a family of postal employees in the town of Traversetolo: her aunt made her learn Morse code so that she could take up the torch of telecommunication, but she was drawn to music. Her mother's cousin, a pianist, gave her her first lessons and brought her to the Conservatory in Parma for an audition. Maestro Brancucci fell under the spell of a first-rate vocal instrument and admitted her to his class. However, it was the singer Carmen Melis, her teacher beginning in 1940, who truly taught her the technical foundation of what would become her trademark sound: the control of the diaphragm, allowing her to sing on the breath throughout her range, and vocal support in all the muscles of the abdomen and chest, allowing her to sing relaxed, without strain.
Although she did not appear much in Paris, Merlin notes, she was the chosen voice at many remarkable events, notably the solemn concert to reopen La Scala after World War II and the revival of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West at the Met. He also takes the best stance on the over-commented rivalry between Tebaldi and Callas, saying that "their voices and their personalities were so different that it makes any comparison pointless: it would be better to speak in terms of how they complemented one another."
Tebaldi's voice was characterized by the pure beauty of her timber, the perfect equality of her registers, the sweetness of her line and phrasing, with her milky fine shading and her enchanting runs. The acting, sincere but limited, could sometimes suffer from this care afforded to the singing line and sonorous seduction, even more so because her stage movement was somewhat reduced, possibly as a result of poliomyelitis contracted during her childhood.
The author singles out several opera recordings that show her at her best, of which I direct you to the Cleva La Wally, the Serafin Butterfly, and the Karajan Otello Aida (see Amazon links below). He also mentions les pirates, including a "completely hallucinatory" Forza del Destino, directed by Mitropoulos in Florence in 1953 (possibly this recording?): "at the end of her aria, just before the delirious ovation of the audience, one listener beats everyone to the punch by yelling out, "Un angelo!" (An angel). Now that comment is literally true.

Available at Amazon
Alfredo Catalani, La Wally, R. Tebaldi, F. Cleva
Available at Amazon
Giacomo Puccini, Madama Butterfly, R. Tebaldi, T. Serafin
Available at Amazon
Giuseppe Verdi, Aida, R. Tebaldi, H. von Karajan

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