OP1333. LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, Live Performance, 3 Sept., 1967, Tokyo, w.Bartoletti Cond. NHK Ensemble; Renata Scotto, Carlo Bergonzi, Mario Zanasi, etc. (Slovenia) 2-Myto 065.337. Long out-of-print, final copy! - 608974503376
“Known for her dramatic singing style, Renata Scotto excels in the Italian repertoire, including Bellini's NORMA and Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY. She has performed in more than 45 operas all over the world.
Born in Italy in 1934, Renata Scotto made her operatic début in her hometown of Savona on Christmas Eve, 1952 in LA TRAVIATA. She made her professional opera début at the Teatro Nuovo as Violetta, a rôle she earned by winning the Milan Lyric Association competition. With a blooming musical career, she auditioned for the part of Walter in Catalani's LA WALLY, performed at La Scala in Milan. She instantly received the part and was called back for fifteen curtain calls on opening night, 7 Dec., 1953.
In 1957, the La Scala Company had been in Edinburgh performing Bellini's LA SONNAMBULA, with Maria Callas as Amina. Due to the enormous interest, La Scala decided to add more performances. When Callas refused to do another performance, Scotto was called to replace her. With the success of her performance in this rôle, she became an international star.
With her operatic success came personal success as well. In 1960, Scotto performed at the Royal Opera House as Mimi in LA BOHÈME. She made her United States début with the Metropolitan Opera in 1965 as Cio-Cio-San in MADAMA BUTTERFLY. A quote from the New York Herald Tribune called the performance ‘an occasion for rejoicing, and there was plenty of it in the form of applause and welcoming shouts to the new artist who, above all, is distinctly an individual’."
- Kim Summers, allmusic.com
"Renata Scotto is a musician. She is a studious woman who is devoted to her career. I have seen her at work and her dedication to opera is complete, profound, and remarkable. She will finish singing only to return to the score and study again. She has given herself to opera, body and soul; and she never stops learning. That is why her characterizations are always so fresh."
- Plácido Domingo, SCOTTO, MORE THAN A DIVA, p.xii
“Considered the foremost Verdi tenor of his age, Mr. Bergonzi sang more than 300 times with the Metropolitan Opera of New York from the 1950s to the ’80s, appearing opposite a roster of celebrated divas that included Maria Callas, Zinka Milanov, Renata Tebaldi, Risë Stevens, Victoria de los Angeles and Leontyne Price.
A lyric tenor of some vocal heft, Mr. Bergonzi lacked the sonic weight and brilliance of tenors in the Wagnerian mold. But what he did possess was an instrument of velvety beauty and nearly unrivaled subtlety.
‘More than the sound of the voice, it is Mr. Bergonzi’s way of using it that is so special’, Peter G. Davis, reviewing a 1978 Carnegie Hall recital by Mr. Bergonzi, wrote in The New York Times. ‘He is a natural singer in that everything he does seems right and inevitable — the artful phrasing, the coloristic variety, the perfectly positioned accents, the theatrical sense of well-proportioned climaxes, the honest emotional fervor. Best of all, Mr. Bergonzi obviously uses these effects artistically because he feels them rather than intellectualizes them — a rare instinctual gift, possibly the most precious one any musician can possess’. In the view of his many fans, this vocal elegance amply compensated for the fact that Mr. Bergonzi was no actor and, by his own ready admission, no matinee idol. ‘I know I don’t look like Rudolph Valentino’, he told The Times in 1981. ‘I know what a proper physique should be for the parts I sing, but I have tried to learn to act through the voice. The proper, pure expression of the line is the most important thing’.
Mr. Bergonzi began his career as a baritone, and after becoming a tenor a few years later was careful not to push his voice past its natural confines. As a result, he largely escaped the vocal wear that can force singers to retire by the time they reach their early 50s; Mr. Bergonzi, by contrast, continued to sing on prominent stages — and, as critical opinion had it, sing well — into his late 60s.
During World War II, Mr. Bergonzi spent three years in a German concentration camp for his anti-Nazi activities. He returned home after the war, weighing 80 pounds, and resumed singing.
Mr. Bergonzi made his operatic début in 1948 as a baritone, singing the title part in Rossini’s BARBER OF SEVILLE in Lecce, in southern Italy. After coming to realize that tenor parts were better situated for his voice, he made a second début, as a tenor, in the title role in Umberto Giordano’s ANDREA CHÉNIER in Bari in 1951.
In 1955, Mr. Bergonzi made his United States début with the Lyric Theater of Chicago (now the Lyric Opera of Chicago) as Luigi in Puccini’s IL TABARRO. The next year, on 13 November, he made his Met début as Radames opposite Antonietta Stella, also making her début that night.
Mr. Bergonzi also appeared at La Scala in Milan — where in 1953 he created the title role in Jacopo Napoli’s opera MAS’ANIELLO, based on the life of Tommaso Aniello, the 17th-century Italian fisherman-turned-revolutionary — and at Covent Garden, where he made his début in 1962 as Don Alvaro in Verdi’s FORZA DEL DESTINO. At the Met, in March 1964, Mr. Bergonzi was a soloist (with Ms. Price, Rosalind Elias and Cesare Siepi) in an acclaimed performance of Verdi’s REQUIEM in memory of President John F. Kennedy, under the baton of Georg Solti.
In 1994, Mr. Bergonzi, then 70, took the stage at Carnegie Hall for what was billed as his American farewell recital. The concert, a program of Italian art songs and arias, concluded with a 50-minute ovation and was warmly reviewed by critics. But as it transpired, that concert was no farewell. In 2000, two months shy of his 76th birthday, Mr. Bergonzi sang the one Verdi role he had never attempted: the title part in OTELLO, one of the most fiendishly demanding tenor roles in opera, in a concert performance with the Opera Orchestra of New York under Eve Queler. His performance — a high-wattage Carnegie Hall affair whose audience included Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Sherrill Milnes, Licia Albanese and Anna Moffo — was, by wide critical consensus, an unreconstructed disaster. ‘It was immediately apparent that there was something wrong’, THE GUARDIAN, the British newspaper, wrote shortly afterward. ‘A grainy tone in the voice inhibited everything. Bergonzi strained audibly in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the high A that caps the triumphant entry phrase’. Mr. Bergonzi withdrew from the performance after two acts, leaving his role in Acts III and IV to be sung by an understudy, Antonio Barasorda.
But the younger, supple-voiced Mr. Bergonzi endures on his many recordings, including several of AÏDA (opposite Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo and Montserrat Caballé); a BOHÈME and a BUTTERFLY opposite Renata Tebaldi; Donizetti’s LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR with Beverly Sills; and a three-record set for Philips on which he sings all of Verdi’s tenor arias.”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 July, 2014