OP2043. SIMON BOCCANEGRA, Live Performance, 2 April, 1960, w.Mitropoulos Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Frank Guarrera, Zinka Milanov, Carlo Bergonzi, Giorgio Tozzi, Ezio Flagello, Norman Scott, etc. [For the ultimate in a Verdian soprano phrase, Milanov is truly extraordinary in the Council Chamber Scene!] (E.U.) 2-Walhall 0309. - 4035122653090
“With his slender but firm voice and winning stage presence, Frank Guarrera was a fixture at the Met in a number of roles: Escamillo in CARMEN (his début role in 1948), Marcello in LA BOHÈME, Valentin in FAUST. He also essayed larger, Verdian roles with honor, if not quite the vocal opulence of contemporaries like Robert Merrill, or Leonard Warren, whom he replaced as Simon Boccanegra a few days after Mr. Warren’s death onstage in 1960.
In 1948, when the 24-year-old Mr. Guarrera was participating in the Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Auditions of the Air’ (a precursor of the current National Council Auditions), which he eventually won, Toscanini heard him on the radio singing Ford’s monologue from FALSTAFF and arranged for an audition. The result was Mr. Guarrera’s engagement at La Scala in Boito’s NERONE on the 30th anniversary of Boito’s death. It was the first of several performances under Toscanini; Mr. Guarrera sang Ford on the conductor’s legendary 1950 FALSTAFF broadcasts, still available on CD.
His final role at the Met was Gianni Schicchi, which he last sang in 1976. After his retirement from the stage, he taught at the University of Washington in Seattle for 10 years."
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 27 Nov., 2007
“Milanov came like a bolt out of heaven - the voice and the young woman, both so vibrant and exciting. We knew something great had come into [the Met’s] Italian wing. What was not obvious at the beginning was that she would have such a staying power, for she gave so much in her singing.…I was present years later on her great anniversaries and she sang at mine [the fiftieth anniversary of [my] Met début, 1963]. She was incomparable. She was like a vocal sorceress singing the OTELLO arias that night. Such a roar went up from the public, I can never forget it.”
- Giovanni Martinelli
“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
“Giorgio Tozzi, a distinguished bass who spent two decades with the Metropolitan Opera and also appeared on film, television and Broadway, was a distinguished professor emeritus at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where he had taught since 1991. He was previously on the Juilliard School faculty [originally having studied with Rosa Raisa, Giacomo Rimini and John Daggett Howell].
Esteemed for his warm, smooth voice; skillful acting; pinpoint diction; and authoritative stage presence - he was 6 foot 2 in his prime - Mr. Tozzi sang 528 performances with the Met. He was so ubiquitous there for so long that THE NEW YORK TIMES was later moved to describe him (admiringly) as ‘inescapable’. Mr. Tozzi made his Met début as Alvise in Ponchielli’s LA GIOCONDA in 1955. Reviewing the performance, The NEW YORK POST wrote that he ‘proved to have a voice of beautiful quality’, adding: ‘It was rich in texture and expertly handled both as to characterization and technique’. His most famous performances at the Met include the title roles in Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV and Mozart’s MARRIAGE OF FIGARO; Ramfis in Verdi’s AÏDA; Don Basilio in Rossini’s BARBER OF SEVILLE; Philip II in Verdi’s DON CARLO; and Hans Sachs in Wagner’s DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG. Mr. Tozzi began his vocal life as a baritone. He made his début (as George Tozzi) in 1948, singing Tarquinius in Benjamin Britten’s THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA. Staged at the Ziegfeld Theater on Broadway, the production also starred Kitty Carlisle.
He originated the role of the Doctor in Samuel Barber’s VANESSA, which had its world premiere at the Met in 1958. Conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos, the production also starred Eleanor Steber and Nicolai Gedda. Mr. Tozzi’s last performance with the Met was in 1975, as Colline in Puccini’s BOHÈME.
He also sang with the San Francisco Opera, La Scala and other companies and appeared as a soloist with major symphony orchestras throughout the United States and Europe. On film Mr. Tozzi dubbed the singing voice of the actor Rossano Brazzi in the role of Emile de Becque in SOUTH PACIFIC (1958), directed by Joshua Logan. (Mr. Tozzi had played the role himself, opposite Mary Martin, in a West Coast production of the musical the year before.) On the small screen he sang King Melchior in the 1978 television film of Gian Carlo Menotti’s AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS, also starring Teresa Stratas. On Broadway he received a Tony nomination for the role of the lonely California grape farmer Tony Esposito in the 1979 revival of Frank Loesser’s operatic musical comedy THE MOST HAPPY FELLA. (The award went to Jim Dale for BARNUM.)
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 2 June, 2011