Carlo Bergonzi, one of the greatest Italian tenors of the last 100 years, just died at age 90. There are a lot of obituaries for him all over the Internet today. If you want to know the story of his extraordinary life, I’d encourage you to read a few of them.
On my blog today, I just want to say how lucky I was to hear him sing in a performance of Aida at the Metropolitan Opera back in the 1970s. It was a performance that I will never forget – impassioned, cultivated, vocally beautiful and secure, and stylistically impeccable too. He was in every way an aristocratic Italian tenor – a one-man antidote to the notion that Italian tenors are crude singers who push their voices, ignore dynamics, and can’t sing legato.
Today, I’d like to share this video of Bergonzi singing “Celeste Aida” from Aida, in a live performance. I think it is pretty interesting – and a great testament to Bergonzi. He wasn’t having a great time of it getting through this extremely challenging aria which comes, as you know, only a few minutes into the opera. But Bergonzi turned in a fine performance anyway. And I’d be willing to bet that his performance of the rest of the opera only got better.
He was not only a wonderful tenor with a glorious voice but a smart and seasoned professional. I grew up listening to his recordings and only saw him perform once. But I’ll always be grateful for that night and in my small way, I’m adding my voice to the growing chorus of those who are praising Bergonzi this week for everything he gave us.