Carlo Bergonzi

13 July 1924 Vidalenzo (near Busseto) – 25 July 2014 Milano

Picture of Carlo Bergonzi

Carlo Bergonzi sings Il trovatore: Di quella pira

Carlo Bergonzi sings Mefistofele: Giunto sul passo estremo
In RA format

Carlo Bergonzi sings Lucia di Lammermoor: Fra poco a me ricovero
In RA format

Carlo Bergonzi sings Ernani: Come rugiada al cespite
In RA format

Carlo Bergonzi sings Turandot: Nessun dorma
In RA format

Carlo Bergonzi sings I due Foscari: Dal più remoto esilio
In RA format

Carlo Bergonzi has problems in Aida: Celeste Aida (end only)

Bergonzi in Zürich

Review of the "Le Concert des Nations" in Paris published by Opéra 64, May issue 1964, by Clym
... In the huge Salle Pleyel, the voice of Carlo Bergonzi
Caricature of Carlo Bergonzi
was not for many, what it is normally on record. Recordings sometimes improve the voice. Naturally the timbre's quality is still the same, a great beauty with a great color; however as far the volume is concerned many people were disappointed. As it was the case either in the Gioconda aria, or in the Trovatore duo with Giulietta Simionato. However, the latter singer was the hero of the evening. Like every great voice, the volume is bigger live than in the recordings. What a quality, what a dramatic feeling! Her Don fatale was the high point of the concert. ...

During his vocal studies in Parma, Bergonzi was imprisoned because he was an antifascist; then he was sent to the front, got into a German Forced Labor Camp, and could finish his studies only after WWII. He made his debut, still a baritone, in 1947. After three years, he decided to restudy as a tenor.

His second debut took place at the Petruzzelli in Bari in 1951, as Andrea Chénier. Very soon, he was hired by the Italian radio RAI, where he was a huge success. On stage, he made his debuts in Naples, Rome and in 1953 at La Scala (world premiere of Jacopo Napoli's opera Mas'aniello on 25 March, Bergonzi in the title role). In 1955, he was already in London and Chicago, and in 1956 at the Met, which was to be at the center of his career: he sang there regularly from 1956 to 1988, a total of 324 performances.

Bergonzi was, almost from the beginning of his tenor career, considered the Verdi expert par excellence; not least, I think, because the hamlet where he was born is just a stone's throw from Busseto (Verdi's birthplace) and Sant'Agata (Verdi's later country estate). He recorded at least selections from every Verdi tenor role (and many of them in complete editions).

Already during his career, he opened a hotel in Busseto, called "I due Foscari", where he actually worked in his later years.

After 1993, he appeared only occasionally in concert; but one Verdi role that he had never sung live was Otello, and he absolutely wanted to do it. The Carnegie Hall concert performance where he would make his Otello debut in 2000 (!) was a huge event; even Domingo, Pavarotti and Carreras, all three of them, were in the audience. It was a failure; Bergonzi had to bow out after act 2.

I saw Bergonzi, beyond his stage and concert performances, twice in public interviews, and found him incredibly conceited; although he is said to have been very nice and helpful with younger colleagues. As far as his singing, it's true that in comparison with most of his contemporaries, he must appear as a noble, refined stylist; but that's more because of his contemporaries than because of himself. For example, his legato is insufficient, and far from stylish singing. Also, what appears as nobility to many, may also be seen, or heard, as a sore lack of passion (not always, but almost always). And his top range betrays (again, not always, but almost always) his baritone origins: it's labored, uneasy, pushed. To sum it up, Bergonzi is a singer that I only very rarely, and reluctantly, listen to, although I readily admit that some (some!) of his countless recordings are fantastic.

Reference 1, reference 2: Kutsch & Riemens, reference 3, reference 4, reference 5: Die Welt, 27 July 2014


La bohème (Schaunard) – Catania, Arena Argentina, 7 August 1947
Il barbiere di Siviglia (Figaro) – Lecce
Madama Butterfly (Sharpless)
Andrea Chénier – Bari, Petruzzelli, 18 January 1951
Giovanna d'Arco – Milano, RAI, 26 May 1951
Pagliacci – Milano, RAI, 10 June 1951
La forza del destino – Milano, RAI, 16 July 1951
Un ballo in maschera – Milano, Nuovo, 15 August 1951
Simon Boccanegra – Roma, RAI, 21 November 1951
I due Foscari – Milano, RAI, 5 December 1951
Adriana Lecouvreur – Prato, Metastasio, 31 December 1951
Faust – Bari, Petruzzelli, 8 January 1952
Její pastorkyňa (Jenůfa) (Števa) – Roma, Opera, 17 April 1952
Ifigenia – Napoli, San Carlo, 1 June 1952
Mefistofele – Roma, Caracalla, 1 July 1952
Madama Butterfly – Cagliari, All'aperto, August 1952
Masaniello – Milano, Scala, 25 March 1953
Rigoletto – Livorno, Goldoni, 20 May 1953
Aida – Buenos Aires, Colón, 24 July 1953
Tosca – Buenos Aires, Colón, 7 August 1953
Manon Lescaut – Rovigo, Sociale, 24 October 1953
Turandot – Catania, Massimo Bellini, 19 November 1953
Loreley – Reggio Emilia, Municipale, 2 February 1954
L'incorazione di Poppea – Milano, RAI, 7 March 1954
Carmen – Monte Carlo, Salle Garnier, 30 January 1955
Lucia di Lammermoor – Brescia, Grande, 3 Fenruary 1955
Don Carlo – Buenos Aires, Colón, August 1955
La traviata – Salsomaggiore, Nuovo, 10 September 1955
Il tabarro – Chicago, Lyric, 16 November 1955
Cavalleria rusticana – Chicago Lyric, 26 November 1955
L'amore dei tre re – Chicago, Lyric, 28 November 1955
La Gioconda – Trieste, Castello di San Giusto, 16 July 1956
Il trovatore – New York, Met, 13 November 1956
Fior di Maria – Milano, RAI, 30 January 1957
La bohème – Caracas, Municipal, October 1957
Macbeth – New York, Met, 5 February 1959
L'elisir d'amore – San Sebastian, Victoria Eugenia, 26 August 1959
Ernani – New York, Met, 26 November 1962
La Wally – New York, Carnegie Hall, 13 March 1968
Werther – Napoli, San Carlo, 11 February 1969
Norma – New York, Met, 3 March 1970
Luisa Miller – Genova, Margherita, 20 September 1972
Edgar – New York, Carnegie Hall, 13 April 1977
I lombardi alla prima crociata – San Diego, Russ Auditorium, 22 June 1979
Il corsaro – New York, Town Hall, 16 December 1981
Attila – Tulsa, Chapman Music Hall, 6 March 1982
Otello – New York, Carnegie Hall, 3 May 2000
Reference: Gustavo Marchesi, Carlo Bergonzi, I suoi personaggi; Azzali Editori, Parma, 2003
This book barely mentions Bergonzi's baritone roles. It gives the wrong year and city (with no mention of the work) for Bergonzi's debut. I want to thank Larry Lustig for giving me the correct date. The book lists as part of Bergonzi's baritone repertory: Don Pasquale, La bohème, Lucia di Lammermoor, and La traviata, without indication of dates, roles or places.
Bergonzi's website lists:
Cilea, Francesco
      Arlesiana (Metifio)
Donizetti, Gaetano
      Don Pasquale (Dottor Malatesta)
      Elisir d'amore, L' (Belcore)
      Lucia di Lammermoor (Lord Enrico Ashton)
Ferrari Trecate, Luigi
      Astuzie di Bertoldo, Le
Leoncavallo, Ruggero
      Pagliacci (Silvio)
Mascagni, Pietro
      Amico Fritz, L' (Fritz Kobus)
      Cavalleria rusticana (Alfio)
Massenet, Jules
      Werther (Albert)
Puccini, Giacomo
      Bohème, La (Marcello)
      Bohème, La (Schaunard)
      Fanciulla del West, La (Sonora)
      Madama Butterfly (Sharpless)
      Manon Lescaut (Lescaut)
Rossini, Gioacchino
      Barbiere di Siviglia, Il (Figaro)
Thomas, Ambroise
      Mignon (Laerte)
Verdi, Giuseppe
      Rigoletto (Rigoletto)
      Traviata, La (Giorgio Germont)
There is also no mention of dates and places.
I would like to thank Thomas Silverbörg for the recordings.

Go Home