High Notes On This Day

5 of Mario del Monaco’s Most Famous Roles & Recordings

When we look back at the history of operatic tenors, Mario del Monaco, born on July 27, 1915, will always stand out for his massive sound and larger-than-life vocal personality. He had a massive sound that he wielded like a weapon full of intensity and emotional prowess.

Looking at his repertoire, he wasn’t the most diverse of singers, his number of roles rather limited compared to other artists of the time. But there is no doubt that everything he touched was passionate, overwhelming and ever-engaging. Here is a look at Del Monaco’s most famous roles.


Del Monaco was one of the famed Radamès interpreters of his time, the tenor one of the few able to tackle the opening “Celeste Aida” with no sign of hesitation. He’s a hero through and through in this opera, a work he sang quite often. At the Met, it was the opera he sang most, clocking in at 33 times throughout his career. He also recorded the opera quite extensively with numerous sopranos, most famously Maria Callas in a live performance.


Del Monaco rarely touched the French repertoire, but José’s virile nature and increasing agitation suited Del Monaco’s vocal style quite well. At the Met he sang the role 18 times and there is a well-known recording alongside Regina Resnik and Joan Sutherland.

Andrea Chénier

Another opera that the tenor was famous for and sang quite often, Del Monaco’s Chénier is far from a refined poet, but one brewing with passion and intensity. His opening aria “Un di, all’azzurro spazio” boils to an explosive climax that, while it might sound overwhelming considering the character of Chénier and his profession, is undoubtedly riveting and exciting. His most famous recording of the work is alongside none other than Maria Callas.


A famous Canio, the tenor sang the role 18 times at the Met and featured it all around the world. This was a role that suited his vocal temperament beautifully, the tenor able to push his voice to its violent potential in the climactic moment of the work. He recorded the opera a number of times, most famously with Gabriella Tucci.


Of course, this is the role he will always be linked to. He was one of the few tenors to truly possess the force and brutality of the Moorish warrior. His Otello will never be remembered as a romantic hero, but he was certainly able to conjure up the fierce nature that few others ever have. He reportedly sang the role around 200 times throughout his career. He also has one of the greatest recordings of the opera ever created, conducted by Herbert Von Karajan and featuring Renata Tebaldi and Aldo Protti.

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