Rolando Panerai was one of the great baritones of the mid-1900s. Born on Oct. 17, 1924, the Campi Bisenzio-born singer would add around 150 operas to his repertoire, an obscene number by any standards.
As one might expect, he was a massive exponent of the Italian repertoire, particularly in the operas of Verdi where he sang everything from the great roles such as “Simon Boccanegra” and “Rigoletto” to the rarely performed operas such as “Giovanna d’Arco,” “La Battaglia di Legnano” and “Aroldo.”
But obviously not all roles are created equally for any singer and over the course of his career, Panerai championed some operas more than others. Here they are.
Ford in “Falstaff”
While the baritone took on the title role of Verdi’s comic masterwork, it was as the jealous Ford that he made his mark, singing it and recording it more often than any other work. In fact, one can find recordings with Panerai coupled alongside such famed Falstaffs as Tito Gobbi, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and Giuseppe Taddei.
The baritone loved the opera so much that he performed it at the age of 87 in 2011 in Genova. He also recorded the work most famously under Giuseppe Patané and Peter Seiffert as recently as 1988.
The baritone, who could pull off such roles as Amfortas in “Parsifal” and Rigoletto, was more content with taking on the title role in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” instead of the Count, which is what most baritones in his position have done over the years. Regardless, he was a famed interpreter of the comic role, bringing over that same enthusiasm and gusto to his interpretation of the Rossini opera, “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” another one of his signatures. He also took on the role in Giovanni Paisiello’s version of “Il Barbiere” in 1959.
Dr. Malatesta in “Don Pasquale”
Another comic role on this list? Yes, Panerai loved these kinds of roles and reveled in them at every opportunity. He has no less than three different recordings of “Don Pasquale” all dating between 1971 and 1973. He also has another recording from 1963.