Carlo Bergonzi, born on July 13, dominated the Italian repertoire during the middle of the 20th century, becoming one of the great interpreters of the spinto repertoire.
However, despite dominating the works of numerous Italian maestros, he was best associated with the works of Verdi, his voice and elegant singing perfect for the great composer. His polished vocal line suited Verdi’s music, which was situated between the virtuosic polish of the bel canto repertoire and the more intense passionate outbursts of the Verismo repertoire.
Bergonzi had a lengthy career, a major part of it taking place at the Metropolitan Opera where he made his debut in 1956. His final performance at the great house came forty years later in 1996.
As you might expect, Verdi played a key role in his work at the house. Of the 324 performances he gave at the Met, 175 (54 percent) were in Verdi operas. But among those Verdi works, he frequently visited some more than others. Here are Bergonzi’s most famous Verdi operas at the Met.
The tenor made his Met debut as Radamès in Verdi’s third-to-last opera. More importantly, he performed “Aida” more than any other opera during his Met career. He gave a total of 58 performances in the opera, his last coming on Nov. 17, 1978.
Un Ballo in Maschera
One of the renowned Riccardo / Gustavo interpreters of all-time, Bergonzi took on the middle-period opera a total of 33 times in his career, his first showing coming in in 1962 and his final performance of the opera at the Met coming on Feb. 19, 1983.
Bergonzi sang his first Met Manrico in 1956 and seemed poised to dominate the role for years to come as he performed it a whopping 18 times through 1960. And while he seemed primed to be a leading Manrico throughout his career, he found himself lumped behind the likes of Franco Corelli and Richard Tucker as the leading proponents of the opera during Bergonzi’s prime.
La Forza del Destino
The tenor sang his first Forza in 1958 and would go on to perform the role of Alvaro 15 times throughout his Met Opera tenure.
He only performed the opera 12 times, but his first ever performance of Macduff at the Met was an essential one as he was part of the cast that premiered the Shakespeare adaptation at the Met on Feb. 5, 1959.