Artist Profile: American Bass Giorgio Tozzi’s Diverse Career

By David Salazar

American-born Giorgio Tozzi was actually born George John Tozzi on Jan. 8, 1923.

He originally planned on studying biology when he entered DePaul University, though he eventually wound up in military service during World War II. After that, he resumed a singing career.

He would make his professional debut in the Broadway production of “The Rape of Lucretia” in 1948. And his name became “Giorgio” after making some recordings with RCA Victor.

In 1955, he made his Met Opera debut in “La Gioconda.” He would have a long career with the company that would span 20 years until his final show in 1975 in “La Bohème.” During his time there, he appeared in the world premiere performance of Barber’s “Vanessa” in the role of The Doctor.

He also appeared in a famed nationally broadcast performance of “Boris Godunov” with the NBC Opera Theatre.

In addition to his Met appearances, Tozzi was a regular with the San Francisco Opera, and La Scala, among other companies.

His recordings were widely lauded. In 1960, Tozzi won his first Grammy Award for Erich Leinsdorf’s recording of “The Marriage of Figaro;” he also won the Grammy in 1961 and 1963. He also appeared in Sir Thomas Beecham’s beloved “Messiah” recording from 1959. He also garnered a Tony Nomination for his role in “The Most Happy Fella.”

In addition to his work in the opera house, Tozzi also appeared in a few films, including as a singer on “South Pacific (1958)” and “Shamus (1973).” He also published a novel, “The Golem of the Golden West” in 1997. He also appeared in a film version of “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”

He was also a professor at the Juilliard School, Brigham Young University, and Indiana University.

He died on May 30, 2011.

Signature Roles

The bass’s major roles were the title character in “Le Nozze di Figaro,” Filippo II in “Don Carlo,” and Hans Sachs in “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” He also performed the roles of Ramfis in “Aida” and Basilio in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” quite often.

He performed “Figaro” 26 times during his Met career and Filippo 13 times; Hans Sachs got 34 performances. Ramfis was by far his most common assignment, the bass taking on the Egyptian high priest 53 times in his Met career.

Watch and Listen

Here he is in some Verdi selections.

And here is that famed “Messiah” recording.


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