Artist Profile: Bass Italo Tajo, A Noted Mozart & Rossini Interpreter

By David Salazar

Italo Tajo was one of the famed Italian basses of the mid-20th century.

He was born in Pinerolo on April 25,  1915 and studied at the Music Conservatory of Turin. In 1935, he made his stage debut and in 1939, he became a member of the Rome Opera. In 1940, he joined the Teatro alla Scala, which was promptly followed by a debut at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

From there he managed major debuts in Paris, London, and Buenos Aires followed by his first appearance in Chicago in 1946. His Met and San Francisco debuts came in 1948

In 1949, he appeared in an Italian film, “The Legend of Faust,” interpreting the role of Mephistofele.

In addition to singing standard repertory, he also championed many modern pieces, appearing in the world premiere of Milhaud’s “David,” the Italian premiere of “Wozzeck,” the Italian-language premiere of “War and Peace,” and operas by Berio, Lualdi, Malpiero, and Nono.

In 1957, he appeared in “South Pacific” on Broadway, followed by “Kiss Me, Kate.”

In 1966, he started teaching at the University of Cincinnati.He died in 1993 at age 77.

Signature Roles

Tajo sang a wide range of repertory, but was most famous for his work in the operas of Mozart and Rossini. Of the former, he frequently performed the roles of Figaro and Leporello, while of the latter he was a noted interpreter of Don Basilio, with which he made his Met Opera debut.

He was also a champion of Verdi’s “Attila” and also a noted interpreter of the title role of “Boris Godunov.”

Watch and Listen

Check out this album of select arias.

Here is a live performance of “Atilla.”


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