Mario Del Monaco is one of the singers that often springs to mind when people talk about the Golden Age of Singing.
Born on July 27, 1915 to an upper-class family in Florence, he graduated from the Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro. It was there that he met Renata Tebaldi, with whom he would form an operatic “dream team” later in his career. His breakout came on Dec. 31, 1940, when he sang Pinkerton in “Madama Butterfly” for his debut at the Puccini Theater in Milan. Then he went on to perform in London and slowly but surely built his international reputation. His Met Opera debut came in 1951 and he would remain with the company for eight years, and throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he was one of the premiere tenors in the world, alongside Carlo Bergonzi, Franco Corelli, and Giuseppe Di Stefano.
He possessed a massive instrument that he wielded to strong effect in many dramatic roles. He did receive some criticism for his inability to sing softly, though he himself noted that his instrument simply did not allow him to sing softly.
He left behind a plethora of recordings and retired from the stage in 1975. He passed away in 1982.
Mario Del Monaco was a fierce champion of the Italian repertoire and his greatest roles are from such composers as Verdi, Puccini, Giordano, Mascagni, and Leoncavallo.
But there is no doubt as to what his signature piece was – Verdi’s “Otello.” For many, Del Monaco was THE Otello of his day, his powerful sound, and bright timbre a perfect fit for the Verdi character. He left behind a number of major recordings of the work and his interpretation is often cited among the greatest of the 20th century and beyond.
Read More on Del Monaco
Watch and Listen
Here is a video of a performance from Tokyo (excuse the video quality) that lets us see De Monaco’s vocal prowess.
And here is a massive collection of Del Monaco’s repertoire.