Obituary: Umberto Grilli Dies At 85

By Francisco Salazar
(Courtesy of Opera Musica)

Italian tenor Umberto Grilli has died at the age of 85.

Born on Sept. 4, 1934 in Pavia, Italy, Grilli was a well-known tenor who often replaced Luciano Pavarotti and enjoyed an international career performing at the Teatro La Fenice, Teatro alla Scala, Opera Scotland, Palermo, Bergamo, and Napoli.

His repertoire included the works of Donizetti, Ponchielli, Rossini, Puccini, Bellini, and Verdi and he performed alongside Leyla Gencer, Renata Scotto, Mirella Freni, Nicola Zacaria, Mario Sereni, Renato Bruson, Ruggero Raimondi.

According to Ambrogio Maetsri, who studied with the tenor, “Grilli never came to the USA, because he was afraid of flying. He wasn’t Pavarotti, but he was un bel tenore.”

After retiring, Grilli founded the Pediconi-Grilli singing competition, which was named after singers Fiorella Pediconi and Grilli.

He left a number of live recordings behind including “I Lombardi” and “Maria di Rohan” with Scotto, and “Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra, “Lucrezia Borgia” and “Belisario” with Gencer. He also has recordings of “La Bohème” and “Don Pasquale.”

Here is Grilli performing from “La Favorita.”

And here he is performing from “Rigoletto.”