Symphony Center joins the world in mourning the death of the great Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi, who died July 25 in Milan, just two weeks after his 90th birthday. In his tribute for WFMT-FM, critic-at-large Andrew Patner reminds Chicagoans that Signor Bergonzi, perhaps the best post-war interpreter of Verdi, last appeared here in 1989, in an Allied Arts recital at Orchestra Hall.
From Patner’s appreciation:
Bergonzi began his long association with Lyric Opera of Chicago with his U.S. début here — as Luigi in Puccini’s Il tabarro in 1955 in the company’s second season. He appeared in two more roles here that season, Turiddu in Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Avito in Lyric’s première of Italo Montemezzi’s 1913 L’amore dei tre re. He never repeated or recorded those Puccini or Montemezzi roles.
In 1960, he sang his first Verdi here, Radamès in Aida. In 1961, he shared the role of Edgar in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor with Richard Tucker, was Faust in the Lyric première of Boito’s Mefistofele opposite Boris Christoff, and sang the only other Verdi role he portrayed in Chicago, Don Alvaro in La forza del destino.
Bergonzi was back at the Civic Opera House in 1971 as Cavaradossi in “Tosca” and again in 1981, at 57, sharing the role of Nemorino in “The Elixir of Love” with Luciano Pavarotti, 11 years his junior.
His last Chicago performance was a thrilling recital at Orchestra Hall in 1989 — when he was 64. In 2004, he was one of the nine (of 23) “Jubilarians” honored in person by Lyric at its 50th anniversary jubilee concert.
Meanwhile, NPR published a salute, “A Voice of Velvet and Bronze: Carlo Bergonzi at 90,” earlier this month on its website.
PHOTO: Carlo Bergonzi, from the website of his Verdi singing competition, Concorso Internazionale di Voci Verdiane.