Not Callas but Carlo Bergonzi

Carlo Bergonzi, a great tenor and a great musician, was born on July 13, 1924, making him about half a year younger than Maria Callas.

Bergonzi sang only three times with Callas, twice in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at the Metropolitan Opera in 1958, and in the 1964 EMI recording of Puccini’s Tosca.

With his manly and effulgent timbre, aristocratic phrasing, and heartfelt warmth, Bergonzi was one of the very greatest singers of the twentieth century. Among tenors, only Aureliano Pertile matches him as an interpreter of Verdi.

This performance of “Che gelida manina” is from the complete 1958 recording of Puccini’s La bohème led by Tullio Serafin. Years ago, I heard a program on French radio during which panelists compared performances of this aria. Following this rendition, there was a long silence, after which someone remarked, awestruck, C’est Rodolphe. The hosts played this recording twice more, marvelling at its magical beauty.

Buon compleanno, carissimo Maestro, e grazie per le infinite bellezze che Lei ci ha regalato.

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