Showing posts with label Mirella Freni. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mirella Freni. Show all posts

17 April 2021

Gianni Raimondi – tenor

Brilliant performer left few recordings of his voice

Raimondi's performances were much admired by opera fans
Raimondi's performances were
much admired by opera fans
Opera singer Gianni Raimondo, who on his first appearance at La Scala in Milan sang opposite Maria Callas in a production by Luchino Visconti, was born on this day in 1923 in Bologna.

Raimondi was admired for his brilliant top notes and exquisite phrasing when he performed. Opera fans have been disappointed that more recordings of his performances were not made at the time.

After studying voice in Bologna and Mantua, the tenor made his stage debut at the Teatro Consorziale in Budrio, a small town near Bologna, in 1977 as the Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto. The following year in Bologna he sang the part of Ernesto in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and was then chosen for the premiere of Il Contrabasso by Valentino Bucchi at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence.

In 1956 he made his La Scala debut opposite Callas in Verdi’s La Traviata and the following year sang opposite Callas again in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena.

He was also successful at La Scala in Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Semiramide and as Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème.

Raimondo made his American debut in 1957 in San Francisco and then took part in La bohème at the Staatsoper in Vienna. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli, he then toured with La bohème to Moscow, Monaco and Bavaria.

Maria Callas sang opposite Raimondi in several productions
Maria Callas sang opposite
Raimondi in several productions
He also appeared in the film of La bohème, directed by Zeffirelli, in 1965. 

In the same year he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor singing opposite Mirella Freni. He appeared at La Scala in the same opera in the 1968 to 1969 season and then from 1969 to 1977 Raimondi was engaged in Hamburg by the Staatsoper.

There is a recording of Raimondi in La Traviata with Renata Scotto and of the singer at La Scala performing with Maria Callas in Anna Bolena.

Opera experts say he had a voice of great beauty and that he sang with style and elegance.

He was married to the Italian soprano Gianna Dal Sommo and in later years he gave vocal classes in Budria, the small town where he had made his operatic debut.

In retirement he spent much of his time at his seaside villa in Riccione in Emilia-Romagna.

Raimondi died at his home in Pianoro near Bologna in 2008. His death, at the age of 85, was announced by La Scala.

Budrio's 14th century town hall - the Palazzo Municipale on Piazza Filopanti
Budrio's 14th century town hall - the
Palazzo Municipale on Piazza Filopanti
Travel tip:

Budrio, where Raimondi made his operatic debut and later taught singing, is 15 km (nine miles) east of Bologna. It was founded in the 10th century and the Church of San Lorenzo was known to be active by 1146. The church was rebuilt as a castle in the 14th century, of which two towers can still be seen.  The town is the birthplace of the ocarina, a musical wind-instrument in terracotta, invented in 1853. Budrio’s Museo dell’ocarina in Viale I Maggio has a large collection of historical items and documents that illustrate the evolution of the instrument.

Riccione is renowned for its elegant tree-lined boulevards as well as its wide beaches
Riccione is renowned for its elegant tree-lined
boulevards as well as its wide beaches
Travel tip:

Riccione, where Raimondi owned a seaside villa, is a municipality in the province of Rimini on the Adriatic coast. Sometimes called the ‘green pearl of the Adriatic’, its elegant, tree-lined boulevards carry echoes of the town’s tradition as a resort that was a cut above its brasher neighbours. These days it is no less thronged in the high summer months than its big brother Rimini but the Via Ceccarini, with its smart boutiques, attractive cafés and trendy night spots, is still one of the most famous streets on the Adriatic Riviera. Other attractions are the Museo del Territorio, with exhibits reflecting thousands of years of history in the area, and the Castello degli Agolanti, once owned by the most powerful local family, now an exhibition and conference venue.

Also on this day:

1598: The birth of astronomer Giovanni Riccioli

1927: The birth of soprano Graziella Sciutti

1954: The birth of racing driver Riccardo Patrese


27 February 2016

Mirella Freni – opera singer

Good advice from Gigli helped soprano have long career

Mirella Freni starred at the world's major opera houses
Mirella Freni, pictured in 1970
Singer Mirella Freni was born Mirella Fregni on this day in 1935 in Modena in Emilia-Romagna .

Freni’s grandmother, Valentina Bartolomasi, had been a leading soprano in Italy from 1910 until 1927, specialising in Wagner roles. By coincidence, her mother worked alongside the mother of tenor Luciano Pavarotti in a tobacco factory in Modena.

Freni was obviously musically gifted and sang an opera aria in a radio competition when she was just ten years old.

One of the judges was the tenor Beniamino Gigli, who advised her to give up singing until she was older to protect her voice.

Freni took his advice and resumed singing when she was 17, making her operatic debut at the Teatro Municipale in Modena at the age of 20 in Bizet’s Carmen.

Her international debut came at Glyndebourne in Franco Zeffirelli’s staging of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.

In the 1960 season at Glyndebourne she sang comic roles from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni.

Listen to Mirella Freni performing "Un bel di vedremo" from Madame Butterfly

Freni made her Covent Garden debut in 1961, her La Scala debut in 1963 and her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1965.

She started singing the heavier Verdi roles in the 1970s but she always refused roles for which she thought she was unsuited, or that might overtax her voice, which contributed to her longevity as a singer.

The soprano starred in a 1975 film of Madame Butterfly opposite Placido Domingo.

In 1978 she married Nicolai Ghiaurov, a leading operatic bass. Together they established the Centro Universale del Bel Canto in Vignola, near Modena in 2002, where they began giving master classes. Freni continued this work after his death in 2004.

She celebrated her 50th anniversary on the operatic stage in 2005 at the age of 70 at the Met in New York before retiring.

Modena's 11th century Duomo is a Unesco world heritage site
Modena's 11th century Duomo
Travel tip:

Modena is an historic city in Emilia Romagna with a magnificent main square, Piazza Grande, which has an 11th century Duomo dedicated to San Geminiano, and is now a Unesco world heritage site. The city’s opera house was renamed Teatro Communale Luciano Pavarotti in 2007 after the great tenor. Modena is also famous for its balsamic vinegar, Aceto Balsamico di Modena.

Hotels in Modena from

Travel Tip:

South of Modena is the city of Vignola, where Freni and Ghiaurov established their Centro Universale del Bel Canto. Famous for its cherry trees and the abundant fruit they produce, Vignola has one of the best preserved castles in the region, the Rocca di Vignola, founded in the eighth century but rebuilt and turned into a residence for a wealthy family in the 13th century. The city was also the birthplace of the brilliant architect Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola in 1507.

(Picture credit: Modena Cathedral by Icco80 via Wikimedia Commons)