MUSIC / Carlo Bergonzi - Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

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Although Bergonzi only sang at Covent Garden in nine seasons between 1962 and 1985, the supporters at his farewell recital greeted him as a home-team regular. And well they might, for even at 68 the great tenor has a voice to break the heart - there was more than one furtive tear wiped away during the recital. Did Bergonzi himself shed a tear when Jeremy Isaacs presented him with a commemorative medal? Certainly he took a minute to compose himself.

It was that kind of evening. For the most part, Bergonzi's programme consisted not of opera arias, but of Italian songs: an opera's-worth of emotion packed into five minutes, obliterating the distance between high and low cultures. Here a crooner's shameless massaging of the emotions is wedded to the most refined vocal technique. The irresistible combination renders the occasional faltering lapse quite irrelevant.

The audience was ecstatic, the encores endless - including 'O Sole Mio' with throwaway Pavarotti touches. Bergonzi's voice is more sombre, less exuberant than Pavarotti's - he began his career as a baritone, and the darker tones make the voice special. The final encore beseeched us: 'Non ti scordi di me' ('don't forget me'). No one present at this sad and joyous occasion is likely to do that.

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