Obituary: Gabor Carelli

THE HUNGARIAN-BORN tenor Gabor Carelli is assured of immortality in the world of opera, because he sang the small role of Dr Caius in the NBC Symphony broadcast of Verdi's Falstaff, conducted by Arturo Toscanini in 1951. This performance was recorded and reissued many times as technology advanced, and is currently available on CD.

Carelli appeared at the Metropolitan Opera for nearly a quarter of a century, and though he sang small roles for the most part, he formed an integral cog in the great machine required to keep a major opera house functioning smoothly.

Born in Budapest, Carelli studied Law at the University of Budapest, and gained his degree. Meanwhile he also studied singing at the Franz Liszt Academy, and finally decided on singing rather than law as a profession. He went to Italy to study further with the great tenor Beniamino Gigli in Rome, and after two years he made his debut as Rodolfo in La Boheme at Florence. He sang in various Italian opera houses, then in 1939 he went to the United States. For several years he toured the country with travelling operatic companies, and also sang with many of the American orchestras in works such as the Verdi Requiem, Puccini's Messa da Gloria and Kodly's Psalmus Hungaricus.

In 1951 Carelli made his debut at the Met as Don Curzio, the stuttering lawyer in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. Over the next 23 seasons he sang more than a thousand performances there of 59 roles in 39 operas. Many of these were Italian roles, such as Dr Caius in Falstaff, Mozart's Don Basilio, the Judge in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, or Pong in Puccini's Turandot, but he also took on parts in the German repertory, as a waiter in Richard Strauss's Arabella, the First Priest in Die Zauberflote, and many others.

Occasionally Carelli was given some performances of a major role, as in 1957 when he sang Tamino in Die Zauberflote, receiving an excellent notice from the renowned New York Times critic Harold Schomberg.

As well as the famous Toscanini recording of Falstaff, Carelli recorded his usual roles, Don Basilio and Don Curzio, in Le nozze di Figaro, the tenor solo in the Verdi Requiem, and a role in Haydn's opera Orlando Paladino. These recordings reveal a lyrical voice, a stylish technique and, especially in the Falstaff, an aptitude for comedy.

In 1964 he joined the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music as a voice teacher. In 1971, to mark the 20th anniversary of his debut at the Met, he was awarded a silver bowl for long service with the company. He retired from singing in 1974, but continued to teach until his death.

Elizabeth Forbes

Gabor Carelli, tenor: born Budapest 1915: died New York 22 January 1999.