Gianni Raimondi: Tenor who sang with Maria Callas during a long career at La Scala

The Italian tenor Gianni Raimondi had a prestigious career lasting three decades. From 1956 to 1976 he sang frequently at La Scala, where his partner a number of times during the early years was Maria Callas. His voice, smooth and warm in tone with a good coloratura facility and very strong top notes, was ideal for 19th-century Italian opera from Rossini and Donizetti to Verdi and Puccini and he rarely sang anything outside that repertory, apart from a few French roles and a couple of modern operas.

Nor did he often sing anything outside his vocal capabilities: the only exception was Arnold in Rossini's Guillaume Tell, a very heavy as well as a very high role, that has ruined many tenors. Raimondi avoided that fate by quickly returning to more congenial parts, in particular to Puccini's Rodolfo in La Bohème, Cavaradossi in Tosca and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, all of which suited him vocally like a second skin.

Raimondi was born in 1923 in Bologna, where he studied with the tenor Antonio Melandri; he also studied with Ettore Campogalliani in Mantua, making his début in 1947 as the Duke in Rigoletto at Budrio, a small town near Bologna. The following year he sang Ernesto in Donizetti's Don Pasquale at the Teatro Communale in Bologna and his career was under way.

He appeared at the 1952 Maggio Musicale in Florence, taking one of the six tenor roles in Rossini's Armida. Armida herself was sung by Maria Callas, and this was the first time Raimondi sang with the famous soprano. In June 1953 he made his début in both London and Paris: on 5 June he sang Rodolfo with an Italian company at the Stoll Theatre in Kingsway and on 19 June he sang the Duke in Rigoletto at the Paris Opéra.

Raimondi also sang the Duke at the Stoll, but unfortunately these were the only performances he ever gave in London. In 1954 he returned to Florence for the premiere of Valentino Bucchi's Il contrabasso and sang Edgardo to the Lucia di Lammermoor of Callas at the San Carlo, Naples. The following year he took part in another premiere, Guido Pannain's Madame Bovary, in Naples.

Then in 1956 came his début at La Scala, Milan, as Alfredo in Luchino Visconti's production of La traviata, conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini, with Callas as Violetta. In 1957 he sang with Callas again, in Donizetti's Anna Bolena, as Riccardo (Lord Richard Percy). Both these performances engendered enormous enthusiasm, and the tenor received his fair share of the applause.

Later that year Raimondi made his US début in San Francisco, singing Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, as well as Alfredo and Pinkerton, and returning in 1958 for Rodolfo. Back at La Scala he scored a great success as Amenofi in Rossini' s Mosè in Egitto and also sang Wilhelm Meister in Ambroise Thomas' Mignon, Sobinin in Glinka's A Life for the Tsar (in Italian) and his Puccini roles, of which Cavaradossi in Tosca (1960) was particularly well received.

In 1961 he sang Edgardo to the Lucia of Joan Sutherland, followed in 1962 by Fernando in Donizetti's La Favorite and the title role of Gounod's Faust. He appeared with Sutherland again in Rossini's Semiramide, singing Idreno, while she sang Semiramide and mezzo Giulietta Simionato took the role of Arsace. With such a cast the opera was naturally a resounding success.

Raimondi made his Metropolitan Opera début in 1965 as Rodolfo, and during two seasons also sang Cavaradossi and Faust. In 1966 at Turin, he attempted Arnold in Guillaume Tell for the first time, but by the final act was almost voiceless. He sang the role again in Buenos Aires later the same year, and this time managed a great deal better, but the whole episode was a mistake and it took time for his voice to recover.

In 1967 he went with the Scala company to Montreal to perform La Bohème. In 1969 he acquired a new role at Rio de Janeiro, Enzo in Ponchielli's La Gioconda, which he later sang at the Rome Opera. He also acquired two new Verdi roles at La Scala, Arrigo in I vespri siciliani (1970) and Gabriele Adorno in Simon Boccanegra (1971).

Raimondi sang two more Verdi roles, Macduff in Macbeth at the Verona Arena in 1971 and Carlo in I masnadieri ("The Robbers") at Rome in 1972, before returning to Arrigo in 1973 in a special new production of I vespri siciliani in Turin for the reopening of the Teatro Regio some 37 years after it had been destroyed in the Second World War. The opera was directed by Maria Callas, assisted by the tenor Giuseppe di Stefano.

In Turin Raimondi also sang Riccardo in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, which was very well received and Pollione in Bellini's Norma in 1974. Though it was really too heavy for his voice he repeated Pollione at La Scala in 1976. On the other hand, Cavaradossi with La Scala at the Bolshoi in Moscow (1974) and Rodolfo at Zurich (1976) were as well sung, as perfectly phrased, as enjoyable as ever.

lizabeth Forbes

Gianni Raimondi, opera singer: born Bologna, Italy 13 April 1923; married Gianna dal Sommo; died Pianoro, Italy 19 October 2008.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
The US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'