OBITUARIES:Ferruccio Tagliavini

Elizabeth Forbes
Saturday 22 October 2011 23:40

One of the most stylish Italian singers of the post-war period, the tenor Ferruccio Tagliavini was renowned in Europe and North America for his beautiful voice and elegant singing in Donizetti and Bellini as well as Verdi and Puccini operas.

He first appeared in London in 1950, when the company from La Scala, Milan, gave a short season at Covent Garden. Employing his most honeyed tones, Tagliavini sang Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore, possibly his finest role, and was prevailed upon by torrential and prolonged applause to encore his aria "Una furtiva lagrima", which he sang with even greater effect the second time. Three years later he returned to London as guest star with an Italian company at the Stoll Theatre, this time as Cavaradossi in Tosca. He also sang Cavaradossi at Covent Garden, with Renata Tebaldi in 1955 and Zinka Milanov in 1956. In addition to the Italian repertory, he excelled in certain French roles, in particular Massenet's Werther, and Nadir in Les Pecheurs de Perles, whichhe sang (in Italian) at Drury Lane in 1958.

Tagliavini was born in Barco, near Reggio Emilia, in 1913. He studied at Parma Conservatory and with Amedeo Bassi in Florence, where he made his debut in 1938 as Rodolfo in La Boheme. The outbreak of war precluded an international career but he sang at many of the leading Italian houses, including the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, where he met the mezzo- soprano Pia Tassinari, whom he married in 1941, and with whom he subsequently often appeared. Tagliavini made his debut at La Scala in January 1942 as Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and continued to sing there over the next decade, as Nemorino, Elvino in La Sonnambula, the title roles of L'Amico Fritz and Werther, Des Grieux in Manon and Cavaradossi. Meanwhile, in 1946-47 he appeared at the Teatro Coln, Buenos Aires, and toured South America.

Tagliavini made his North American debut in 1946 in Chicago as Rodolfo. The following year he first sang at the Metropolitan, New York, again as Rodolfo. He returned regularly to the Met until 1954, then again in 1961-62, singing eight different roles, that included Alfredo in La Traviata, the Duke in Rigoletto, and Edgardo in Lucia di Lamermoor. At San Francisco in 1948-49 he sang Nemorino, Alfredo, Edgardo and Cavaradossi, returning in 1952 as Faust in Boito's Mefistofele. The last role he also sang at Verona in July 1954, with Maria Callas as Margherita. Later that year he appeared with Callas again, in Lucia di Lamermoor at Bergamo.

Another of Tagliavini's Verdi roles was Riccardo/Gustavus in Un Ballo in Maschera, which he sang at the Paris Opera in 1951 with the San Carlo company from Naples. This was the first time Un Ballo had been performed at the Palais Garnier; the Swedish version of the opera was used and the tenor made a vocally most elegant Gustavus III.

Tagliavini continued to sing until 1965, when he gave his farewell performance at La Fenice, Venice, as Werther. He recorded nearly all his main roles, including Mascagni's Fritz, Edgardo (with Callas as Lucia), Nadir and Werther. Though a good comedian in such parts as Almaviva and Nemorino, he acted and expressed serious emotion chiefly through his voice, by tonal colouring and meticulous phrasing, so his records give an excellent impression of a very fine singer.

Elizabeth Forbes Ferruccio Tagliavini, singer: born Barco, Reggio Emilia 14 August 1913; twice married; died Reggio Emilia 28 January 1995.

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