When you talk about Renata Tebaldi, what is always praised and celebrated is the beauty of her inimitable voice; a voice with an unforgettable tone, wonderful liveliness, suitably created “a miracol mostrare” (to show miracles).
But Renata had turned her extraordinary gift into an instrument subject to the most refined musical and dramatic expression by performing with the same enthusiasm and determination the works of a wide and different repertoire.
Her life has been that of an artist and a woman completely devoted to music and theatre, without whims or useless acts of exhibitionism, because she was born a diva, in the meaning of divine.
Our friendship developed during my years at the La Scala Theatre when Renata used to come to my rehearsals, honouring me with Her presence, and discus amiably about the great artists of the past and the problems of the musical life of those days.
She was a strict judge, but honest and free of prejudices or partisanship.
Our common regret was that the different generations we belonged to had prevented us from playing music together. For me, collaborating with such an artist would have meant making a dream come true.
One day, she expressed all Her affection and esteem to me by giving me a letter signed by Verdi himself and written in 1898 in Sant’Agata, which She had kept for years and years on Her piano.
Renata knew that a deep passion for Verdi joined us so She deprived Herself of what, maybe, was Her dearest and most precious thing.
She has been an artist able to love the world completely and with great nobleness of soul. Such love corresponded to deep suffering and disappointment, which She hid inside with dignity.
When we listen to Her “angel voice”, as Arturo Toscanini called it, a soothing balm keeps on warming our heart, now and forever.
Thank you Renata!
I have loved Renata Tebaldi very much since I was young, when I could listen to her voice, which was unique for its link with the Italian bel canto due to its uniform register in all sections. Another unforgettable feature was the fullness of her voice, which allowed her to fill a theatre also in mezzi and pianissimi: the unquestionable sign of a perfect technical pitch. While I was working with singers, I often evoked this ability of Renata Tebaldi, remembering, for example, her memorable entrance from behind the wings in Madama Butterfly. Then, we had a strange, if I can say so, opportunity to meet. In 1981, we had been proposed as Academics of Santa Cecilia and on 25th September of that year, Renata was appointed with four votes, as it was fair, more then me. That appointment changed my life. For that great star it was only further a honour. Later, in my role of artistic manager of the Opera Theatre in Rome, I could celebrate her (I have beautiful photos of that moment) and host her in my box. The meagre comments (she was a very discrete woman) she made about the performances were absolutely precise and appropriate and I remember them as a real lesson when I was very interested in singing technique. In the last years, our affectionate friendship (as I am proud to define it) has never died.
It was one of the most memorable emotions of my life when the superintendent of the La Scala Theatre, Paolo Grassi, invited me to go to Mannheim to accompany Renata Tebaldi in a recital. Few days to get ready, to be worthy of such honour: happy rehearsals with her and an incredible success the following night.
The next day, when I got home, I felt as if I had dreamed. But a little later I received a much more important offer: a tour with her in Poland and the Soviet Union. Obviously, this too was a series of triumphs. Indeed, in that period I could know her humanly. Our artistic relationship was based on mutual respect and trust and continued for many other concerts, among which is the unforgettable goodbye performance at the La Scala Theatre.
What did that experience give me?
It taught me that a great career depends on a number of essential skills, which Renata Tebaldi had at their maximum grade. The voice quality needs not to be only superior but also extremely personal and unmistakable. The musicality must be in the composers’ service. You need a professional commitment with no compromises. And of course the ability to control your emotions. But above all, you need a charisma able to trigger a vibration between the singer and the receivers of each single musical phrase.
My advice to you, young talented singers striving for a top career, is not to try to imitate her but to follow her spirit of devotion, sacrifice and conscience of your value.
The results will come, inevitably.
Vincenzo Ramon Bisogni
The smile of Renata Tebaldi, Miss “Dimples of Iron”
The writer really does not know if rightly (or wrongly) he is considered a sort of oracle or a privileged speaker as for Tebaldi’s things by those who value her voice virtues.
So, recently, I received a phone call by a lawyer of a town in Lazio, who asked us if we had a photo of the end of the third act of Manon Lescaut by Renata in Rome in April 1961. Such a precise request was due to the fact that he wanted to see himself again next to the great soprano as in those performances he had acted as an extra to earn some pocket money when he was a student.
As a king’s soldier he was the one who had to push the poor Manon to the boat which would deport her to America so he found himself really close to the soprano. Moved while he was remembering that moment, he highlighted the charisma that Tebaldi diffused even without singing and that made her hardly approachable and worthy of immediate respect.
Oh yes, because at the calling of the prostitutes, when he heard the name of Manon, the young should have pushed the protagonist towards the group of her unlucky mates. But before the prima donna who, from the shadow of the prison was coming to him completely put in the role, he was totally captured by the dignity expressed by her sapphire-like eyes that he did not dare to touch her. He concluded his memory by agreeing that the most suitable title for her was “Her Suavity” as they used to call her at that time. Finally, we agreed on how Enzo Biagi’s opinion was right. He wrote that to intimidate theatre managers Tebaldi did not need a bad temper like the other singers. She only had to show her adorable yet resolute “dimples of iron” so praised by the press and her American fans.
20th July 2011 Vincenzo Ramón Bisogni.
her friend and fan
Since I was a child the name of Renata Tebaldi has been familiar to me as my grandparents and my parents used to tell me about Her performances in the 50s and 60s. Then Her powerful Voice started echoing everywhere in my house thanks to records and radio live programmes.
So, soon I began to frequent the Teatro di San Carlo and in 1967 with unexpected and immense joy I could see my idol in the opera “La Gioconda”. It was an eagerly awaited production, not much because of the opera, as, indeed, it was famous only for some arias and especially for the “Dance of the Hours”, but for the return of Tebaldi to the Italian stages, at the San Carlo, after five years.
I remember those evenings with so much emotion and in particular that of the first night on 26 December 1967, which began under a shower of rain and finished under a shower of flowers, which covered the whole proscenium.
I met Renata that night among hundreds of fans and so I had the opportunity to get closer to her historic enthusiasts. That evening I entered the big “Tebaldian” family and I remember Eva Rossi, Graziella Merendino, Mariolina Greppi, Gerda De Keyser, Isabella Pandarese, Secondo and Gianni Galloni, Leo Montoli, Vincenzo Ramon Bisogni, Gianni Mattera and many others with so much affection. I was the youngest…, I was 18, but I looked younger so Renata immediately nicknamed me “the chick”….
Since then forty-five years have passed full of joy and emotion. I have met Renata many times: at the recordings of “Il Ballo in maschera” in Rome, at Her Italian concerts at La Scala… in several Italian and foreign cities and also at Her last concert at the San Carlo Theatre, where I had a seat just in front of Her. I got the impression that She was singing just for me but Renata gave this sensation to all Her audience.
There have been many other occasions to meet Her, also in private: in Milan, in Her beautiful house in Salsomaggiore, in Rimini, in Soresina, Viareggio, Florence, Fiuggi, Rome, Pompei… but I remember one day in particular. In June 1975 Renata came back unexpectedly to Naples, for a private trip, to greet Her friends and to set the agreements with the management of the San Carlo Theatre (which were signed in November). I got the news of Her arrival from a common friend and that same afternoon, invited by Renata herself, I rushed to the hotel on the Neapolitan seafront where she was staying. I went out from the hotel with Her and walked along Via Toledo, a very famous street in the city centre up to the end of Via Chiaia. The walk, not short, was a real triumph: the people recognised Her and they came out of their shops to applaud. They asked for autographs, they gave Her flowers… but the best came when in a tobacconist’s window I showed Her a photo, displayed since 1956, as a memory of an unforgettable edition of Guglielmo Tell where She had played a unique and unrepeatable Matilde. That night, during the dinner at a famous Neapolitan restaurant she loved very much, She met again Carla Fracci and She received the usual ovations.
I would have so much else to tell you, about Her sweetness, Her kindness to me and my family, but these are talents that many others know very well.
I will finish with a sentence that a fan told Her at the San Carlo Theatre after the words “Non ti scordar di me…”, “NEVER!”.