Renata Tebaldi arrived in San Marino almost by chance. The man who gradually introduced her to our society was our unforgettable friend Valentino Bertinotti, a strenuous and attentive enthusiast of Opera due to his own sensitivity and education, which he had absorbed since his early childhood from his family and the cultural panorama of the city of Rimini, once proud of its involvement in musical theatre. Bertinotti was born in Rimini and lived there for many years before moving to San Marino and acquiring the citizenship of that State. Valentino’s first meeting with Renata took place in the purest spirit of a fan, struck by such artistic quality, who had become an almost intransigent supporter of Tebaldi in the contest which opposed her to Callas. In time, Bertinotti would devote himself to appreciating the great singer’s performing skills with increasing passion and entered that world deeper and deeper until he became an expert of absolute experience. He turned himself into a faithful “devotee” of Tebaldi’s, willing to do whatever it took to be present at the soprano’s performances on the stages of the most famous theatres in Italy and abroad.
Valentino was not only an extraordinary enthusiast, he could explain to everybody, even to non-specialists, why a piece of music was “beautiful”. He could highlight how much skilfulness and ability was necessary to reach such high levels of sublimation with the most appropriate language. He used to organise evening dates at his house where his guests could listen to his vast collection of records and recordings. It seemed as if he were dealing with a mission which forced him to gain proselytes and supporters through the promotion and explanation of Opera. At the core of all his speeches was always the description of the voice and figure of “Renata”, as he confidentially used to call her.
So, step by step, everybody started to perfect his feelings and emotions and be educated in the pleasure of listening to; or, at least, this is what happened to me at the end of those “pedagogic” sessions, which I now recall with some wistfulness.
Renata used to spend a long period of her summer holidays at the Grand Hotel in Rimini. I still remember her, beautiful and elegant, in the light of a late afternoon, wearing a large hat which made her looking even more imposing and fascinating. She was walking with natural slowness next to Tina and Valentino in the vintage frame of the promenade of Marina Centro. From time to time, she stopped to talk to the people who recognised and greeted her with delicate politeness.
When Renata began to come to San Marino more frequently, there was already a small group of fans ready to welcome her. They were honoured they could know Tebaldi more closely, share dozens of moments of mutual esteem with her and start that attitude of intimacy which would cancel every feeling of distance or submission to the Great Artist. In this relationship, a fundamental role was played by Tebaldi’s sincere affection for our Country, which she repeatedly expressed with words that still make us proud, as we all were pleased of being considered her friends.
On April 1, 1988 Tebaldi was invited to attend the ceremony of investiture of the newly appointed Captains Regent: the author of this article was one of the two heads of state.
She was incredibly stuck by what she saw and took the opportunity, in a brief and improvised interview, to convey her feelings by way of simple yet profound words. She said: “I have experienced a very suggestive and moving day; I have immediately felt involved in historical meaning of all the things which have occurred today and wish to heartily thank His Excellency Rosolino Martelli for inviting me among his closest friends. This is a truly extraordinary Country which bears witness of his glorious past day by day. The hospitality of its inhabitants is really touching, just as touching as the earnestness of their friendship, when granted. Rare things are these today! I have experienced all this and it has been of great comfort to me, because it was not a tribute to Renata Tebaldi, the famous singer, but to Renata the guest. And so, after travelling around the world for years, when I realised just how friendly this small Republic was, I decided not to restrict my visits to the summer season alone and rent an apartment in Borgo Maggiore, where I have lived much of my life in the last four years”. And so it was, almost uninterruptedly, until 2004.
She was also captivated by the natural wonders of our landscape, which she looked at in silent and meditative contemplation from the large terrace of her house, from where she could see the “magic” of sunsets and the “splendour of the full moon” behind the lighted-up Towers.
The relationship with Renata became stronger and stronger and also the meetings with her friends in San Marino were then more frequent. There were numerous occasions marking specific dates, festivals, birthdays and anniversaries: happy evenings spent at one or the other’s house telling stories, memories and anecdotes related to significant moments. Yet, the threads of recollections were often held by Renata herself, supported by the huge amount of documented memories provided by the inseparable, irreplaceable and loyal Tina, who had been at her side as her collaborator and precious backing.
When Renata’s health began to decline and she was forced to limit her total autonomy, we frequently spent together many Sunday afternoons in winter. In those circumstances, marked by a sense of melancholy which filtered through Renata’s words and quiet voice, we had once again the privilege of listening live to fascinating stories about her great career: intense and unknown considerations on her artistic experience in the international panorama; the meetings with high personalities in the field of culture, show business and cinema, among whom were also stars of the golden Hollywood of the roaring years, parties at which she was invited as a guest longed for by statesmen of every continent, who were protagonists of the history and chronicles of the 20th century.
In particular, she used to remember the encounter with the President of the USA John Fitzgerald Kennedy during her long stay in that Country, when she was the star of the MET, from 1955 to 1973, and other prestigious American theatres.
Renata ended her career with a recital at the Alla Scala Theatre in Milan on May 23, 1976, in the very same place where on May 11, 1946, at the beginning of her brilliant artistic path, she had been the admired protagonist of a concert conducted by Arturo Toscanini.
Vice Chairman of the Renata Tebaldi Foundation