…the first meeting in Milan…then

by Barbara Andreini

<…and if Renata listened to you, she could give you some advice to continue your opera voice studies…>.
It was 1988, I was 17, and through this invitation Valentino Bertinotti, her old friend and fan, suggested I should meet the great “Renata Tebaldi”, who often stayed in San Marino.

I phoned her and it was a real emotion to hear her voice. She said yes immediately and asked me to go to Milan where she was.
I could not believe it, She, the absolute idol of the “Bel Canto”, had granted me an exclusive audition!!! On 1st January 1989, at the venue of the “Amici del Loggione” of the La Scala Theatre, I met her for the first time and it was a really precious gift for my 18th birthday, which had been just the day before.

<…What a pleasure, Barbara. I’ve heard of you and we finally meet!>, these were her words.
I didn’t know what to say. She said she had heard of me…my heart was beating like a drum, I was just looking at her, so beautiful and elegant.
A woman was with her…her dearest Tina, together with her poodle New!

The Signorina (The miss), she wanted to be called like that, held my hands, I think they were two icicles due to the emotion, and in a moment I was enveloped by her warmth, her great sweetness and humanity. When I sang for her I was calm with no fear or panic. She was sitting in the front row and she had a sweet and maternal gaze. It’s incredible how she could put people at their ease. Some rows behind Tina was peering at me from above the glasses leaning on her nose.

…then she said: <…well Barbara your good voice can not be kept under a bell jar. It must be cultivated. When I come to San Marino, I will give you some advice. You know that normally I don’t give lessons but if you want, we can meet.>
I was completely astonished, I could not believe my ears, and numberless emotions invaded me. Renata Tebaldi would give me advice! I didn’t hesitate. I answered I was really honoured and thanked her so much.

The great soprano kept her promise and with immense generosity accompanied me along a rare and maybe unique path: she sang only for me and with me the arias by Verdi, Cilea and Puccini, of whom she used to say <…his melodies are so sensual…>.
Tina was always present, always busy with her knitting and sometimes she raised her gaze above her glasses to see me sing. Of course also New was present.

They were fantastic afternoons together in music.
During the brief pauses the Signorina told me how Mario Del Monaco used to compete with her in voice power, how Franco Corelli had to be always encouraged to go on the stage but once he was there no-one was <…as handsome and talented as him!>; how, when she was in the USA, during the MET season, she refused the invitations of her colleagues who, instead of resting and concentrating for the performance, preferred the jet-set. She told me about the respect and friendship between her and Maria, as she called Callas. She told me about many anecdotes she lived on the stage with various colleagues.

I felt so privileged and I really was. Without being aware of it, I absorbed every single sentence, glance and breath of her.
Today, when I think of her, of the great artist and woman, it is like opening a jewel case full of precious “pearls”, which is right to share with those people who love her and the art to which she completely devoted.
The Renata Tebaldi Foundation, which she wanted and of which I am a member, gives me the possibility to contribute to keep the memory of this great artist alive.