Last May 23rd was the date that marked exactly thirty years since Renata Tebaldi, in 1976, wished to give her last song to many, many admirers, who ran to her at La Scala in Milan; and if we say give, there is a reason because that recital was exclusively a benefit, all for the Friuli populations that had just been struck by a devastating earthquake.
To whomever barely knows the ungenerous rules of notoriety it will not escape how exceptional it is that such a lapse of time has passed without minimally scratching such an international popularity – as incontrovertibly is that of Tebaldi – never based upon extramusical motivations nor promoted by gossip or by the dictation of business at all costs. Initiatives which lovingly recall the memory of the soprano, indeed, can be seen multiplying with an extraordinary frequency even without saturating commemorative calendars in the most excused of cadences.
The most notable, it seems to us, together with the operation of the Foundation bearing the great artist’s name in the Republic of San Marino, is that seeing an itinerary exhibition of costumes, dresses, testimonials, and rare documents of the artist and of the woman Tebaldi.
Movingly entitled Renata Tebaldi: profound and infinite, the collection, which cannot be defined in any other way if not splendid in a word, was prepared with great competence, firstly by Giovanna Colombo and Angelo Sala without underestimating the decisive contribution of an experienced staff. Inaugurated at the Regio Theatre of Parma and then at La Scala with a great influx of spectators, the exposition found as soon as possible adequate space again in Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Palermo, Moscow, Cincinnati, Tokyo and in other venues: in sum, a kind of tourney that seemed to recall the soprano’s long concert tours with the intuitive wait of a great crowd of fans and work assistants.
Decca, the London recording company which assured itself the exclusive right on the studio recordings, then republished with uninterrupted fortune the complete operas and recitals of the soprano recorded during her time: among the most recent we find the reproductions of the operas that Tebaldi recorded in the premiers in the 1950’s, with the most beautiful and firm voice ever imagined. And so, Manon Lescaut, La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Turandot by Puccini, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Aida and Otello by Verdi as well as Andrea Chénier by Giordano, stood beside the recent issue of an absolutely exceptional live document; Verdi’s Messa di Requiem, recorded in 1951 with the La Scala ensembles conducted by Victor De Sabata.
National record companies in turn provide on CD the major “live” performances of the soprano, and one to point out is a splendid Madama Butterfly recorded in 1958 directly at the Arena Flegrea of Naples. In this regard we would like to quote an extract of the flattering review which Stephen Hastings dedicated to this sound document in the monthly periodical “Musica”: “Tebaldi delineates a Butterfly touching and different from others before or after her. No other Butterfly, in fact, unites a similar beauty of sound at every level and such a clear and pregnant diction. It’s evident that the soprano believes totally in the part and adheres with spontaneity to the poetic of Puccini and his librettists…Her total interpretive honesty appears today more moving than ever.”
In conclusion, it must be emphasized that the most recent musical dictionary, edited in December 2005 by Piero Mioli for BUR – Rizzoli, “Il Dizionario della Musica Classica”, dedicated to the voice of Tebaldi herself the largest selection among those reserved for opera singers, and among the most lauded notes reads exactly: “The voice of an angel”: according to the famous definition of Toscanini, noted a timbre more unique than rare, almost drenched in all the colours of the iris and of a dissimilar homogeneousness, but it also availed itself of a lyrical expression of total elegance and of an excellent technical experience in emission as in dynamic (memorable were the beginnings and the holding of the sound) she practiced little historical bel canto but founded an everlasting bel canto”.
This, it would seem, summarizes in an exemplary manner the gifts of an artist of song that the same Mioli, during a musicological conference in Bologna last year, would define figuratively “THE IDEAL VOICE”.
Vincenzo Ramón Bisogni