MILAN, Italy — Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi, who performed at Chicago’s Lyric Opera and is considered one of the most authoritative interpreters of Verdi, has died at the age of 90.
The Italian Auxologic Institute in Milan on Monday confirmed Mr. Bergonzi’s death on Friday. No cause was given.
Born in the province of Parma not far from Verdi’s hometown, Mr. Bergonzi started his studies at age 16 as a baritone, only to discover later that his musical gifts lay in the tenor range. Mr. Bergonzi served in World War II in an anti-aircraft artillery unit, and was interned in a German forced labor camp for three years.
Mr. Bergonzi began his long association with Lyric Opera of Chicago with his U.S. debut here — as Luigi in Puccini’s “Il tabarro” in 1955 in the company’s second season. He appeared in two more roles here that season, Turiddu in Mascagni’s “Cavalleria rusticana” and Avito in Lyric’s première of Italo Montemezzi’s 1913 “L’amore dei tre re.” He never repeated or recorded those Puccini or Montemezzi roles.
In 1960, he sang his first Verdi here, Radamès in “Aida.” In 1961, he shared the role of Edgar in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” with Richard Tucker, was Faust in the Lyric première of Boito’s “Mefistofele” opposite Boris Christoff, and sang the only other Verdi role he portrayed in Chicago, Don Alvaro in “La forza del destino.”
Mr. Bergonzi was back at the Civic Opera House in 1971 as Cavaradossi and again in 1981, at 57, sharing the role of Nemorino with Luciano Pavarotti, 11 years his junior.
His last Chicago performance was a thrilling recital at Orchestra Hall in 1989 — when he was 64. In 2004 he was one of the nine (of 23) “Jubilarians” honored in person by Lyric at its 50th anniversary jubilee concert.
Mr. Bergonzi debuted in 1956 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he sang the role of Radames in Verdi’s Aida. His Met career spanned 32 years and 22 roles.
The Met recalled in a tribute that Mr. Bergonzi “was particularly praised for the beauty and warmth of his singing and for his elegant attention to style and phrasing.”
He also sang nine seasons at La Scala in Milan and 21 seasons at the Arena open-air summer theater in Verona.
Mr. Bergonzi ended his artistic career in 1995, devoting himself to teaching singing. For his 90th birthday on July 12, the town of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth dedicated a concert by the Italian Philharmonic Orchestra to Mr. Bergonzi.
He is survived by his wife, Adele, and the couple’s two sons, Maurizio, born on the same day Mr. Bergonzi made his debut as a tenor, and Marco.
AP, with Miriam Di Nunzio and Andrew Patner contributing