Thursday, September 28, 2006

O Sommo Carlo

When Carlo Bergonzi was active as an opera singer, he wasn't a great actor, didn't cut a dashing figure on stage, and didn't have a great voice as such (he was a converted baritone and sometimes sounded like one, and he didn't have ringing high notes like Franco Corelli). And yet I can't think of a better singer of Verdi and Puccini in the post-war period; through his intelligent use of his voice and his absolutely superb phrasing -- sort of an old-school, almost golden-age ability to put a special musical inflection on a musical phrase, and not just make it sound like he's feeding us back the notes by rote -- he's always been able to give the impression that the music is coming out of him naturally, as an expression of the character's feelings.

Here's a clip of Bergonzi in his best role, Riccardo in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, in a Tokyo production from 1967.

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