Thursday, September 08, 2005


Well, I had a feeling when I got up this morning that it would be a bad day.
The workman repairing my garage roof fell THROUGH said roof on Friday, and now, in a snow storm I have a 275 lbs. worker in the hospital with a busted ankle and no garage roof. The other fellas hired to begin siding my house arrived at 7 a.m. today, in three degree weather, to begin removing the windows. All of them. My autistic daughter, a bright, funny love-has this week and next off from school and told me that having workmen in the house has "ruined my life".
(I am constantly ruining her life which I guess is my job).
My wife is on the warpath and even at 7 a.m. the local market was sold out of Crispy Cremes. And then, I read that Renata Tebaldi had died.

This is another of my "I loved them when I was a kid in Boston" stories.
Feel free to skip it, but...
I only heard Tebaldi once in person, at a recital in symphony Hall around 1974. I remember the red hair, the green dress and the fact that she was and is the most beautiful woman I had ever seen on stage.
I passed up tickets to hear her in La boheme and Adriana Lecouvreur-with Corelli, yet!-because I was young and stupid.
But I treasure the memory of that presence and that voice, , as heard on broadcasts and studio recordings. We all know the 1956 Met broadcast of Tosca. How about Manon Lescaut from 1959? La Gioconda from 1967? Even in a role like that, I always hear a lot of love in her voice. To the comments I've read that she wasn't much of an actress, I'd suggest that she was the link between operatic personality and singing actor. There is plenty of drama in her performances. We are lucky, in the generation born during her career, too late to have heard her at her best, that she captured so vividly the music and drama of her great roles on disc.

To Renata Tebaldi I can only say thank you, and Godspeed.

(December 20, 2004)

1 comment:

Ken said...

I saw/heard Tebaldi in New York long ago enough to embarrass myself. Three times in the 1960 and '61 seasons at the old Pleistocene Age Metropolitan. First time was as Butterfly, supposedly her first Cio Cio San in New York. I was a kid, not quite an opera virgin, but 1960 was a real long time ago. So I hate to say this: I don't remember a damn thing except the 37 curtain calls. Yes, some of us stood at the rail to the pit counted as this poor woman came out, smiling ear to ear. By the end, Eugenio Fernandi, Margaret Roggero, and Clifford Harvuot could have gone home and been watching the late movie before Renata was allowed to leave the stage.

I did not know she was about to have serious vocal problems. That may account for my negative reactions to the next times I saw her, as Mimi and Amelia Grimaldi. She had no top. The middle register was glorious, powerful; but the very top wasn't there: Bb, B, and C were excrutiating.

Yet she held us. There was something to her that transcended vocal problems. I like or even love any number of singers with flaws, odd production, and quirks: you don't become the world's biggest James McCracken fan by being fond of the normal, do you? So with Tebaldi--a force of personality, a force of nature, even with the short top that I gather she overcame to do world-beater Giocondas and magnificent Adrianas that I wish now I'd seen.