Part III: Rare and unknown voices - GIANNI RAIMONDI





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Published on Sep 3, 2010

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Gianni Raimondi, Tenor (1923-2008)

Ambroise Thomas MIGNON
Elle ne croyait pas dans sa candeur naive (sung in italian)
(Recorded live 1956)

My personal opinion: If you think of tenors from the age of Callas (late 1940s to early 1960s), who comes to your mind? Certainly Giuseppe di Stefano, Mario del Monaco, Jussi Bjoerling, Franco Corelli and some other outstanding artists. They all were her stage partners. In spring 1956 a fine young tenor from Italy co-starred her in 17 performances of LA TRAVIATA (the famous Visconti-production) and 3 performances of LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR. His name: Gianni Raimondi. His rise to a better known artist was stopped, when the record companies brought Carlo Bergonzi into their focus. Thereby Raimondi was an over night star after appearing with Callas at La Scala´s TRAVIATA, and he became her most frequent partner there. The Scala was Gianni Raimondi´s home: More than 270 times he performed in Milan - in TRAVIATA, ANNA BOLENA (1957 again with Callas), MIGNON (1958 with Simionato), MOSÉ (opposite Boris Christoff 1958), in the italian version of LIFE FOR THE TSAR (with the feared aria of Sobinin), GIANNI SCHICCI, LA FAVORITA, SEMIRAMIDE (1962 with guest Joan Sutherland), GUGLIEMO TELL (a 1966 desaster for him...), LUCREZIA BORGIA (1970 with Caballé), VESPRI SICILIANI (with Scotto) and NORMA (1972 and 1975 with Caballé) plus the usual standards of Verdi and Puccini: TOSCA, RIGOLETTO, BUTTERFLY and BOHÉME with the very young Mirella Freni - A partnership also in the famous Zeffirelli/Karajan-movie that was made in 1965 at La Scala. Karajan first wanted di Stefano, but meanwhile Raimondi was his Rodolfo-favorite. Nevertheless he replaced him later with Pavarotti for the recording. It was the usual way, the Maestro treated his singers, and Raimondi lost one of the greatest chances in his career.
Gianni Raimondi was born 1923 in Bologna. He studied with the tenor A. Melandri in his native city and in Mantua with the famous composer and musician Ettore Campogalliani. Raimondi gave his stage debut as the Duke in 1947. Already in 1952 he partnered Maria Callas for the first time in ARMIDA at the Maggio Musicale in Florence. After several guest appearances in France and London, he came to Scala in 1955. Soon the audience loved him for "his skills with high-lying tenor roles such as Arturo in PURITANI and Fernando in Donizetti´s LA FAVORITA" (Wikipedia). His smooth voice, warm in tone and with a good coloratura facility and strong top notes, was ideal for the Belcanto opera of the 19th century. But it was the role of Arnoldo, that brought him to the limit. In 1966 at Turin, he attempted Arnold in GUGLIEMO TELL for the first time, but by the final act he was almost voiceless. He sang the role again in Buenos Aires later the same year, and this time managed a great deal better, but the whole episode was a mistake. "It took a very long time for my voice to recover!" he said. Only few complete studio-recordings with him are known: TRAVIATA with Scotto ("capable, but without elegance and without the conciseness that Bergonzi brought to the role", wrote a critic) and LA FAVORITA (Already in 1954, with Fedora Barbieri). Many broadcasts were saved on tape. "His voice - on stage blessed with fantastic power in the height - wasn´t homogeneous. Close focalized and very strained, sometimes exaggerated. In front of the microphone, the voice sometimes sounded guttural", the german critic Kesting wrote, "It was a misery, this brilliant voice never had the chance to study under great vocal coaches and to record discs under the baton of important conductors. In view to his natural qualities, Raimondis voice was equally good as Pavarotti´s - and her height was even richer!"
Gianni Raimondi retired early from stage in 1976 and he died in October 2008, having left instructions that his death should not be announced by La Scala until after a private funeral had taken place.



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