The first October we lived in Italy I went up to Parma for the Verdi Festival and a performance of is first opera Oberto, Conte di S. Bonifacio at a tiny theatre in the great composer’s hometown of Busetto. I wrote a bit about both the opera and the lovely little Teatro Giuseppe Verdi at the time. It was quite the journey – Rome to Bologna on the express then a regional train to Parma. But the journey was far from over – after checking in at the hotel and changing into respectable performance attire I had get to Bussetto another 50 minutes away – by taxi. As well as the performance I had one of the most uncomfortable dinners of my life at I Due Foscari – an albergo owned at the time by the great Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi and his son Marco.
Though I heard him often on the Metropolitan Opera Saturday Broadcast I only had the privilege of seeing him live once – on the Met Spring Tour in Toronto in 1958. It was a new production of Madama Butterfly that had been the hit of the New York season – an “authentic” Japanese production by Yoshio Aoyama, conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos and starring Antoinetta Stella and Bergonzi. Those were the days, said the old opera curmudgeon with a woeful sigh.
Here is Bergonzi, not in a big operatic aria but in a lovely arietta by Vincenzo Bellini published in 1838 and dedicated to the journalist and writer Giulietta Pezzi.
Beautiful moon, dappling with silver
These banks and flowers,
Evoking from the elements
The language of love
Only you are witness
To my ardent desire;
Go tell her, tell my beloved
How much I long for her and sigh.
Tell her that with her so far away,
My grief can never be allayed,
That the only hope I cherish
Is for my future to be spent with her.
Tell her that day and night
I count the hours of my yearning,
That hope, a sweet hope beckons,
And comforts me in my love.
Like the moon his voice was dappled with silver and I’d say there was even spun gold in his singing.
On this day in 1881: The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral takes place at Tombstone, Arizona.