Renata Tebaldi, Lirico-Spinto Soprano with comparison to Callas

Renata Tebaldi was an Italian operatic soprano, a star at both Milan’s La Scala and New York City’s Metropolitan Opera.

Tebaldi received her early musical training from her mother, a singer, and studied at the Parma Conservatory. At age 18 she sang for Carmen Melis, of the Arrigo Boito Conservatory in Pesaro, who accepted her as a student. She made her debut in Rovigo, Italy, in 1944 as Elena in Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele. In 1946 Tebaldi auditioned for Arturo Toscanini, who hired her for the reopening concert of La Scala, which had been closed during World War II. She joined the La Scala company in 1949 and sang with them through 1954. She also appeared in Naples at the Teatro San Carlo, in London at Covent Garden, in San Francisco and Chicago, and in New York City at the Metropolitan Opera, of which she was a member after 1954. Tebaldi sang almost exclusively in Italian, and her great roles included Giacomo Puccini’s Mimi (in La Bohème) and Tosca, Giuseppe Verdi’s Desdemona (in Otello) and Aida, and Umberto Giordano’s Madeleine (in Andrea Chénier). Noted for her expressive and alluring voice and commanding stage presence, she was one of the most celebrated opera singers of her era. Tebaldi retired from the stage in 1976.

La canzone del salce

DESDEMONA
Mia madre aveva una povera ancella,
innamorata e bella.
Era il suo nome
Barbara. Amava
un uom che poi l’abbandonò; cantava
un canzone: „la canzon del Salice“.
Ad Emilia
Mi disciogli le chiome…
Io questa sera ho la memoria piena
di quella cantilena…
„Piangea cantando
nell’erma landa,
piangea la mesta…
O Salce! Salce! Salce!
Sedea chinando
sul sen la testa!
Salce! Salce! Salce!
Cantiamo! Cantiamo! il Salce funebre
sarà la mia ghirlanda.“
(ad Emilia)
Affrettati; fra poco giunge Otello.
„Scorreano i rivi fra le zolle in fior,
gemea quel core affranto,
e dalle ciglia le sgorgava il cor
l’amara onda del pianto.
Salce! Salce! Salce!
Cantiamo! Cantiamo! Il Salce funebre
sarà la mia ghirlanda.
Scendean ‘augelli a vol dai rami cupi
verso quel dolce canto.
E gli occhi suoi piangean tanto, tanto,
da impietosir le rupi.“
(a Emilia, levandosi un anello dal dito)
Riponi quest’anello.
alzandosi
Povera Barbara! Solea la storia
con questo semplice suono finir:
„Egli era nato per la sua gloria,
io per amar…“
ad Emilia
Ascolta.
Emilia fa qualche passo
Odo un lamento.
Taci. Chi batte a quella porta?

EMILIA
È il vento.

DESDEMONA
„Io per amarlo e per morir…
Cantiamo! Cantiamo!
Salce! Salce! Salce!“
Emilia, addio. Come m’ardon le ciglia!
è presagio di pianto. Buona notte.
(Emilia si volge per partire)
Ah! Emilia, Emilia,
(Emilia ritorna e Desdemona l’abbraccia)
Addio, Emilia, addio!

(Emilia torna e Desdemona l’abbraccia.
Emilia parte.)
(all’inginocchiatoio)
Ave Maria, piena di grazia,
eletta fra le spose e le vergini sei tu,
sia benedetto il frutto, o Benedetta,
di tue materne viscere, Gesù.
Prega per chi, adorando te, si prostra,
prega pel peccator, per l’innocente,
e pel debole oppresso e pel possente,
misero anch’esso, tua pietà dimostra.
Prega per chi sotto l’oltraggio piega la fronte,
e sotto la malvagia sorte;
per noi, per noi tu prega,
prega sempre,
e nell’ora della morte nostra,
prega per noi, prega per noi,
prega!
(Resta ancora inginocchiata e appoggiando la fronte
sull’inginocchiatoio ripete mentalmente l’orazione di
cui non s’odono che le prime e le ultime parole.)
Ave Maria …
… nell’ora della morte.
Ave! Amen!
(Si alza e va a coricarsi.)

The Willow Song

DESDEMONA
My mother had a poor maidservant,
she was in love and pretty;
her name was Barbara;
she loved a man who then abandoned her.
She used to sing a song,
the song of “The Willow”.
(to Emilia)
Unbind my hair.
This evening
my memory is haunted
by that old refrain.
“She wept as she sang on the lonely heath,
the poor girl wept,
O Willow, Willow, Willow!
She sat with her head upon her breast,
Willow, Willow, Willow!
Come sing! Come sing!
The green willow shall be my garland.”

(to Emilia)
Make haste; Othello will soon be here.
“The fresh streams ran between the flowery
banks, she moaned in her grief,
in bitter tears which through her eyelids sprang
her poor heart sought relief.
Willow! Willow! Willow!
Come sing! Come sing!
The green willow shall be my garland.
Down from dark branches flew the birds
towards the singing sweet.
Sufficient were the tears that she did weep
that stones her sorrow shared.”
(to Emilia, taking a ring from her finger)
Lay this ring by.
(rising)
Poor Barbara!
The story used to end
with this simple phrase:
“He was born for glory,
I to love…”
(to Emilia)
Hark! I heard a moan.
(Emilia takes a step or two.)
Hush… Who knocks upon that door?

EMILIA
‘Tis the wind.

DESDEMONA
“I to love him and to die . . .
Let us sing! Let us sing!
Willow! Willow! Willow!”
Emilia, farewell.How mine eyes do burn!
That bodes weeping.Good night.
(Emilia turns to leave.)
Ah! Emilia, Emilia,
(Emilia returns and Desdemona embrace)
Farewell!Emilia, farewell!

(Emilia returns and Desdemona embraces
her. Emilia leaves.)
(kneeling at the prie-dieu)
Hail Mary, full of grace,
blessed amongst wives and maids art thou,
and blessed is the fruit, o blessed one,
of thy maternal womb, Jesu.
Pray for those who kneeling adore thee,
pray for the sinner, for the innocent
and for the weak oppressed; and to the powerful man,
who also grieves, thy sweet compassion show.
Pray for him who bows beneath injustice
and ‘neath the blows of cruel destiny;
for us, pray thou for us,
pray for us always,
and at the hour of our death
pray for us, pray for us,
pray!
(She remains kneeling and, with her head bowed on the
prie-dieu, repeats the prayer silently, so that only the
first words and the last are audible. )
Hail Mary …
… and at the hour of our death.
Hail! Amen!
(She rises from her knees and goes to bed.)

Ebben! Ne andrò lontana

Ebben! Ne andrò lontana Come va l’eco della pia campana,
Là fra la neve bianca;
Là fra le nubi d’ôr;
Laddóve la speranza, la speranza
È rimpianto, è rimpianto, è dolor!

O della madre mia casa gioconda
La Wally ne andrà da te, da te!
Lontana assai, e forse a te,
E forse a te, non farà mai più ritorno,
Nè più la rivedrai! Mai più, mai più!

Ne andrò sola e lontana,
Là, fra la neve bianca, n’andrò,
N’andrò sola e lontana
E fra le nubi d’ôr!

And So! I shall go far away

And so! I shall go far away, In the same way as the holy bell echoes,
There among the white snow;
There among the golden clouds;
There where hope, hope
Is regret, is regret, is pain!

Oh from my mother’s joyous house
La Wally shall go away from you, from you!
Far far away, and maybe never,
And maybe never, she will probably never return
You will never see her again! Never again, never again!

I shall go far away by myself,
There, among the white snow, I shall go away,
I shall go away, alone and far away
And among the golden clouds!

Sempre libera

Follie! follie! Delirio vano è questo!
Povera donna, sola,
Abbandonata in questo
Popoloso deserto
Che appellano Parigi.
Che spero or più?
Che far degg’io? Gioire,
Di voluttà ne’ vortici perir.
Gioir, gioir!
Sempre libera degg’io
Folleggiare di gioia in gioia,
Vo’ che scorra il viver mio
Pei sentieri del piacer.
Nasca il giorno, o il giorno muoia,
Sempre lieta ne’ ritrovi,
A diletti sempre nuovi
Dee volare il mio pensier.

ALFREDO (sotto al balcone)
Amore, amor è palpito…

VIOLETTA
Oh!

ALFREDO
…dell’universo intero —

VIOLETTA
Oh amore.

ALFREDO
Misterioso, misterioso, altero,
Croce, croce e delizia,
Croce e delizia, delizia al cor.

VIOLETTA
Follie! follie! Ah sì! Gioir, gioir!
Sempre libera degg’io
Folleggiare di gioia in gioia,
Vo’ che scorra il viver mio
Pei sentieri del piacer.
Nasca il giorno, o il giorno muoia,
Sempre lieta ne’ ritrovi,
A diletti sempre nuovi,
Dee volare il mio pensier.

ALFREDO
Amor è palpito
Dell’universo —

VIOLETTA
Ah! Dee volar il mio pensier.
Ah! il mio pensier. Il mio pensier.

Forever free

Folly! All is folly! This is mad delirium!
A poor woman, alone,
lost in this
crowded desert
which is known to men as Paris.
What can I hope for?
What should I do? Revel
in the whirlpool of earthly pleasures.
Revel in joy! Ah!
Forever free, I must pass
madly from joy to joy.
My life’s course shall be
forever in the paths of pleasure.
Whether it be dawn or dusk,
I must always live. Ah!
Gaily in the world’s gay places,
ever seeking newer joys.

ALFREDO (outdoors, under the balcony)
Love is the very breath…

VIOLETTA
Oh!

ALFREDO
…of the universe itself –

VIOLETTA
Love.

ALFREDO
Mysterious and noble,
both cross and ecstasy,
cross and ecstasy of the heart.

VIOLETTA
Folly! Folly! Ah yes! From joy to joy,
forever free, I must pass
madly from joy to joy.
My life’s course shall be
forever in the paths of pleasure.
Whether it be dawn or dusk,
I must always live. Ah!
Gaily in the world’s gay places,
ever seeking newer joys, etc.

ALFREDO
Love is the very breath
of the universe itself.

VIOLETTA
Oh! My thoughts have to seek new joys.
Oh! My thoughts. My thoughts.

I am giving you a comparison here. First will be Tebaldi. Then will be Callas. The conductor, Tullio Serafin, is the same in both cases. I am not going to point out positives and negatives here. I don’t think that there are any. The two voices are entirely different, and each voice is magnificent.

Donde lieta uscì

Donde lieta uscì
al tuo grido d’amore,
torna sola Mimi
al solitario nido.
Ritorna un’altra volta
a intesser finti fior.
Addio, senza rancor.
Ascolta, ascolta.
Le poche robe aduna
che lasciai sparse.
Nel mio cassetto
stan chiusi quel cerchietto d’or
e il libro di preghiere.
Involgi tutto quanto in un grembiale
e manderò il portiere…
Bada, sotto il guanciale
c’è la cuffietta rosa.
Se vuoi serbarla a ricordo d’amor!
Addio, senza rancor.

Whence I happily left

Whence I happily left,
to your cry of love,
Mimi returns only
to the lonely nest.
I return again
to make flowers and bouquets.
Goodbye, without any bitterness.
Listen, listen.
The few things I’ve accumulated
I’ve left behind.
In my drawer
is a small band of gold
and my prayer book.
Wrap them in an apron
and I will send the concierge…
Look, under the pillow
there is a pink bonnet.
If you want to keep it in memory of our love, you may.
Goodbye, with no bitterness.

Renata Tebaldi

Renata Tebaldi (born February 1, 1922, Pesaro, Italy – died December 19, 2004, San Marino)

Renata Tebaldi was one of the most beloved opera singers of all time. Her voice was one of the most beautiful to be heard in the 20th century.

She was a dedicated artist, but she did not push herself to sing in any language other than Italian. Tebaldi had a vocal crisis in 1963, which, compounded with exhaustion, caused her to take a year off and to rework her technique.

Still, during what she called her “second career,” Miss Tebaldi did some exquisite singing and continued to win understandable devotion from the public. After a deeply affecting and vocally exquisite performance as Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello” one night at the Metropolitan Opera, the audience kept her coming back for so many curtain calls that she finally appeared wearing her coat around her costume, to signal that she needed to go home.

Tall and stately, she was a lovely woman with creamy white skin, big blue eyes, and trademark dimples when she smiled. Rudolf Bing, the crusty general manager of the Met during Miss Tebaldi’s prime years, knew her demanding side. “Miss Renata Tebaldi was always sweet and very firm,” he once said. “She had dimples of iron.”

There was a public “feud” between Tebaldi and Callas during the 1950s. More likely than not, this feud was drummed up by newspapers and publicists. The theme around which the feud went was Stimmdiva (“Voice Diva”) versus Kuntsdiva (“Art Diva). The Stimmdiva, in this case Tebaldi, was said to have a remarkable voice but no artistry. The Kunstdiva, Maria Callas, was said to have a voice with problems but she made great art. Neither of these two characterizations was true. They were both great artists with very different voices.

For all Miss Tebaldi’s accomplishments, her career faltered in the late 1960’s. When she retired in 1976, she was only 54. Still, she began early and had as active and successful a first 15 years as any singer of the 20th century.

Her opera debut was in 1944, in the smaller role of Elena in Boito’s “Mefistofele” at the regional theater in Rovigo, Italy. Instant success propelled her into appearances in Parma as Puccini’s Mimi in “La Bohème,” her first Desdemona and other roles. In 1946, she auditioned with Toscanini at La Scala in Milan. This led to a career-making appearance in a concert to reopen the La Scala opera house, heavily damaged during the Second World War.

By the time of her much-anticipated Met debut in January 1955, as Desdemona, Miss Tebaldi was already a celebrated singer.
Singing always came first for Miss Tebaldi. She never married and had no children.

In a 1995 interview with The Times, Miss Tebaldi said she had no regrets about her single life. “I was in love many times,” she said, flashing her dimpled smile. “This is very good for a woman.” But she added, “How could I have been a wife, a mother and a singer? Who takes care of the piccolini when you go around the world? Your children would not call you Mama, but Renata.”

In 1973, Miss Tebaldi sang her final performance at the Met, again as Desdemona, with James McCracken in the title role, Sherrill Milnes as Iago and a young James Levine conducting. She had sung some 270 performances with the Met, a house where she considered herself “la regina” — the queen.