Dino Borgioli, lyric tenor

Dino Borgioli (February 15, 1891 – September 12, 1960) was an Italian lyric tenor. Praised by critics for his musicianship, he was particularly associated with roles in operas composed by Mozart, Rossini, and Donizetti.

Dino Borgioli studied law while also developing his voice as a student of Eugenio Giacchetti in Florence. He made a semi-professional debut there in 1914, as Rinaldo in Lully’s Armide, and his official operatic debut followed shortly afterwards when he sang Arturo / I puritani at the Teatro Corso in Milan, also in 1914.

Between 1937 and 1939 Borgioli appeared regularly at the Glyndebourne Festival, as Don Ottavio and Ernesto; and in 1939 he and his wife, the Australian soprano Patricia Moore, settled in London. He was artistic director of Jay Pomeroy’s opera seasons at the Cambridge Theatre in London between 1946 and 1948, also directing Il barbiere di Siviglia and La bohème; and gave his farewell performance, a concert in Nottingham in 1949.

Borgioli’s singing was notable for its complete technical command and impassioned delivery. He sang Almaviva and the Duke in the early complete recordings of Il barbiere di Siviglia and Rigoletto, made by Columbia-UK in Milan.

Borgioli’s voce, though not a large, dramatic voice, was very well produced, with beautiful legato throughout his range. He used his artistic gifts in a most lyrical way. As you will hear, there was no gripping or squeezing on his throat muscles to make a sound. He sang, as Alfredo Kraus would later say, on the breath.

Amor ti vieta, Milano 1923

Amor ti vieta, Loris’s aria from Fedora

Amor ti vieta di non amar…
La man tua lieve che mi respinge,
cerca la stretta della mia man:
la tua pupilla esprime: “T’amo”
se il labbro dice: “Non t’amerò!”

Love bars itself

Love itself bars you from not loving…
Your light hand that repels me,
still looks for the stroke of my hand:
your eyes exclaim: “I love you”
even when your lips say: “I will not love you!”

Columbia Records, May 18, 1930

Caro mio ben

Caro mio ben, credimi almen,
Senza di te languisce il cor
Caro mio ben senza di te, languische il cor.

Il tuo fedel sospira ognor.
Cessa, crudel, tanto rigor!
Cessa crudel, tanto rigor
Tanto rigor!

Caro mio ben credimi almen,
Senza di te languisce il cor,
Caro mio ben, credimi almen
Senza di te languisce il cor

My darling love

Thou all my bliss, believe but this:
When thou art far My heart is torn
Thou all my bliss, When thou art far
My heart is torn.

Thy lover true, Ever doth sigh; Do but forgo
Such cruel scorn! Do but forgo, Such cruel scorn
Such cruel scorn!

Thou, all my bliss, Believe but this:
When thou art far, My heart is torn,
Thou all my bliss, Believe but this,
When thou art far, my heart is torn.

Recorded in 1922

Spirto gentil

Spirto gentil,
ne’ sogni miei
brillasti un dì,
ma ti perdei:
fuggi dal cor;
mentita speme,
larve d’amor, larve d’amor,
fuggite insieme,
larve d’amor.

A te d’accanto
del genitore scordava
il pianto,
la patria, il ciel…
donna sleal
in tanto amore
segnasti il core
d’onta mortal,
ahimè!

Gentle spirit

Thou, gentle spirit,
you once shined
in my dreams
but, after, I lost you forever:
leave my frail heart,
you false promises,
ye ghosts of love –
disappear altogether and at once,
ye ghosts of love.

In your vicinity
I used to forget
my father’s afflictions,
my homeland, and heaven…
You, unfair mistress,
giving me so much love
You weigh down on my heart
human shame,
alas!

I Puritani, Bellini, Act III

A te, o cara

A te, o cara, amor talora
Mi guidò furtivo e in pianto;
Or mi guida a te d’accanto
Tra la gioia e l’esultar.

Al brillar di sì bell’ora,
Se rammento il mio tormento
Si raddoppia il mio contento,
M’è più caro il palpitar.

To you, o dear one

To you, oh dear one, love at times
lead me furtively and in tears;
now it guides me to your side
in joy and exultation.

At the radiance of such a beautiful hour
if I renew my torment,
it redoubles my happiness,
’tis more dear the my heart’s beating.

This is meant to be a comparison between someone who really knew how to sing in the bel canto style versus the modern version of bel canto. I won’t say very much, in this particular case, I will have to restrain myself. Notice the following things in Florez’s singing: swooping, crooning, inability to sing the correct notes, sloppy legato used to make a listener think they he/she is hearing real bel canto. Singing on the throat, lack of resonant sound, compression of overtones. Singing off key. High notes are very difficult. But, don’t listen to me. See what you yourselves hear.

It is not often that one comes across a solo version of Verdi’s Slaves Chorus in Nabucco’s Third Act, but I found one with Borgioli singing it, and I decided to include it. It is beautifully sung.

Nabucco, Va' pensiero, 1942 Broadcast by BBC in London

Va’, pensiero, sull’ali dorate;
Va, ti posa sui clivi, sui colli,
ove olezzano tepide e molli
l’aure dolci del suolo natal!
Del Giordano le rive saluta,
di Sionne le torri atterrate…
Oh mia Patria sì bella e perduta!
O membranza sì cara e fatal!
Arpa d’or dei fatidici vati,
perché muta dal salice pendi?
Le memorie nel petto raccendi,
ci favella del tempo che fu!
O simile di Solima ai fati,
traggi un suono di crudo lamento;
o t’ispiri il Signore un concento
che ne infonda al patire virtù!

Go, thoughts, on golden wings;
Go, settle upon the slopes and hills,
where warm and soft and fragrant are
the breezes of our sweet native land!
Greet the banks of the Jordan,
the towers of Zion …
Oh my country so beautiful and lost!
Or so dear yet unhappy!
Or harp of the prophetic seers,
why do you hang silent from the willows?
Rekindle the memories within our hearts,
tell us about the time that have gone by
Or similar to the fate of Solomon,
give a sound of lament;
or let the Lord inspire a concert
That may give to endure our suffering.

Dino Borgioli

Dino Borgioli was born in Florence on February 15th 1891. He began to study law but soon decided to concentrate on singing and took voice lessons with Eugenio Giacchetti.

Borgioli’s official operatic debut took place in 1914 at the Teatro Corso in Milan as Arturo in “l Puritani”. After performances in Naples and Bologna he was heard for the first time at the Teatro Dal Verme in 1918 and in the same year made his debut as Ernesto in “Don Pasquale” at the Scala of Milan, where his career was strongly supported by Arturo Toscanini and where he sang regularly until 1931.

At the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, later Teatro Reale, too, he had a successful career from 1918 on and appeared there in the world premiere of Franco Casavola s “11 Gobbo del Califfo” in 1929. His international career began to take off in 1921 when Borgioli spent the whole summer at the Teatro Col6n in Buenos Aires. He was heard in “II Barbiere di Siviglia” and “Rigoletto” (both with Maria Barrientos and Carlo Galeffi), “Don Pasquale” (with Barrientos, Crabbe and Azzolini) and “I Puritani” (with Barrientos, Galeffi and Didur).

His high level of education enabled him to sing several French roles, such as “Manon”, the South-American premiere of Massenet’s “Griselidis” and “Les Contes d’ Hoffmann” in their original language (rather an exception among Italian tenors during those days). In all three operas his partner at the Colon was the ever critical Ninon Vallin, who repeatedly praised Borgioli’s excellent French pronunciation and stylistic feeling.

After guest performances in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Lisboa and an Australian tour with Nellie Melba in 1924 he gave his debut performance at Covent Garden in London in 1925 together with Toti Dal Monte in “Lucia di Lammermoor”. During the same season he also had great success in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” and “Rigoletto” (both with Maria Ivogün and Joseph Schwarz). In 1927 he returned to Covent Garden as Duke in “Rigoletto” (with Ivogün and Mariano Stabile) and in the following year in “La Boheme”, “Madama Butterfly” and “Boris Godunov” (with Fjodor Schaljapin).

In 1930 Borgioli was Rosa Ponselle’s Alfredo in “La Traviata”and Fenton in “Falstaff’, in 1934 he sang Don Ramiro in “La Cenerentola” (with Conchita Supervia) and in 1935 “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” with Lily Pons and Giuseppe De Luca. Borgioli married the Australian singer Patricia Moore and settled in London and as a consequence his appearances in England from 1933 on were more frequent than those in his home country.

At Covent Garden he added to his repertory “Un Ballo in Maschera” (his heaviest role) and was heard in 1936 in “Tosca” (with Gina Cigna) and in 1937 in “Don Pasquale” (with Mafalda Favero, Biasini and Di Lelio). In 1931 he appeared at the Salzburg Festival in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” (with Stabile and Autori) and in 1936 and 1937 as Fenton in “Falstaff’ under Toscanini.

With Claudia Muzio as Tosca he inaugurated the new Opera House in San Francisco in 1932 and was engaged at the Chicago Opera for a short season in 1934. His success in Chicago led to an offer from the Metropolitan Opera, who presumably was looking for a replacement for Beniamino Gigli. Borgioli’s debut took place on December 315t 1934 in “La Boheme” (with Lucrezia Bori, Richard Bonelli and Virgilio Lazzari), but his only new role during this season remained Don Ottavio in “Don Giovanni” under Tullio Serafin (with Pinza, Ponselle, Maria Müller and Lazzari). At the Festival in Glyndebourne he was heard with great success as Don Ottavio in the years between 1937 and 1939 and as Ernesto in “Don Pasquale” in 1938, in Paris he was heard both at the Opera Comique and at the Grand Opera. Aside from the roles already mentioned Dino Borgioli’s extensive repertory also included: “Le Comte d’Ory”, “L’Elisir d’ Amore”, “L’ Amico Fritz”, “La Favorita”, “Faust”, “Adriana Lecouvreur”, “Cavalleria Rusticana”, “Les Pecheurs de Perles”, “Werther” and “La Rondine”.

In 1946, he bade farewell to the stage and was co¬ director of the New London Opera Company until 1948, he also was a very distinguished singing teacher and throughout his career a highly acclaimed lied-singer. His last concert took place in 1949 in Nottingham. Later, he returned to Italy and died in Florence on September 13th 1960.

Dino Borgioli was born into the tenor-generation of Beniamino Gigli and Tito Schipa. – During his career and even more so after his death Borgioli’s art has remained in the shadow of both singers. The timbre of his voice comes closer to Schipa’s than to Gigli’s. It was a bright, silvery voice with a slightly nasal tone, but it was clearer than Schipa’s. As a thorough musician he not only laid a strong emphasis on phrasing, but also on vocal dynamics: one just has to listen to his refined shadings between forte and mezzo forte or piano and pianissimo. Borgioli was a good actor and looked very well on stage. All his recordings were made for Columbia, among whose exclusive artists he was. His earliest recordings date from 1920, after the introduction of the electric recording system – at the Columbia studios in 1926 – he re-recorded several items and added new ones. In England he recorded numerous songs, many of them sung in English and German. Luckily, his voice has also been preserved in two complete opera-recordings made in 1930: “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” and “Rigoletto” (both with Riccardo Stracciari and Mercedes Capsir).