Gino Bechi was a Verdi Baritone whose career mostly took place in Italy, post WWII. In his prime, he was a remarkable singer. It would be hard for me to think of a more resonant baritone voice than his. I hope that you enjoy these excerpts. We simply don’t have singers today who can sing as Bechi did.

Leoncavallo, Pagliacci, Prologue

PROLOGO
Tonio, in costume da Taddeo come nella commedia, passando attraverso al telone

TONIO
Si può?… Si può?…
poi salutando
Signore! Signori!… Scusatemi
se da sol me presento.
Io sono il Prologo:

Poiché in iscena ancor
le antiche maschere mette l’autore,
in parte ei vuol riprendere
le vecchie usanze, e a voi
di nuovo inviami.

Ma non per dirvi come pria:
«Le lacrime che noi versiam son false!
Degli spasimi e de’ nostri martir
non allarmatevi!» No! No:
L’autore ha cercato
invece pingervi
uno squarcio di vita.
Egli ha per massima sol
che l’artista è un uom
e che per gli uomini
scrivere ei deve.
Ed al vero ispiravasi.

Un nido di memorie
in fondo a l’anima
cantava un giorno,
ed ei con vere lacrime scrisse,
e i singhiozzi
il tempo gli battevano!

Dunque, vedrete amar
sì come s’amano gli esseri umani;
vedrete de l’odio i tristi frutti.
Del dolor gli spasimi,
urli di rabbia, udrete,
e risa ciniche!

E voi, piuttosto
che le nostre povere gabbane d’istrioni,
le nostr’anime considerate,
poiché siam uomini
di carne e d’ossa,
e che di quest’orfano mondo
al pari di voi spiriamo l’aere!

Leoncavallo, Pagliacci, Prologue

PROLOGUE

TONIO
in the costume of Taddeo in the play, coming through the curtain
Excuse me!
bowing
Ladies and gentlemen,
forgive me for appearing alone.
I am the Prologue.

Since the author is putting on the stage
again the old Comedy of Masks,
he would like to revive
some of the old customs
and so sends me out again to you.

But not to say, as of old,
“The tears we shed are feigned!
Do not alarm yourselves at our sufferings
and our torments!” No! No:
The author instead has sought to paint
for you a scene from life.
He takes as his basis simply
that the artist is a man
and that he must write for men.
His inspiration was a true story.

A nest of memories
was one day running through his heard,
and he wrote, shedding real tears,
with sobs to mark the time!

So you will see love,
as real as human beings’ love:
You will see the sad fruit of hate.
You will hear agonies of grief,
cries of rage and bitter laughter!

So think then, not of our poor
theatrical costumes
but of our souls,
for we are men of flesh and blood.
Breathing the air of this lonely world
Just like you!
I have told you his plan.
Now hear how it is unfolded.
calling towards the stage
Come. Let’s begin!

Rossini, Barbiere di siviglia, “Largo al factotum del mar”

Largo al factotum della città.
Presto a bottega che l’alba è già.
Ah, che bel vivere, che bel piacere
per un barbiere di qualità!

Ah, bravo Figaro! Bravo, bravissimo!
Fortunatissimo per verità!

Pronto a far tutto, la notte e il giorno
sempre d’intorno in giro sta.
Miglior cuccagna per un barbiere,
vita più nobile, no, non si da.

Rasori e pettini, lancette e forbici,
al mio comando tutto qui sta.
V’è la risorsa, poi, del mestiere
colla donnetta… col cavaliere…

Tutti mi chiedono, tutti mi vogliono,
donne, ragazzi, vecchi, fanciulle:
Qua la parrucca… Presto la barba…
Qua la sanguigna… Presto il biglietto…
Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!, ecc.

Ahimè, che furia! Ahimè, che folla!
Uno alla volta, per carità!
Ehi, Figaro! Son qua.
Figaro qua, Figaro là,
Figaro su, Figaro giù.

Pronto prontissimo son come il fulmine:
sono il factotum della città.
Ah, bravo Figaro! Bravo, bravissimo;
a te fortuna non mancherà.

Rossini, Barber of Seville, “Room for the city’s jack of all trades”

Room for the city’s factotum, here;
Off to the shop – the dawn is near.
What a merry life, what pleasure gay,
Awaits a barber of quality!

Ah, bravo, Figaro! Bravo, bravissimo!
Of men you are the happiest, most surely.

Ready for all, both by night and by day,
I bustle about so briskly and gay.
What better cheer, what happier lot,
Could an ever active barber await!

Razors and combs, and lancets, and scissors,
All here and ready at my command.
Then there are little resources besides –
With the young dame, with the gay cavalier.

All after me, all inquire for me,
Both young and old, mistress and maid:
“My wig here!” – “My beard here!”
“Here, bleed me!!” – “Quick, the note!”
Figaro! Figaro! Figaro! etc.

Oh, what a crowding! Oh, what a fury!
One at a time, ! For pity’s sake!
“Hey, Figaro!” – I’m here.
“Hey, Figaro!” – I’m here.
Figaro up, Figaro down.

Swift and swifter, quick as lightning:
Room for the city’s factotum here.
Ah, bravo, Figaro! bravo, bravissimo!
In very truth the most lucky of men.

Verdi, Don Carlo, “Carlo, ascolta”

RODRIGO

O Carlo, ascolta, la madre t’aspetta
A San Giusto doman; tutto ella sa…
Ah! la terra mi manca… Carlo mio,
A me porgi la man!…
Io morrò, ma lieto in core,
Ché potei così serbar
Alla Spagna un salvatore!
Ah!… di me… non… ti… scordar!…

Regnare tu dovevi, ed io morir per te.
Ah! Io morrò, ma lieto in core,
Ché potei così serbar alla Spagna un salvatore!
Ah! di me non ti scordar!
Ah! la terra mi manca…
la mano a me…a me…
Ah! salva la Fiandra… Carlo mio, addio! Ah!..

Verdi, Don Carlo, “Carlo, listen”

RODRIGO

O Carlo, listen, your mother waits for you
In San Giusto tomorrow; she knows everything …
Ah! I’m leaving the earth … dearest Carlo,
Give me your hand! …
I will die, but glad in heart,
That I could keep such a savior for Spain!
Ah! do not forget me!…

You had to reign, and I will die for you.
Ah! I will die, but glad in heart,
That I could keep such a savior for Spain!
Ah! don’t forget me!
Ah! I’m leaving the earth…
Give me your hand to me… to me…
Ah! save Flanders… dearest Carlo, goodbye! Ah!..

Gino Bechi
October 16, 1913 – February 2, 1993

There is very little information about Bechi on the internet. Most of the information below was taken from obituaries.

Gino Bechi, like many singers of his generation, was denied a full international career because of the Second World war.

The Italian baritone, whose voice was at its splendid best during the 1940s, was not heard in London until September 1950, when he sang in Otello and Falstaff at Covent Garden during a visit – the first since the war – of La Scala from Milan. Although then only 37 years old, Bechi was accused by the critics of having little voice left. The audience, however, starved of the authentic sound of Italian voices in Italian opera, was less dismissive and greatly enjoyed the baritone’s Iago and Falstaff; Bechi was never a subtle artist, but there was a generosity in his singing that captivated the listener. Born and educated in Florence, Gino Bechi made his stage debut in 1936 at Empoli as Germont pere in La Traviata. The following year he was engaged at the Rome Opera, where in 1939 he sang Vladimir in the premiere of Monte Ivnor by Lodovico Rocca. He first sang at La Scala in January 1940, as Don Carlo in La Forza Del Destino, and appeared there throughout the war years. His repertory included Verdi roles such as Renato (Un Ballo in Maschera), Don Carlo (Ernani)and Rigoletto, but also Rossini’s Figaro, Severo in Poliuto, Sir Richard in I Puritani di Scozia and Jokanaan in Salome (in Italian). He sang in Florence, notably in the premiere of Alfano’s Don Juan de Manara in the Maggio musicale of 1941.

When La Scala reopened in 1946, Bechi sang the title-role of Nabucco, one of his finest roles, which he repeated at the San Carlo, Naples in 1949, with Maria Callas as Abigaille. After the visit to Covent Garden by La Scala, Bechi continued to sing with the company until 1953; his last appearance was as Alfonso in La Favorita.

He sang in San Francisco, Chicago, Lisbon, Buenos Aires and Cairo. On his retirement from the stage in the early 1960s, Bechi taught in Florence. He made many recordings and can he heard at the peak of his career, when his voice was in full bloom, as Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana, conducted by Mascagni; he also recorded Figaro, Renato and Gerard (Andrea Chenier), while the Naples Nabucco with Callas was captured ‘live’ on disc.