Legends: Cesare Siepi

Cesare Siepi was born in Milan on February 10th 1923. He was an Italian opera singer, generally considered to have been one of the finest basses of the post-war period. His voice was characterized by a deep, warm timbre, a full, resonant, wide-ranging lower register. Although renowned as a Verdian bass, his tall, striking presence and the elegance of phrasing made him a natural for the role of Don Giovanni. Siepi’s repertoire encompassed Italian and German opera. His voice was described as a basso cantabile, which means a „singing bass“, with a higher range than other basses.

He made his stage debut as early as 1941, as Sparafucile in Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi at Schio, near Vicenza. After that, he fled to Switzerland in 1943 to avoid being conscripted by the Nazi occupying forces. After the end of the war, his career immediately took off. Siepi resumed his career, singing Silva in Verdi’s Ernani at La Fenice in Venice. In 1946 he sang Zaccaria in Verdi’s Nabucco at the re-opening of La Scala, where he continued to sing for many years.

In 1947, Siepi sang in the first performance of Pizzetti’s L’oro and the following year took part in the 30-year memorial celebrations of the death of Arrigo Boito, singing the title role of the composer’s Mefistofele and Simon Mago in Nerone, conducted by Toscanini. In the same year his international career took off. So, in 1947 he sang at the Liceu in Barcelona in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, but his reputation was established in 1950, when Sir Rudolf Bing brought him to the Metropolitan Opera in New York to open the 1950 season as King Philip II in Don Carlos. He remained principal bass at the Metropolitan Opera until 1974, adding roles such as Boris Godunov and Gurnemanz (Parsifal by Richard Wagner).

Read the entire article here, in the 2nd issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.

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