MY LIFE by Tito Gobbi


Email this review


Highly agreeable, smartly paced reminiscences from the great Verdi/Puccini baritone of the Fifties and Sixties--a proud, old-fashioned fellow who laments ""the dismal shift of power and importance from the artists. . . to the officials"" (especially at La Scala). Born to a well-to-do north Italian family hit hard by the 1920s, young Tito went to Rome determined to sing, was taken in by the great tenor-teacher Giulio Crimi, and promptly fell in love with a girl in a tree in Crimi's garden: wife-to-be Tilde, from a serious musical family. Early operatic appearances were amusing disasters: missed cues, parts learned on a few hours' notice. Then, however, enter legendary Tullio Serafin of Rome's Teatro Reale--who put Tito through rigorous training (66 roles in six years), sternly guided his development, yet was willing to accept Tito's theatrical, ground-breaking touches (e.g., ending the Posa death scene in Don Carlo with a choking sound rather than in full voice). The war brought German-ordered performances and general misery, but after that Gobbi was ready to become one of those first truly international opera stars, jetting from Europe to the US and back. He wisely avoids a year-by-year approach here, concentrating instead on major roles (stage-savvy comments on his semi-naturalistic interpretation of Rigoletto, Wozzeck, Iago, Don Giovanni, Falstaff, Scarpia of course, and others) and major colleagues. There are moving portraits of Gigli and Callas (he stood up to her, she melted); only a few nameless upstagers and Grace Bumbry (she was so distant as Tosca that Gobbi changed the line ""Sit here"" to ""Sit there"") receive harsh words. And there are brisk chapters devoted to later careers as teacher and opera director. Witty, forceful, and always charming (never more so than in a gallant thank-you note to his ghostwriter)--an engaging, valuable record of a steady, relatively undramatic, but important operatic career.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1980
Publisher: Doubleday