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Tito Gobbi: Centenary Exhibit

(Tito Gobbi with his book, "My Life")

October 2013 marked two important anniversaries in the world of Italian opera: the bicentennial of Giuseppe Verdi, and the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tito Gobbi, one of the greatest baritones of the 20th century.

Gobbi had retired before LA Opera was founded, but opera lovers in Los Angeles enjoyed several opportunities to experience him in his prime. He performed at the Shrine Auditorium on tour with the San Francisco Opera in several of his greatest roles: Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore in 1948; the title role of Simon Boccanegra, Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West and Scarpia in Tosca in 1960; Iago in Otello and Scarpia in 1962; and Iago as well as the title roles of Nabucco and Gianni Schicchi in 1964.

An exhibit in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion lobby throughout the run of LA Opera’s production of Verdi’s Falstaff  presents a wealth of iconographic materials documenting Tito Gobbi as an interpreter of Verdi. His artistry comes to life in a fascinating series of photographs, drawings and set and costume designs showing the full complexity of Verdi's characters and the baritone’s rigorous and imaginative approach to his roles.

(Don Carlo, 1951)                            (Macbeth, 1960)                              (Nabucco, 1965)

about tito gobbi

Tito Gobbi was born in Bassano del Grappa on 24th October, 1913. When he was 19 years old a musician friend of the family, Baron Agostino Zanchetta, noticed that he had a good voice and advised him to study singing. That same year Tito moved to Rome to study with the famous Sicilian tenor, Giulio Crimi, at whose home he met the young pianist, Tilde De Rensis, who was to become his life partner.

His first appearance on stage was in Gubbio, in 1935, where he played Count Rodolfo in Bellini’s La Sonnambula. Immediately afterwards, thanks to an audition with Maestro Gino Marinuzzi, he won a scholarship to the La Scala theatre where, between 1935 and 1936, he understudied for many parts.  In 1942, Maestro Serafin invited him to sing the title role in the Italian première of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, and from that time on Gobbi’s name was inscribed in the history of opera.  His career didn't suffer any hindrances during the war and the post-war period: he sang not only in many great Italian opera houses, but also in small provincial theatres and halls, experiencing all the difficulties of those times but with important achievements.

The year 1947, with Rigoletto in Stockholm, marked the beginning of a great international career that brought Tito to all the major opera houses in the world and earned him the nickname of "the flying singer".

In 1964 he performed with Maria Callas in the unsurpassed edition of Tosca directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by Carlo Felice Cillario, which was repeated in Paris the following year and circulated throughout the world on DVD (the second act only).  His U.S. debut dates back to 1948 with The Barber of Seville in San Francisco; in 1954 he was in Chicago for the re-opening of the Lyric Opera, a theatre to which he returned often during more than 10 years,  initially as a performer and then also as director.

In the 70's Tito gradually gave up singing, and stopped completely in 1977 to dedicate himself fully to stage direction and teaching, an activity for which he realized he had a natural proclivity.  He never left theatre and music that accompanied him throughout his life: his last direction is dated 1982, while his last master class was held in 1983.  Tito Gobbi died in Rome on 5th March 1984.

(Biography courtesy Associazione Musicale Tito Gobbi)


View more images from the Tito Gobi Centenary Exhibit

The centenary exhibit is presented courtesy of
Cecilia Gobbi and the Associazione Musicale Tito Gobbi.

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