In memoriam: Cesare Valletti
Hailed as the natural successor to Tito Schipa, Cesare Valletti was a suave and dapper Italian tenor whose plangent, stylish singing matched his refined stage appearance. The Metropolitan Opera was the professional centre of much of his career, and he appeared with the company some 113 times, from his 1953 New York debut as a highly praised Don Ottavio until 1959, when a disagreement with Rudolf Bing seems to have soured his relations with the house. Diversifying in the 1960s, he extended his range to art song, and became a highly respected recitalist. His programmes in New York were much sought after by vocal cognoscenti, as were his Wigmore Hall recitals in London, where he specialised in the French and Italian repertory.
Valletti made his operatic debut as Alfredo at Bari in 1947, and came to prominence when he sang Don Narciso in 11 turco in Italia with Callas and Stabile in 1950 at Rome. In the sunset days of the 78 rpm era he made several recordings for the Italian company Cetra, and he found his talents transferred easily to the new long-playing records, for which he recorded quite extensively, including two roles, Des Grieux and Werther, which were something of a speciality. Though rare, his British appearances included a memorable Fenton with La Scala on its famous 1950 visit to Covent Garden, and an Alfredo to Callas’s legendary Violetta at the Royal Opera House in 1958. After 1967, a crisis with his voice having forced his retirement from music, he flourished in a new career in his father-in-law’s pasta machine– making business. In 1968 he made one final appearance, singing Nero in Monteverdi’s Poppea at the Carramoor Festival in Katonah.
Cesare Valletti: born Rome, 18 December 1921; died Milan, 15 May 2000.
Copyright Musical Times Publications, Ltd. Autumn 2000
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