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Giuseppe Di Stefano – Mattinata

Giuseppe Di Stefano – Mattinata

Giuseppe Di Stefano (24 July 1921 – 3 March 2008) was an Italian operatic tenor who sang professionally from the late 1940s until the early 1990s. He was known as the “Golden voice” or “The most beautiful voice”, as the true successor of Beniamino Gigli. He was also known for his long-term performance and recording association and brief romantic episode with the soprano Maria Callas.

Giuseppe Di Stefano was born in Motta Sant’Anastasia, a village near Catania, Sicily, in 1921.[1] He was the only son of a carabiniere turned cobbler and his dressmaker wife. Di Stefano was educated at a Jesuit seminary and briefly contemplated entering the priesthood.

After serving in the Italian military (and briefly taking lessons from the Swiss tenor Hugues Cuénod), Di Stefano made his operatic debut in 1946 in Reggio Emilia as Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon, the role in which he made his La Scala debut the following year. He made his New York debut at the Metropolitan Opera 1948 as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto[2] after singing the role in Riccione with Hjördis Schymberg that summer. He went on to perform regularly in New York for many years. In 1957, Di Stefano made his British debut at the Edinburgh Festival as Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore and his Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, debut in 1961, as Cavaradossi in Tosca.

As a singer, Di Stefano was admired for his excellent diction, unique timbre, passionate delivery and, in particular, for the sweetness of his soft singing. In his Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast debut in Faust, he attacked the high C forte and then softened to a pianissimo. Sir Rudolf Bing said in his memoirs that this was the most beautiful sound he had heard come out of a human throat during his many years as general manager of the Metropolitan Opera.

Mattinata (English: Morning) was the first song ever written expressly for the Gramophone Company (the present day HMV). Composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo in 1904, this song was dedicated to Enrico Caruso, who was the first to record it in 1904 with the composer at the piano. Ever since, this piece has become a concert favourite.

More than a half-century later this song was recorded by Italian-born tenor Sergio Franchi on his American-debut album, Romantic Italian Songs (RCA Victor Red Seal, 1962). In only three months, Franchi’s album of mostly Neapolitan favorites songs placed number seventeen on the Billboard Top 200. Thirty-six years later (eight years after Franchi’s death) the same album placed number one hundred sixty-seven on the Billboard 200.

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