9 June 2013
Bruno Bartoletti, Longtime Artistic Director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, Has Died
Sesto Fiorentino, Italy, June 10, 1926—Florence, Italy, June 9, 2013
A brilliant, idiomatic interpreter of the Italian repertoire and the longtime artistic director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, Bartoletti was a beloved figure in the cultural life of his adopted city for more than a half-century. Educated in Italy, Bartoletti made his professional debut in Florence, leading Rigoletto at the Teatro Communale in 1953. He made his Lyric debut in 1956, stepping in for Tullio Serafin to conduct Il Trovatore with Jussi Björling, Ettore Bastianini, Herva Nelli and Claramae Turner. In his first Lyric season, Bartoletti also paced Renata Tebaldi as Tosca and Mimì and Eleanor Steber as Violetta.
Bartoletti conducted almost 600 performances of fifty-five operas at Lyric in his fifty-one years with the company. He served as Lyric's co-artistic director for ten years (1965–75) before being named the company's artistic director in 1975. Bartoletti remained Lyric's artistic director until 1999, when he was named artistic director emeritus, a title he still held at the time of his death. Bartoletti's last Lyric performances were a run of La Traviata in autumn 2007.
Although Bartoletti's affinity for the operas of Puccini and Verdi was an integral part of Lyric's reputation in the 1950s and '60s as "La Scala West," the maestro also had a passion for twentieth-century works. He led the U.S. professional stage premiere of Billy Budd at Lyric in 1970, as well as the company's 1978 world premiere of Penderecki's Paradise Lost. Among the many non-Italian works that Bartoletti introduced to Lyric audiences were Elektra, Wozzeck, Bluebeard's Castle, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, The Fiery Angel, The Gambler and Kát'a Kabanová. Bartoletti also led the world premiere of Ginastera's Don Rodrigo, in 1964 at the Teatro Colón, a theater that often welcomed him as a guest conductor. Bartoletti appeared regularly at La Scala, where he led thirteen productions; at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, where he was artistic director (1985–91); at the Rome Opera, where he held the same title (1965–73); and at the Danish Royal Opera in Copenhagen, where he was permanent conductor (1957–60). Bartoletti also conducted at Glyndebourne, Parma, Genoa, Bologna, Geneva, Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence, Covent Garden and the Paris Opera.
Bartoletti was a man of great charm and an artist of great heart and boundless vitality. After he left Chicago, in 2007, he continued to work in Italy. He conducted his final engagement, a Florence production of Manon Lescaut
, in February 2011, when he was eighty-four. He died after a long illness.
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