From Development server
20 March 2006

Anselmo Colzani, 88, Italian Baritone Who Tackled Met Scarpias and Falstaffs During 1960s, Has Died

Budrio, Italy, March 28, 1918-Milan, March 19, 2006

Opera News Archives
Anselmo Colzani, the striking Italian baritone who was a frequent visitor to the Met during the Bing years, has died at the age of eighty-eight. A native of Budrio, near Bologna, Colzani made his professional debut in 1947, as the Herald in Lohengrin at the Communale in Bologna; Renata Tebaldi was his Elsa. His La Scala bow came in 1952, as Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana, and he remained active in the principal Italian theaters for the rest of his career. Other important European performances during the 1950s included the 1955 stage premiere of Darius Milhaud's David at La Scala and the world premiere of Luciano Chailly's Riva delle Sirti in Monaco the following year.

Colzani made his U.S. debut at San Francisco Opera in 1956, as di Luna in Il Trovatore, and sang in SFO productions of Tosca, Aida and Francesca da Rimini. He arrived at the Met as Simon Boccanegra in April 1960, at a time when the company was looking to fill the gap in the baritone roster occasioned by the untimely death of Leonard Warren the previous month. Colzani may have lacked Warren's beauty of timbre, but his performances had an Italianate urgency and forthright thrust that were uniquely his own, and he soon established himself as a powerful presence in the Met's Italian wing. He remained with the company for sixteen seasons and 272 performances.

Colzani 2
Colzani's Falstaff
Metropolitan Opera/Opera News
The baritone's most frequent role for the Met was Scarpia; the Met Toscas he menaced over forty-one performances in New York and on tour included Tebaldi, Birgit Nilsson, Leontyne Price, Zinka Milanov, Dorothy Kirsten, Gabriella Tucci, Leonie Rysanek and Grace Bumbry. Other Colzani specialties at the Met were Amonasro (thirty-eight performances) and Adriana Lecouvreur's Michonnet, which Colzani initially assumed at the premiere of Nathaniel Merrill's 1963 staging starring Renata Tebaldi and would go on to perform twenty-nine more times with the Met. Colzani was also Jack Rance to the Minnie of Leontyne Price on the first night of the Met's 1961 production of La Fanciulla del West, when Leighton Kerner of The Village Voice wrote that Colzani "made the most florid gesture seem the most natural and who, for the first time, earns the right to be considered a star in his own right." Other Met roles included Macbeth, Rigoletto, Nabucco and Iago.

Undoubtedly Colzani's highest-profile assignment at the Met was as Falstaff in the first performances of Franco Zeffirelli's much-loved 1964 production of Verdi's opera (still current in the Met's repertory), conducted at its premiere by Leonard Bernstein. Colzani was to have been reunited with Bernstein and Zeffirelli for the first performances of a new Met Cavalleria in 1969, but when company labor disputes delayed the start of the Met season that year, Colzani's performances were delayed until 1970-71, when the Zeffirelli Cavalleria was revived under the baton of Fausto Cleva. Colzani's last performance with the Met was as Michonnet, in 1978. His operatic farewell came in 1980 as Scarpia.


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