From Development server
26 November 2007

Frank Guarrera, Star of Important Productions at the Bing-Era Met, has Died at 83

Guarrera as L'Elisir d'Amore's

© Louis Mélancon/OPERA NEWS
Philadelphia, PA, December 3, 1923 - Bellmawr, NJ, November 23, 2007

Frank Guarrera, who starred in some of the most important productions of the Rudolf Bing era at the Met, has died at 83.

The baritone, whose lean, attractive voice, swarthy good looks and virile charisma made him a valuable member of the Met roster for twenty-eight seasons, studied at the Curtis Institute with Richard Bonelli and Eufemia Giannini Gregory before making his professional debut at New York City Opera, as Silvio in a 1947 Pagliacci. A win in the 1948 edition of Auditions of the Air brought Guarrera to the attention of Arturo Toscanini, who invited the young baritone to make his La Scala debut as Fanuèl in Boito's Nerone later that same year. Some six months later, on December 14, 1948, the twenty-five-year-old Guarrera made his Met debut, as Escamillo to Risë Stevens' Carmen. It was an assignment he would repeat eighty-three times for the company in New York and on tour, including the premiere of Tyrone Guthrie's wildly admired Met Carmen in 1952.

The Guthrie Carmen was one of several important new stagings during Rudolf Bing''s tenure as Met general manager that showcased Guarrera's theatrical flair. He was also Guglielmo in the first performances of Alfred Lunt's elegant Così Fan Tutte production (1951); Malatesta in the Dino Yannopoulos Don Pasquale (1955) that brought Thomas Schippers to the Met; Belcore in Nathaniel Merrill's whimsical 1960 L'Elisir d'Amore; Ping in the smash-hit Turandot (1961), directed by Yoshio Aoyama and designed by Cecil Beaton; Lescaut to Anna Moffo's Manon in Günther Rennert's sumptuous realization of Massenet's opera; and Alfio in Franco Zeffirelli's monumental 1970 Cavalleria Rusticana, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. For his last new Met production, Guarrera took on Gianni Schicchi in Fabrizio Melano's 1974 staging of Puccini's comedy.

Other important assignments for Guarrera were Rossini's Figaro, Mozart's Count Almaviva, Marcello, Valentin in Faust and Falke in Die Fledermaus, all of which featured frequently on his Met résumé, and Ford in Falstaff, which he recorded with Toscanini in 1950. Guarrera's other commercial recordings included the Metropolitan Opera's Columbia Masterworks releases of Così Fan Tutte, Lucia di Lammermoor, Faust and Madama Butterfly.

After leaving the Met, in 1976, Guarrera turned to teaching. He spent ten years on faculty at the Seattle campus of the University of Washington and also taught privately.

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