From Development server
31 May 2011

Bass Giorgio Tozzi, 88, an Artist Beloved by Met Audiences for More than Two Decades, has Died

 

News Tozzi 53111
Giorgio Tozzi as Prince Gremin, which he sang in the premiere of Peter Brook's 1957 production of Eugene Onegin at the Met  
OPERA NEWS Archives

 

GIORGIO TOZZI
Chicago, IL, January 8, 1923 — Bloomington, IN, May 30, 2011  

A stimulating, versatile artist of peerless imagination, bass Giorgio Tozzi, one of the most admired — and most beloved — artists on the Met roster for twenty-one seasons, has died. He was eighty-eight. 

Beginning with his company debut, as Alvise in La Gioconda, in 1955. Tozzi sang thirty-seven roles in his 528 Met performances. Tozzi's Met assignments ranged from Don Basilio and Mozart's Figaro to Sparafucile, Filippo II and Boris Godunov; whether his vehicle was comic or tragic, Tozzi created characterizations that were models of elegance and concision, performances as remarkable for their dramatic conviction as for their vocal beauty. He was one of the Met's most valuable players, deployed in eleven new productions for the company during his time with them — Eugene Onegin (Prince Gremin, 1957), Don Giovanni (the Commendatore, 1957), Simon Boccanegra (Fiesco, 1960), Martha (Plunkett, 1961), La Sonnambula (Rodolfo, 1963), Manon (Comte des Grieux, 1963), Aida (Ramfis, 1963), Luisa Miller (Walther, 1968), Fidelio (Rocco, 1970) and Pelléas et Mélisande (Arkel, 1972), as well as the world premiere of Samuel Barber's Vanessa (1958), in which he created the role of the Doctor.

Tozzi studied voice in his native Chicago and in Milan before making his Italian debut in 1950, in La Sonnambula at Milan's Teatro Nuovo. He arrived at La Scala in 1953, in Catalani's La Wally, and returned to that theater on several occasions, notably as Saint-Bris in the starry 1962 revival of Les Huguenots with Sutherland, Corelli and Simionato. Tozzi was also welcomed in Florence, Genoa, Palermo, Hamburg, Salzburg, Munich, Frankfurt, San Francisco, Dallas, Boston and Houston.

A cheerful, unfailingly positive colleague, Tozzi managed to stay above opera-house politics, remaining on good terms with his fellow basses and with Rudolf Bing, the Met's formidable general manager for most of Tozzi's career in the house. Tozzi's relationship with Bing survived the bass's refusal of the role of Enobarbus in the world premiere of Samuel Barber's Antony and Cleopatra, the opera that inaugurated the Met's Lincoln Center home in 1966; when Tozzi turned down the Barber premiere — in a 2002 OPERA NEWS interview with Martin Bernheimer, Tozzi allowed that he was not eager to spend time learning an opera that might not last long in the repertory — Bing offered the bass his choice of new roles in the company's first Lincoln Center season. Tozzi chose Hans Sachs, which became one of his favorite assignments; his masterful characterization of the cobbler-poet is preserved in Joachim Hess's 1971 film of Leopold Lindtberg's Hamburg Staatsoper production. 

Tozzi made his Broadway debut (as George Tozzi) in 1948, as Tarquinius in The Rape of Lucretia.  The following year, he appeared in London's West End in the musical Tough at the Top, playing a boxer who falls in love with a princess.   He returned to Broadway in 1979, as Tony in a revival of The Most Happy Fella, which won him a Tony Award nomination. Tozzi starred in several South Pacific productions as Emile DeBecque — he also provided the soundtrack vocals for Rossano Brazzi's DeBecque in the 1958 film — as well as in regional and stock stagings of Fiddler on the Roof, The Great Waltz, Fanny, Music in the Air and Man of La Mancha

Tozzi's warmth and persuasive charm made him a natural on television. In addition to solo turns on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Bell Telephone Hour and other variety programs, Tozzi was a memorably vulnerable Boris Godunov (in English) in the 1961 NBC Opera Company production of Mussorgsky's opera and a dignified King Melchior in NBC's 1978 television film of Amahl and the Night Visitors. A vivid actor even without a score to support him, Tozzi appeared in non-singing roles on The Odd Couple, Kojack and other television series, as well as the 1976 mini-series Captains and the Kings and the 1973 feature film Shamus.

While still at the Met, Tozzi taught voice at the Juilliard School. After a brief association with Brigham Young University, Tozzi joined the faculty of Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music in 1991. He retired as a distinguished professor of voice at IU in 2006. spacer

F. PAUL DRISCOLL

More information can be found in the OPERA NEWS Archives.



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