ORFEO International


July 2010

Cesare Siepi † 5 July 2010

If there is a post-war singer Cesare Siepi as Don Giovanni
Cesare Siepi as Don Giovanni
who fully deserves the description “basso cantante” for both the balm-like beauty of his tone and also for his vocal agility – qualities missing from the typically German, rock-like “black bass” with its greater fullness and depth – then it can only be Cesare Siepi. Siepi, Siepi, who died at the age of 87, began his international career at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, in 1950, when he sang Philip II of Spain in Verdi’s Don Carlo at the start of the Bing era. Cesare Siepi in Mozart
Cesare Siepi in Mozart's Requiem
In the five years since 1945 he had already caused a sensation all over Europe in performances in Milan, Lisbon, London and elsewhere. His performances as Figaro and Don Giovanni with the Vienna Philharmonic arguably set a standard that has never been equalled. It was as Don Giovanni that he made his Salzburg Festival début under Wilhelm Furtwängler in 1953, a performance immortalized on Orfeo’s Festspieldokumente label Cesare Siepie in Mozart
Cesare Siepie in Mozart's Don Giovanni
(C 624 043 D), as is his Salzburg recital of 1956, in which the singer demonstrated his ability to cover almost every area of the concert and operatic repertory of every era and idiom, from the tragédie lyrique and German art song to the concert aria and great monologues from the world of Italian opera (C 744 071 B). That same year he also sang the bass part in Mozart’s Requiem at Bruno Walter’s last appearance at the Salzburg Festival (C 430 961 B). Italian Operas - Great Monologues
Italian Operas - Great Monologues
No matter what Cesare Siepi sang – and in later life he also added Wagner’s Gurnemanz to his French and Italian roles – his vocalism remained refined and elegant, opulent and never blustery. Even when singing Gounod’s Méphistophélès and Boito’s Mefistofele he never forced his voice, but still remained theatrically effective. Under-represented in his repertory, his undoubted gift for comedy found eloquent expression in the arias at the end of his 1956 Salzburg recital – not just Basilio’s Calumny Aria from Il barbiere di Siviglia, which he sang on frequent occasions, but also Haly’s lesser-known number from L’italiana in Algeri, “Le femmine d’Italia”, sung as an encore with tremendous charm. We bow before a great man from Italy.