Renata Tebaldi was the leading Italian soprano of the 1950s and 1960s in the Verdi and Puccini repertoire. She had a creamy voice, in which the listener could bask.
Tebaldi began her career in Italy as World War II was ending, and came to international stardom singing under Toscanini at the re-opening of La Scala in 1946. She used her voice skilfully, and became the leading Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello (101 performances) and Mimì in Puccini’s La bohème (111 performances), and she mainly confined herself to the late 19th and early 20th-century Italian repertoire. She learned how to be an adequate actress, but mainly acted with the voice, and in certain roles she became a thrilling dramatic presence. Famous for her warm heart, perhaps also for her ‘steel dimples’ (Rudolph Bing), she was adored on two continents and had a long and fulfilling career.
In her own words: ‘I know that my voice has entered into the hearts of many people and has caused beautiful reactions. Therefore, how can I not be thankful for this great gift?’
Greatest recording: Puccini La bohème, cond. Serefin Double Decca 448 7252 £12.99