The operatic bass Cesare Siepi has died at the age of 87 after a celebrated 55 year career. The leading man on some of the world’s best stages, Siepi was best known for his role as Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
Born in Milan in 1923, Siepi made his stage debut as Sparafucile in Rigoletto at Schio, near Vicenza. His operatic career had a brief hiatus in 1943, when Siepi left Italy for Switzerland in order to avoid being conscripted by the occupying Nazi forces.
In 1945 he returned and the following year sang the role of Zacaria in Verdi’s Nabucco, at La Scala. It was this performance that established Siepi as a leading bass and led to performances at La Scala, Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera and the New York Metropolitan Opera. A member of the Metropolitan for 23 years, Siepi undertook nearly 500 performances in 17 roles on its stage.
Notable recordings of Siepi’s portrayal of Don Giovanni include a DVD of his performance at the 1953 Salzburg festival under the baton of Wilhem Furtwängler and a classic Decca recording of his 1955 performance with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Josef Krips.
Retiring from his stage career in 1988 Siepi made one final appearance as Oroveso in a concert rendering of Bellini’s Norma in 1994. Siepi, who was described by the New York Times as having a ‘warm, slightly dark voice that was ideally suited to Mozart’, passed away in Atlanta on 5 July. He is survived by wife Louellen Sibley and his two children.