Lebendige Vergangenheit - Gino Bechi

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Lebendige Vergangenheit

lt is astonishing that for many years certain voice-types are available in great quantities and then, for a lengthy period, almost seem to disappear. For example, how many genuine coloratura sopranos can one find in Italy today? Earlier, one had Galli-Curci, Dal Monte, De Hildago, Gentile, Salvi, Capsir, Pareto, Tetrazzini, Guglielmetti, and the lesser lesser-knowns Lina Romelli, Nunu Sanchioni, Hilde Reggiani, Laure Pasini, Lina Aimaro, Elda Ribetti: the list is almost endless. Today, it seems that Luciana Serra is the only one left to carry on this tradition. Pate has behaved similarly with the ltalian baritone. Taking only the 1920's into consideration, one finds Battistini, Scotti, Amato, Sammarco, Stracciari, Danise, Ruffo, Viglione­ Borghese, De Franceschi, Franci, Montesanto, Galeffi, Stabile, Molinari, Basiola, Rimini, De Luca ... , who were all Italians, end some of whom were still in top form in the 19-30's. But, suddenly, it seemed as though this surplus situation was over - few were outstanding - and by the 1940's these had almost completely disappeared. At that time, Gino Bechi was one of those few capable of carrying on the great traditions. He had studied with Raoul Frazzi at the Florence Conservatory and, afterwards, with De Giorgi. His debut as Germont in La Traviata - took place at Empoli in 1936. He immediately aroused great interest, and within a year had already been engaged by .the Rome Opera, Shortly afterwards he was singing at Milan's La Scala, where he was considered the heir to Galeffi and Franci. He not only sang the major Italian repertory roles, such as Renato and Amonasro, but also appeared immediately as Jochanaan in Salome. Being exceptionally musical he was much sought-after for premieres of new operas, such as Rocca's Mo11te Ivnor (1938) and Alfano's Don Juan de Manara (1941). Major recording studios noticed him, too: La Voce del Padrone (His Master's Voice) engaged him es Alfio for the complete-recording of Cavalleria Rusticana directed by its composer in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the opera's world-premiere. His partners were Lina Bruna Rasa and Benjamino Gigli. Three other complete-recordings saw him together with Gigli again: Andrea Chenier (1940), Un Ba/lo in Maschera (1943) and, lastly, Aida (1946). Besides these significant complete-recordings - which were all transferred to LP's - Bechi made a great number both of solo-recordings and duets together with Lauri-Volpi and other artists. After the introduction of LP's, he also recorded Rossini 's Barber of Seville together with Victoria de los Angeles and Nicola Monti. In 1977, La Voce del Padrone brought out a complete-recording of Carmen. Made in 1949 under Vincenzo Bellezza's direction, with Ebe Stignani, Benjamino and Rina Gigli, and Bechi as Escamillo, this was to have been the basis for the sound-track of a film of the opera that was never produced. As he was strikingly handsome and a good actor, the film industry became interested in him. He appeared in many operatic films, but also in several others in which he played leading roles, such as Torna a Surriento. Unfortunately, these films could not be shown outside of Italy during the war and, of course, a major international career could have started only after the war's end. Bechi made guest-appearances at the Col6nTheatre in Buenos Aires andin Rio de Janeiro. When Milan's La Scala quested at London's Covent Garden in 1950, he was the company's leading baritone. He continually enlarged his repertory, and one of his most important roles in South America was the title-part in Thomas' Hamlet, which had fallen completely into oblivion after Titta Ruffo's retirement. Rossini's William Tell also found in Bechi a brilliant protagonist. His only appearances in North America were in 1952 in Chicago and San Francisco, as he was never engaged by New York's Metropolitan Opera, where he certainly would have been a great asset. Bechi's career lasted until 1965, after which he dedicated himself to teaching voice in Florence. In this capacity he was much in demand as a highly respected member of juries in important vocal competitions, for example, in 's Hertogenbosch, Holland. During his career, he was often compared to Titta Ruffo and, in effect, both men's voices were very similar, as was the repertory they chose. Bechi was one of the last Italian heroic baritones; his definitive heir in this genre has yet to be found.