Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Brief Encounter 
With Renata Tebaldi 

Renata Tebaldi (1922-2004)

A Memoir

In 1955, as a boy of fourteen, I was privileged to hear Renata Tebaldi for the very first time on television. She appeared with Jussi Bjoerling in scenes from "La Boheme". I was so taken with the beauty of her voice and the sweet loveliness of her person that I actually fell in love for the very first time.

Shortly after that, during the period of her Met debut, Renata Tebaldi came to my then-hometown of Englewood, New Jersey to give a concert in the GYMNASIUM of Dwight Morrow High School. [John Harms, our local impresario, had a positive genius for persuading virtually all the top artists of the day to perform in our suburban community under less-than-ideal conditions. Our close proximity to New York City may have had something to do with it, I'll never be sure, but I remain grateful to Mr. Harms to this day.]

The young Tebaldi, pleasingly plump in those days, wore a simple black and white strapless gown, little make-up, and no jewelry. The gymnasium was absolutely packed. Its a wonder the fire department didn't put a stop to the event. At any rate, the unprepossessing, overcrowded space was soon filled with Tebaldi's radiant presence, and all else faded away, except the sound of her voice, her beautiful face, and the warmth of her gracious personality.

When it was over –– after a generous series of encores –– I had a compelling urge to visit her in the hastily-improvised greenroom in hopes getting her autograph. Practically everyone else in the audience felt the same way.

It was certainly worth fighting the jostling crowds to get there, for what I received from this beautiful lady was not only an autograph –– but a spontaneous KISS on the cheek. She might have been one of my Italian cousins (of which I have many) so natural was her gesture. She must have sensed the innocence and completeness of my adolescent devotion and responded to it in kind.

I left there walking on air, of course, and it was days before I returned to earth. Needless to say, I have never fallen OUT of love with the gracious and beautiful Renata Tebaldi.

It was many days before I could bring myself to wash my face after that encounter, and fifty-eight years later, I still keep the tie I wore that night folded away in my top bureau drawer. In a life of rich and wonderful experience it remains my greatest treasure.

~ FreeThinke

Renata Tebaldi and Jussi Bjoerling in 1956

7 comments:

  1. What a wonderful and wistful glimpse into your childhood.

    Thank you for telling this story.

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  2. My father took me to see her perform years ago when The Met used to travel to Boston. I remember how he loved her as well. Toscanini called her "voce d'angelo," angel voice.

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  3. I don't' much like many female opera voices, but hers is both pleasant and relatively intelligible. Most are, IMO, neither. Very lyrical.

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  4. We need to understand that while a text may inspire or serve as the basis for an opera, it is the MUSIC, itself, that expresses the MEANING and MOOD of the text far better than the text, itself, ever could in most cases.

    Music after all is a LANGUAGE in and of itself.

    Of course "bad" music, -- and God knows there's a superabundance of that, -- often does a terrible disservice to a "good" text.

    On the other hand a composer of the stature of a Franz Schubert could take mediocre, rather prosaic poems and transform them into sublime, eloquent expressions of profound significance.

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  5. I like it when a great story accompanies great music. And if I don't understand the story, I'm missing out on some of the surplus "jouissance" that the artist has worked so hard to share with me.

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  6. Giacomo Dandi said

    Wow! What a beautiful woman she was! Didn't need to sing a note. All she needed to do was smile the way she does in that picture.

    I don't blame you for falling in love.

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  7. I saw her concert in Englewood, NJ as well. The father of a friend gave us two tickets. We had no idea who she was but were great fans forever after that concert.

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