14 April 2023

P.R. Jenkins

Karajan artists: Renata Tebaldi – “the voice of an angel”

“… the voice of an angel”

Arturo Toscanini about Renata Tebaldi

Renata Tebaldi was one of the great Italian divas of the 20th century. For many opera lovers she was the Desdemona, the Aida of all time. She recorded both parts in legendary studio productions with Karajan and her ideal partners Mario del Monaco and Carlo Bergonzi.

Live on stage, Tebaldi and Karajan only met for a handful of performances of “Otello”, “Aida” and “Tosca”. Tebaldi was often supposed to be a rival to Maria Callas and that it was for Callas’ engagement that she left the La Scala di Milano and moved to the Met in New York. As so often, this assumption is partly true and partly untrue. Both divas tended to make sarcastic remarks about their respective colleague’s singing. On the other hand, they had a different repertoire and both talked highly respectfully about each other on several occasions. Renata Tebaldi had a huge success at the Met for over 18 years. Being “the greatest box-office draw since Flagstad” brought her the nickname “Miss Sold Out”. In 1973, Tebaldi retired from the opera stage. Her final recital was in 1976.

The photo shows her with Tito Gobbi as Scarpia in a Vienna State Opera “Tosca” in 1958.


Apart from the “Aida” and “Otello” interpretations, Renata Tebaldi had a “cameo” in another Karajan opera recording. His 1960 “Fledermaus” is a very special one because of the gala scene in the second act with ten star guests: Nilsson, del Monaco, Berganza, Sutherland, Björling, Price, Simionato, Welitsch, Corena – and Renata Tebaldi with Lehár’s “Vilja Song” from “The Merry Widow” (in Italian).

We’ve prepared playlists with Karajan and Renata Tebaldi. Listen to them here.

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