Narrator (N): 1 February 1922 - Renata Tebaldi was born in Pesaro (Audio Clip 1)
RT - My father was a cellist and my mother was in love with him, they married but it was not working out with his relatives and she brought me to Langhirano. But I went back every now and then during my vacations to my aunt's house - my father's sister. So the things happened and can't say too much about Pesaro.
N - A childhood not completely happy... (Audio Clip 2)
RT - My father was not with us anymore and my mother did everything for me. Those were sad moments for me too; even though I was very young, I could see that my father's presence was missing. I wasn't happy. I became very ill, and though very young, I understood that something was not going well. I was very shy, I didn't like to speak too much, also because I could hear what was said at home, what my mother's sister and brother were talking about and I understood a little, I started to understand better then, that some things didn't work out the way they were supposed to work out.
N - The discovery of the voice (Audio Clip 3)
RT - I was the tallest girl and I used to command my friends at school. When there was something to be done at the Church, they said: "Tebaldi can sing for us". And so they made me sing in church. In church there were always some small things that I was able to do. I was up by the organ and from there I was heard singing. So people in the town started to say: "There is this girl who sings". "Yes, and she sings well!" they said in the Parmeggiano dialect. I heard what they said and went on. First I started learning piano so I used to go to Parma to have classes with my mother's cousin, and even she said that she would like to hear me sing and said; "Listen, if you speak with your voice so nicely, couldn't you sing something to me?" And I sang my piece de resistance, which was "Un bel di verdemo". Every time I was back in Parma to have piano classes she made me sing that romanza. Those were beautiful times... once she said "what I've heard about you is that yours is a stupendous voice".
N - 23 June 1944, the debut at Rovigo in Mefistofele (Audio Clip 4)
RT - When I made my debut at Rovigo they wrote: GIGLI and TEBALDI, then when they cleaned the backstage, they erased everything. Nobody knew who I was, but they knew Beniamino Gigli very well. Then, neither his name, nor mine! They did write the names, then everything was cleaned up, even Beniamino's name was erased. Think how, during the situation at that time, they, in a small town like Rovigo, had the courage to perform operas! There was la signora Melis who wrote me a letter, telling me that I could make my debut there, at Rovigo. So we, from Traversetolo, had to reach first Parma, to take the train. So we went out on horse, and the guy whose was driving was deaf, at every moment he stopped and said: "Listen! The airplanes!" and we: "No, no! Go on!" We arrived at the train station, left the wagon and at last the horse was gone. Entering the station we could see terrible things. All the wagons, the animals, everything was burning. We didn't know what to do but finally we took another wagon and reached Rovigo. We reached Rovigo, but every night there were the alarms sounding and we had to go down; I didn't want to go and my Mamma shouted: "I don't want to die like a mouse!" I didn't want to go to the refuge. "At least we are here so, if something bad happens, maybe we can escape". But "NO, NO, we can't because everyone goes down and you must come too!" Finally I found myself on the stage. La Melis dressed me up, did my make-up, and guided me to the stage, where there was my throne. So I had to stay there, without making a single movement, only at the moment when I had to sing, I was supposed to take a step and sing. Soon as I heard the noise of the curtain opening I stood up and when la Signora Melis saw that I did this movement, she looked me in the eyes with her black eyes, burning... Then I said to myself that there was nothing else I could do: "If I am here, I must stay here!"
N - Renata Tebaldi and love (Audio Clip 5)
RT - But I didn't experience it, not properly, I must say.... No, I did fall in love, there was a young boy who lived close to Traversetelo, he was studying medicine, he was the son of a lady who was a good friend of my Mamma. She had two sons and would have very much liked to have a daughter, she often invited me for a meal and they took me around their property. His name was Antonio. We went out together and he made me understand that he loved me, nothing important then. The situation was getting worse. Then there was the thing with Nicola Rossi-Lemeni. We had done together Faust at Arena di Verona, he was the protagonist. He had a certain sympathy towards me, we went out on the streets, hand in hand, and everybody said "How beautiful are both!", sorry if I say this myself, but people turned around and said: "Oh! What a beautiful couple!" and so on. This was not good enough for his mother. His mother didn't want that he stayed with me. So... one day it was over. After this there was the story with Basile. One day I realised that there was no reason to be with them, they didn't deserve me. I always thought that I should be more "pampered", they should have more consideration for me, but no, it was just something "normal" for them. This made me feel bad because, I was stupid, I put up with it for some time, then I understood how things were going, and I said "NO". When I realised that being alone would be better, there were many people around me, those whom I chose, I had no regrets.
N - 11 May 1946, the concert for reconstruction of
La Scala, with Arturo Toscanini
RT - It was a fabulous night. Think that when I was looking at the stages, there would be nine or ten or twelve people at each stage. That is so true that at one point the guards were worried with so many people in the theatre, they were afraid that everything could fall down - everything! Then, when he arrived - he was so pale, pale - and the ovation when he reached the podium - this was HIS theatre. Then they gave him the "batuta" that had the colours of our flag. Then he was yet more impressed, very touched. I was there, among the chorus, fortunately! I had sang for him before, therefore I had no fear... just a little... at the beginning. It was something so beautiful for me, when I started singing I didn't know anymore for whom I was singing, what I was doing, well, what I was doing, yes... But when singing I became lost in what I needed to do.
N - 3 April 1948, the debut at San Carlo di Napoli (Audio Clip 7)
RT - I had enormous satisfaction in Napoli. Indeed the napolitani, when they are kind, they are very much so. Then, if they felt affection for a person, they would never forget her! Then, the warmth of the city, the warmth of the people... What they did for me at the theatre was an incredible thing. They shouted like madmen, the banners: "Renata, welcome back" - when, for example... [20 seconds missing on the tape] ...I was away one season - it was difficult, because I was almost always there in Napoli - there were those phrases: "Welcome, back Renata". I even heard that some people didn't smoke in order to save the money to buy the tickets to go to the theatre. It was indeed something fantastic. They stood in lines from the early morning until late at night to buy tickets to other performances. A friend of mine, whose name was Eva, she took a small piece of paper where she wrote the times when people should go to buy the tickets - so they found their way to the front of the box office....
N - 3 February 1951, Traviata at La Scala with Victor de Sabata. The divorce from the theatre in Milan. (Audio Clip 8)
RT- When I reached the dressing room, I used to arrive there very early before the beginning of the performance, I did my vocalizes and everything was perfect. Then I went out to the stage but while I was singing I felt that something was happening in my throat that disturbed me, it was burning a little....but it was not a disastrous evening, I didn't do ugly things - I did do some things I shouldn't have done, in the last "Gioire" I sang a note that didn't came out beautifully, but I didn't squeeze or anything else, it was only one thing to regret by the audience that made some noise as if they were saying "What a pity". There were people who had heard the dress rehearsal, there the voice was already dispersed from what I could have done of the Traviata. So, those that spread that kind of rumour were those that were saying "What a pity that this evening perhaps was not going so well..." It is enough to read the review that Franco Abiati wrote... there were so many things said that were not true.
N - 31 January 1955, the conquest of the Metropolitan (Audio Clip 9)
RT - When I did Aida in San Francisco, Mr. Bing came from New York - he had heard good things about my Aida and came to hear me. At the end of a recital he came to my dressing room to say that he wanted me at New York, that the Metropolitan must have this voice, must know this artist, but I said: "Ma... just for now, I don't feel like coming... Maybe when on the poster my name will be printed not only as a guest". He was very kind, he understood what I meant. I came back from New York by ship. He would always call my manager, to ask "What are we going to do with la Tebaldi?" and my manager was still saying that "la Signorina has many commitments, you know: she sings at La Scala, she sings in Europe all the time, so..." And every year he asked: "When are you sending me la Renata?". At one point something happened that annoyed me, because I perhaps thought of La Scala a bit as "my theatre", as Toscanini had thought it was his... I think that was fair. Then when they were preparing the program, they said "You do this, and you do this...". A moment arrived when there were things that I could have done very well, but they gave them to other people to do. At this moment I said to myself "Look, you are stupid! For many years they have asked you to come to New York and I think this is the right moment for you to go!" Indeed, one day I went to my manager and said "If Mr. Bing calls, tell him that I am ready to sign the contract." He came immediately, we signed the contract, and I began my career there.
N - 23 May 1976, the retirement from the scene. (Audio Clip 10)
RT - As I felt that some of my colleagues didn't want to leave the stage, even if it would have been better for them to leave, I said to myself that I would rather sing 10 years less and leave a good memory of myself than to keep singing, when we know that, unfortunately, there is a moment when one has to abandon the stage. It was also because I was never too ambitious in my singing - ambitious in dressing, jewels and many other things, yes. But in relation to my career I was never ambitious and it was a relief for me, in the sense that I used to say to myself "Oh Madonna, if this evening something happens, my public is not content...". I didn't want give this sensation. Then, I became free, calm, for me it was a beautiful thing, after all, many years had passed, I could have continued singing certainly 7 or 8 years more, but I decided not to do this. I had no remorse. I received many letters, saying in different ways: "How could you abandon all of us who love you?", but it is not true that I don't love anyone, I love all those who have followed my career, even today.
N - 1 February 2002, Renata Tebaldi's eightieth birthday (Audio Clip 11)
RT - I think that I can be very satisfied with the things I have done, because during 32 years of my career I had so many great satisfactions. What pleases me most is to know that the young people follow me even if they have never heard me sing on stage, that, from my recordings, they understand what kind of a person is Renata Tebaldi and they tell me that not only is my voice so beautiful, but that they can feel a very nice, "brava", and a good person, that is for me something wonderful!
Phone call (Audio Clip 12)
N - We have on the phone the Voice of an Angel, Renata Tebaldi. Renata, good evening.
RT - Buona Sera, Giovanni!
N - Many congratulations, it was an intense day for the Tebaldiani but intense also for you, who kept up with us through the radio.
RT - Yes, it was something wonderful, you see . A very happy day for me, very touching!
N- In short, are you moved again? I can hear it in your voice.
RT - Yes, yes...
N - As the many fans of yours have been touched...
RT - I think so!
N - Did this homage from Radio 3 please you?
RT - Very much - I thank everyone, especially you who had so much work to do and others who participated in making me happy... Vincenzo... everybody!
N - Many, many... all united in the effort to celebrate these eighty years. So, once again, for the last time many congratulations, Voce d'Angelo, many congratulations, Renata!
RT - Thank you, see you soon!
N - See you soon...