Letter from Renata Tebaldi






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From the visitors of this site

As I am of the generation who never had the chance to hear Renata Tebaldi sing live, I have always found very interesting the memories and experiences of those who did enjoy her live performances. In order to share these testimonials with other admirers of Tebaldi's art, I have collected some stories here (see also my Guestbook for more). I you would like to share your memories or opinions of Tebaldi with other visitors of this site, please don't hesitate to contact me.

The "love affair" between Mme.Tebaldi (whom we could never call anything else but "Renata" by the way),began on the evening of Jan.31, 1955, after her stunning Met debut as Desdemona;little did we know that when she was greeting her new fans for the first time,around midnight outside the old Met, she was celebrating her 33rd birthday,which we later learned fell on Feb.1. That evening was the first in a series of "events" (for a Tebaldi performance was much more than just attending an opera), because she remained outside, no matter what the weather was, and signed every single program, kidding with all of her new adoring public (and not knowing much English at the time). It took years to finally force her to do all the signing in her limo,but she never ever hesitated to consent to anyone who wanted that precious signature on their program.

Then the moment would arrive when the limo would take off up 40th Street, with her screaming "Ciao" out the window and some of us young groupies following for a few yards... and then it was over... until the next time. How I ever graduated from college in those crazy days was a mystery! Shortly after, a music club was started for her, and the "club meetings" were these huge affairs at the Hotel Buckingham, where she made sure to spend time at every single table with the fans, do the cutting of the huge cake herself, and once raising the knife and saying, "Questo e il bacio di Tosca," to our amusement. Once she grabbed the hand of this adoring 19 year old and said, "Dammi il braccio,mio piccino." The precocious but still knowledgeable fellow eagerly responded, "Obbedisco,signora," only to learn later that at that moment someone had snapped a picture, which I proudly display on my wall,and took down the other night, holding it close to my heart, remembering what she meant to me and to all of us.

When my dad passed away, I took my ma to her very first opera, Traviata, and she met Tebaldi for the very first time. Her mother was there in the dressing room,a sweet lady who passed away only a year later. My Italian was not yet even "Operatic" so I used my Spanish and communicated in that way,hence her only remembering me as "Carlos" rather than "Carlo" all the remaining years, as I called her every birthday for the last several years to recall old times. She was always thrilled that people remembered her, and wished everyone her love as always.

We crazy fans saw her off on the Andrea Doria once,and took her own limo back to the Met,only to arrive like big celebrities... to the Standee Line!!!! I also recall once when we saw her off on the train to Philadelphia (she hated flying) and she stood on the open train car,and said to one of the conductors near the door, "Spoletta,chiudi!!" When she appeared on the Bell Telephone Hour program at Carnegie around 1955 (the tape exists) and we sat in the first row, looking up at her, she gave us a wink,and then launched into the fabulous "Inflammatus" causing us to truly believe she was singing it just for us.

Those two Sunday night concerts with two fellows named Del Monaco and Bastianini were major events. They sang in front of the gold curtain and we were treated to a "Pace" that climaxed with a "Maledizione" B flat that almost literally pinned us to the wall in the standing room. Tebaldi's voice,along with Nilson's, was the biggest I ever ever heard, plus she had the "metallo" in the tone,and of course the absolutely radiant gorgeous quality that was unique in the history of the vocal art.

The footage of the Tebaldi return to New York in 1995, and the response she received from the Met audience (at a Ballo) tells the story... the love story... between her and her public. No one could have produced more "love across the footlights" than Renata Tebaldi did, and those of us who were a small part of these events will carry with us forever her love and her affection.

I feel that on the evening of Jan.31, 2005, at the Met Butterfly, exactly 50 years to the date of her debut, they should unveil a screen, and play the video footage of her Butterfly excerpts from the televised bell Telephone Hour program and I also feel that some of us "little people" should be given a chance to speak somewhere in public about the little anecdotes about her, the sweet memories that most people would not know about... memories that we will hold forever.

So to my dear Renata, I can only wish that you and Maria and Zinka and Rosa and all the other great great ladies are getting along well, and those of us left on earth who remember you as I do will thank you for what you were to so many of us... Grazie,mia cara Renata Tebaldi... sempre nel mio cuore. From "Carlos"

Charlie Handelman

I wanted to share a number of fond remembrances about Tebaldi. I am a professional clarinetist and work at Blue Cross during the day. I heard her first in the late sixties thru recordings and the Met broadcasts while I was a student at the North Carolina School of the Arts. One of the best live broadcasts was a Falstaff. She held the high C in the last fugue forever. It was not always correct to say in her later career that the C was "a memory", the crowd went wild in 1972. I heard her for the first time live in Columbus Oh. She was so charming backstage, and had changed into an ornate 'hostess' gown to receive visitors. She was barefooted and was drinking champagne. I was fascinated that for little Columbus Oh she had eight or nine fur coats and a four-tier eye shadow kit thing w/100 shades. The voice was simply huge... Cascades of sound, no forcing and very different from the laser beam Nilsson used. I was then a clarinet student of Robert Marcellus at the Cleveland Inst of Music. I heard many of the recitals for the next few years, with and w/o Corelli. The most interesting thing about the voice at that point was never mentioned - after getting warmed up she would spin out the most beautiful pianissimi for the longest time, even up to an A or B-flat. Time was suspended and she would sing 10 or twelve encores. I wrote to her to thank her for everything. Many people admire my float in the upper register on the clarinet. I learned it from listening to good singers, and especially Tebaldi.

Roger Quigley

I became an opera fanatic in 1964, at the age of 11, through borrowing LPs from the public library in Minneapolis. It was several years before I saw a live performance -- in those days, the Met tour came to town every May for a week. Based on recordings (and my cheap little phonograph) I was a Callasiano. Even the readers of this website will admit that recordings could convey Callas's dramatic phrasing more persuasively than Tebaldi's unique sound and warmth.

Then I saw Renata as Adriana Lecouvreur on the 1968 spring tour. What a revelation. It awakened me to the sensual, spiritual, and dramatic power of pure sound. I can still feel the sensation as Renata's voice poured into my ears like a magical drug.

Moreover, I was completely surprised by her talent and power as an actress. Great operatic acting can encompass many styles, and Renata was a great actress in her own right.

Unfortunately, I never got to see her perform again. But I am always grateful for that one unforgettable experience. Thank you, Renata--

Robert Lee Cohen
New York

I was borne in Havana, Cuba and spent the my childhood and adolescence there, settling in the United States in my early twenties. I first heard Renata Tebaldi in a London FFRR 10" long playing record of arias by Puccini. I did not have any knowledge of opera at the time, but I thought the voice was the most beautiful one I had ever heard.

In the mid fifties, Tebaldi sang in Havana on two different seasons. On the first one, she sang La Traviata, Manon Lescaut, and Aida. On the second season, she performed La Boheme, Tosca and Adriana Lecouvreur. Being very young, and bold, in the company of two friends, I went to the Hotel Presidente one afternoon, where I knew she was staying, in the hope that she could be somewhere in the public areas of the hotel. Imagine our surprise when we went up the front steps of the building, and there she was, standing at the top of the stairs, looking ravishingly beautiful. She realized right away that we were there for her, and walked down with extended arms, took us to one of the sofas in the hotel terrace, and sat with us, while we asked her all kind of questions which she graciously answered. As we had a camera with us, she let us take pictures of her, and she also posed with us. That was a day that I will never forget!

I also want to say as a matter of record, that in the opening performance on Manon Lescaut, she encored the aria "In quelle trine morbide". I frankly do not believe the performance could have gone on had she not done it, since the audience was absolutely out of control.

Many years later, when she was performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC where I live, I went again on an afternoon to the hotel where I knew she was staying. My luck was such, that she was walking in the park across from the building with her lady assistant feeding the squirrels that live in the park. I approached, and told her of my experience in Havana, and she was kind enough to tell me how much she had enjoyed performing there, and asked several questions about my new life in the States.

I also went to the Met many times to see her, and remember many beautiful performances. These two personal encounters however, are what I shall always treasure the most. She has one of the most beautiful voices ever, and she is a great artist, and a lovely person as well.

Rigo Barata
Washington DC.

How do I express in words the way I feel about a person who was part of my "misspent youth?" I waited from 6:00 A.M. in freezing weather on the morning of January 31, 1955, on the standee line at the old Met, as it was the debut of Renata that evening. I even went back to Queens College for a comprehensive exam, but my mind was filled with apprehension as to what I would hear at the first Otello of my life.

To this DAY, I "hear in my ear" the first seconds of the Tebaldi voice on that stage, uttering the phrase which included the words "E quanta speme ci condusse ai soaaaaaaavi abbraciamenti..." and the entire standing room just melted away!!

Little did we know that in a few hours, when we were outside speaking to her for the first time, it would be her 33rd birthday...and so the "Tebaldi routine" began..with her signing every single program, no matter what the weather... and kidding and joking with us kids... and then how the limo would travel slowly up 40th Street with her screaming "Ciao" out the window... and us all running after the car... (and me once falling over the fire plug!!!)

Every Tebaldi show was a virtual love affair... She eventually had to be ordered to sign in the car... after years... and when we saw her off on the Andrea Doria and when we had parties for her (photo of her with a 19 year old Charlie on www.handelmania.com) she would make sure that no fan was left out... and how much fun we had when she waived the cake knife with a cry of "Quest'è il bacio di Tosca!" ... And then when we saw off off on the train platform for a trip to Philly (they toured then) and she said to the conductor, "Spoletta, CHIUDI" (the door) and we all cracked up. I also have that wonderful photo of us "singing" where she took my arm and said, "Dammi il braccio mio piccino" and I replied, "Obbedisco,signorA" and someone snapped the photo as if we were singing a duet.

Then on my 20th birthday she gave me the London Forza as a gift... almost came to my surprise party... which might have resulted in my fainting dead away... and how I would meet her in the street and she would always say, "Carlo, com'è la madre?" (since my mother met her and she never forgot her).

Every year now, the "Tebaldiani" (old-time fans) gather at New York's Tacci restaurant for a reunion, and we all call her and speak to her in turn... and I always call her on her birthday... I shed a few tears too, since she is now 80.. diabetic, and not always in the best of health... but we recall the old days and she is always the same sweet person... we never called her "Mme. Tebaldi!" It was always "Renata!" (Imagine daring to call Zinka by her first name!!!!).

The video footage of her New York return in 1995 shows exactly what people still think of her, as she walks down the aisle at the new Met and the people scream and scream....... so you see, part of my very life is all caught up in this lady...... what she was for us and what she will always be.....

Yes, sadly, there will some day be a time when... well, let us concentrate on the positive now... and I hope some of my memories have hit home to you...... and may you younger fans continue to appreciate what she was to all of us now ancient people....... Lord Love our beloved Renata!

Charlie Handelman

A Brief Encounter With Renata Tebaldi - 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 forty-six 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.

Roger Trefethen

In the late fifties Tebaldi sang in Havana, Cuba. I do not know what opera or operas she performed in during that visit, but I do know that my cousin Adria Jimenez (now married and known as Adria Lacamara) had the honor of being chosen to sing a supporting role with Tebaldi. I was not there, but by all accounts, it was a great success.

Even now, cousin Adria, now almost 71 (though still very beautiful) and living in southern California, looks back with great pride on that evening. It was truly a peak experience for her professionally. After she married and the first child arrived, her husband demanded that she give up her music entirely and never permitted her thereafter to so much as sing in a church choir. A fine coloratura soprano in her youth, she remains grateful to this day for the brief glimpse of the operatic world that that evening on the stage with Tebaldi gave her.

Dr Alma Espinosa

I first heard Renata Tebaldi in a rehearsal, where there were a lot of other singers, at Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro; she was singing with Mario Filippeschi, Paolo Silveri, Giulio Neri, etc but I remember very well that in the audience we could meet Ferruccio Tagliavini (a beautiful voice too), Fedora Barbieri, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Gianni Poggi, a very very fat Maria Meneghini Callas (as she was known at that time) and her husband, among others.

Before and after the rehearsal everybody was talking - almost together, remember that most of them were italiani!!! - laughing and making jokes to each other. Most of them were very young, Tebaldi and Callas were not 30 years old yet. I'm sure that going to those rehearsals was the most important and exciting experience in my "musical life" and this was my first contact with the world of Opera.

I was a young girl and became Paolo Silveri's friend, who was a beautiful man with dark hair ("bruno, moreno") perhaps not a so good baritone, but a very kind person... Believe it or not, I was so overwhelmed by the voice and the entire person of Renata that I'd never get enough courage to talk to her, despite she was very kind, too, I only asked for autographs and photos (and I lost all).

She was very very tall, with a "special color" of blue eyes, a beautiful and sweet smile and usually broke in a big guffaw, so bright and "musical", just like a falling of water, as she did at the first act of La Traviata..., like Niagara Falls or brasilian Iguaçu Falls!

I have other memories:

1 - her entrance in Tosca - act 1- was something I can't describe: so powerful and so kind, so angry and so sweet, at the same time.

2 - her last scenes at Otello, La Boheme and Traviata couldn't be more moving.

3 - when she began to read the letter, before Addio del passato, the audience became frozen , holding their breath untill she ended, saying E TARDI: then we could hear everyone taking back their breath!, doing something like a rapid sigh and... holding breath again, to pay attention, and maybe cry, listening a so rare moment of an angel's art.

4- in La Boheme, when she started singing "Sono andati..." I never could hold my tears, it was very very moving.

Thereza Maria Dantas Lourival, Brazil

I just discovered your website - and I congratulate you for the site - of Renata Tebaldi the woman who I am named after. My mother was a great admirer of her. So that's how I got my name. I can tell you that in my country (Belgium - the flemisch part of it) the name Renata (with -a at the end) is not so often heard (often used is Renate) When people ask my mother (age 75) where she got my name from, she always tells them that she named me after the great diva Renata Tebaldi. (I'm born in 1961) And something odd: I have a cousin who lives in Ukraine (my mother is born in Poland and her brother lives know in Ukraine) who has a daughter (9 years old) whom he named after me. So when we speak about her we always talk about little Renata. So you can see, in our family the name 'Renata' will live on forever, I just wanted to let you know that...

Thank you for your beautiful website of Renata Tebaldi !

Renata Bauwens, Belgium

Tebaldi in her United States debut in 1950 in San Francisco

I was there with a friend, and he made the comment that no matter who this new Italian soprano was, she could never equal Muzio. I agreed. This was before the opera began.

The opera began, and the tenor --I guess del Monaco-- did his thing, but there was a very tall, slender woman garbed as Aida, and before she began to sing, people riveted their eyes on her. Then she began to sing, and my friend and I looked at each other in total bewilderment and we saw other audience members doing the same kind of quizzical glancing. It seemed that except for this tall young woman, there was nothing else on stage. After her Ritorna Vincitor, the place exploded, and everyone seemed to be looking at perfect strangers in a bewildered manner as everyone clapped until their hands were raw. Intermissions were frenzied buzzes, again strangers looking to strangers for some explanation and others looking at their programs to be sure how this Aida's name was spelled.

The War Memorial Opera House was live electricity. I heard some old man say, "Poor Claudia [Muzio], poor Claudia, it's good that she did not live to see this night."

The explosion after Ritorna vincitor was a little pop compared to the "Atomic Bomb" after O patria mia. Our raw hands were almost bloody stumps and our throats were sore. The opera ended and the crowd continued to roar forever.

Thus, I first saw Renata Tebaldi.


I will be 70 years old in March. I was a soldier during the Korean War and was stationed in San Francisco during the latter part of 1951. I heard about Renata Tebaldi, but could not afford to go on a private's pay.

I first heard her sing in 1961, when by chance I was in a record store and bought some arias on United Artists records. I could not believe what I heard. I think I have just about everything she recorded on the London label. She came to Los Angeles in 1965 for three performances in November. I attended all three. Two Toscas and one La Boheme.

She got a standing ovation when she entered the stage before she even sang a note. I remember reading an article in the LA Times from the music critic, Martin Bernheimer saying how provincial we were for doing such a thing. Provincial or not, she was the best I ever heard. She had the ability to get right to your emotions and bring tears of joy, admiration, and love.

On her last performance in Los Angeles, a lady friend of mine got me backstage and introduced me to her. She was so gracious, beautiful and kind, that I will never forget her as long as I live. She gave me a picture of herself and autographed one of my albums. I carried her bags to the taxi as she left the music center. I hope I don't sound like a groupie of that era, but that was the only time I ever tried to meet a celebrity. No one has ever moved me like she did and I feel fortunate that I had a chance to meet her, if only just once in my life.

Robert Rivera, United States

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