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Giuseppe Giacomini (1940-2021)
An obituary by Ralph Moore

Heroic Italian tenore di forza robusto Giuseppe Giacomini died on July 28 of this year aged 80 after a long career which earned him many honours and myriad fans but never rivalled the fame and reputation of contemporaries such as Domingo, Carreras and Pavarotti. There are a number of reasons for this: he did not leave a large discography as he was hardly ever picked up by the recording companies; he was short, short-sighted and physically not especially well-favoured; he was a modest, self-effacing man, never a charismatic stage animal or a publicity-seeker; finally, his voice was a much darker, heavier instrument – in effect a “baritenor” with a rich, virile timbre but without the easy top C and squillo characteristic of the typical Italian tenor.

Yet “Bepi”, as he was known to his fans, could be thrilling, both live and in the recording studio. In some ways, he was similar to Jon Vickers but the big difference was that he never essayed Wagner; his repertoire was confined to the big Italian roles such as Calaf, Alvaro and Otello. In my survey of recordings of the latter, I made his 1991 live composite recording a top recommendation; he also left a fine account of Pollione (Norma, in which he sings smoothly and an intact, if effortful, top C is a feature) and a thrilling Cavaradossi in Muti’s 1991/92 live composite Tosca with Vaness and Zancanaro. It is significant that nearly all of his recording legacy consists of live performances; studio recordings are few but there are several superb recital albums. Representative samples of his art and prowess may be heard in this YouTube clip from a Met Gala where he sings “Sė, pel ciel” with Sherrill Milnes and this rehearsal for “L’anima ho stanca”; the fabled power of his sound is hugely in evidence in the former, and in the latter you may see and hear Mirella Freni’s admiration for his vocalisation.

He made his debut in 1966 and retired from the operatic stage in 2000 but continued to give concert recitals for a decade thereafter.

Ralph Moore

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