Giuseppe di Stefano Italian tenor 1921- 2008

Giuseppe di Stefano Italian tenor 1921- 2008

Giuseppe Di Stefano (24 July 1921 – 3 March 2008) was an Italian operatic tenor who sang professionally from the late 1940s until the early 1990s. He was known as the ”Golden voice” or ”The most beautiful voice”, as the true successor of Beniamino Gigli. He was also known for his long-term performance and recording association and brief romantic episode with the soprano Maria Callas.
Giuseppe di Stefano Italian tenor 1921- 2008

After serving in the Italian military (and briefly taking lessons from the Swiss tenor Hugues Cuénod), Di Stefano made his operatic debut in 1946 in Reggio Emilia as Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon, the role in which he made his La Scala debut the following year. He made his New York debut at the Metropolitan Opera 1948 as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto  after singing the role in Riccione with Hjördis Schymberg that summer. He went on to perform regularly in New York for many years.

In 1957, Di Stefano made his British debut at the Edinburgh Festival as Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore and his Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, debut in 1961, as Cavaradossi in Tosca.Giuseppe Di Stefano was born in Motta Sant’Anastasia, a village near Catania, Sicily, in 1921.  He was the only son of a carabiniere turned cobbler and his dressmaker wife. Di Stefano was educated at a Jesuit seminary and briefly contemplated entering the priesthood.

As a singer, Di Stefano was admired for his excellent diction, unique timbre, passionate delivery and, in particular, for the sweetness of his soft singing. In his Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast debut in Faust, he attacked the high C forte and then softened to a pianissimo. Sir Rudolf Bing said in his memoirs that this was the most beautiful sound he had heard come out of a human throat during his many years as general manager of the Metropolitan Opera.

During his years of international celebrity, Di Stefano won a gold Orfeo, an Italian musical award.

In 1953 Walter Legge, leader of EMI’s classical wing, wanted a tenor to record all the popular Italian operas with Maria Callas, and chose Di Stefano. Among their recording achievements was the famous 1953 studio recording of Tosca under Victor de Sabata, considered by many as the finest opera recording ever made. The two also performed together on stage frequently, from 1951 in South America to the end of 1957 in Un ballo in maschera at La Scala, the last time the two collaborated in an opera. He sang Alfredo to Callas in the famous Visconti production of La traviata in 1955 at La Scala, as well as Edgardo to her Lucia under Herbert von Karajan at La Scala, Berlin and Vienna.

In 1973, Di Stefano accompanied Maria Callas on her final recital tour that ended in 1974: critics remarked that both were losing their voices, but the public reaction was enthusiastic everywhere. It was during this period the two had a brief romantic relationship. Di Stefano’s final operatic role was as the aged Emperor in Turandot, in July 1992.

In November 2004, Di Stefano was critically injured in his home in Diani Beach, Kenya, after a brutal beating by unknown assailants.  Di Stefano was ambushed in his car with his wife, Monika Curth, as they prepared to drive from their villa in Diani, a coastal resort near Mombasa on the Indian Ocean. The singer was still unconscious a week after the attack and was fed intravenously, and underwent several operations.

After two surgeries in Mombasa, Di Stefano was flown to the San Raffaele clinic at Milan in December 2004, where he slipped into a coma. Eventually he awakened from coma, but his health never fully improved.  He died in his home in Santa Maria Hoè, north of Milan, on 3 March 2008 at the age of 86.

Luciano Pavarotti said he modeled himself after Di Stefano, a fact that gained much attention after Pavarotti’s death in September 2007. He was also the tenor who most inspired José Carreras.

Metropolitan Opera

[Met Performance] CID:147200 
Rigoletto {282}
Metropolitan Opera House; 02/25/1948
Debut: Giuseppe Di Stefano
Reviews
Chapter: Debut of Giuseppe Di Stefano
[Met Performance] CID:147340
Rigoletto {283}
Lyric Theatre, Baltimore, Maryland; 03/9/1948
[Met Performance] CID:147440
Manon {159}
Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts; 03/17/1948
[Met Performance] CID:147550
Manon {160}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/27/1948
Review
[Met Performance] CID:147680
Manon {161}
Fair Park Auditorium, Dallas, Texas; 04/9/1948
[Met Performance] CID:147790
Manon {162}
Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, California; 04/20/1948
Review
[Met Performance] CID:147990
Manon {163}
Public Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio; 05/10/1948
Review
[Met Performance] CID:149250
Mignon {100}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/23/1948
Reviews
[Met Concert/Gala] CID:149450
Gala Performance
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/11/1949
[Met Performance] CID:149470
Rigoletto {288}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/13/1949
Reviews
[Met Performance] CID:149520
Mignon {102}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/17/1949
Review
[Met Performance] CID:149570  Opera News
La Traviata {311}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/22/1949
Broadcast
Review
[Met Performance] CID:149590
L’Elisir d’Amore {63}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/23/1949
Review
[Met Performance] CID:149650
Rigoletto {289}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/28/1949
Review
[Met Performance] CID:149720 
Gianni Schicchi {40}
Salome {25}

Metropolitan Opera House; 02/4/1949
Debuts: Ljuba Welitsch, Fritz Reiner, Reginald Tonry Jr.
Review
[Met Performance] CID:149820
Gianni Schicchi {41}
Salome {26}

Metropolitan Opera House; 02/14/1949
[Met Performance] CID:149880
L’Elisir d’Amore {66}
Metropolitan Opera House; 02/19/1949
[Met Performance] CID:149930
Gianni Schicchi {42}
Salome {27}

Metropolitan Opera House; 02/24/1949
Debut: Frank Murray
[Met Performance] CID:149960 Opera News
Falstaff {64}
Metropolitan Opera House; 02/26/1949
Broadcast
Review
[Met Performance] CID:149990
Gianni Schicchi {43}
Salome {28}

American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 03/1/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150010
Falstaff {65}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/3/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150060
Falstaff {66}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/7/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150070
La Bohème {425}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/8/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150120
Gianni Schicchi {45}
Salome {30}

Metropolitan Opera House; 03/12/1949
Broadcast
[Met Performance] CID:150240
Gianni Schicchi {46}
Salome {31}

Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts; 03/24/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150260
Mignon {103}
Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts; 03/26/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150370
Mignon {104}
Cleveland Public Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio; 04/5/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150480
La Bohème {428}
Metropolitan Opera House; 04/14/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150530
Mignon {105}
Fox Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia; 04/19/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150580
Mignon {106}
Fair Park Auditorium, Dallas, Texas; 04/23/1949
Review
[Met Performance] CID:150670
La Bohème {429}
Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, California; 05/1/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150720
L’Elisir d’Amore {69}
Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, California; 05/6/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150770
Mignon {108}
Denver Auditorium, Denver, Colorado; 05/10/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150850
Mignon {110}
Purdue Hall of Music, Lafayette, Indiana; 05/18/1949
[Met Performance] CID:150880
La Bohème {433}
Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, Missouri; 5/21/1949
Review
[Met Performance] CID:152000
Der Rosenkavalier {129}
Metropolitan Opera House; 11/21/1949
Opening Night {65}
Edward Johnson, General Manager
Debuts: Erna Berger, Peter Klein, Lois Hunt
Telecast
Review
[Met Performance] CID:152090
Der Rosenkavalier {130}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/3/1949
Broadcast
[Met Performance] CID:152210
Der Rosenkavalier {131}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/14/1949
[Met Performance] CID:152300
Faust {469}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/23/1949
[Met Performance] CID:152380
Faust {470}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/31/1949
Broadcast
[Met Performance] CID:152440
Rigoletto {296}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/6/1950
[Met Performance] CID:152480
Faust {471}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/9/1950
[Met Performance] CID:152630
L’Elisir d’Amore {73}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/23/1950
[Met Performance] CID:152660
Gianni Schicchi {47}
Salome {32}

Metropolitan Opera House; 01/26/1950
Debut: Paul Schöffler
Review
[Met Performance] CID:152780
Gianni Schicchi {48}
Salome {33}

Metropolitan Opera House; 02/6/1950
[Met Performance] CID:152800
La Bohème {438}
Metropolitan Opera House; 02/7/1950
[Met Performance] CID:153260
Faust {476}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/23/1950
[Met Performance] CID:153320
Faust {477}
Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts; 03/28/1950
[Met Performance] CID:153460
Rigoletto {301}
Metropolitan Opera House; 04/8/1950
[Met Performance] CID:153490
Faust {478}
Cleveland Public Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio; 04/12/1950
[Met Performance] CID:153600
Rigoletto {302}
Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, Missouri; 04/22/1950
[Met Performance] CID:153640
Faust {479}
Fox Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia; 04/26/1950
[Met Performance] CID:153660
La Bohème {444}
Ellis Auditorium, Memphis, Tennessee; 04/27/1950
[Met Performance] CID:153680
Faust {480}
Dallas, Texas; 04/29/1950
There was a blackout in the auditorium during Méphistophélè’s invocation to the night in Act III.
[Met Performance] CID:153810
La Traviata {329}
Civic Opera House, Chicago, Illinois; 05/10/1950
[Met Performance] CID:153860
Faust {482}
Eastman Theatre, Rochester, New York; 5/15/1950
[Met Performance] CID:155110
La Traviata {332}
Metropolitan Opera House; 11/19/1950
[Met Performance] CID:155280
Il Barbiere di Siviglia {227}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/6/1950
[Met Performance] CID:155380  Opera News
Il Barbiere di Siviglia {228}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/16/1950
Broadcast
[Met Performance] CID:155440
Il Barbiere di Siviglia {229}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/22/1950
[Met Performance] CID:155530
Il Barbiere di Siviglia {230}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/30/1950
[Met Performance] CID:155620
Il Barbiere di Siviglia {231}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/8/1951
[Met Performance] CID:155800
Faust {489}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/24/1951
[Met Performance] CID:155870
Il Barbiere di Siviglia {233}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/30/1951
[Met Performance] CID:155920
Il Barbiere di Siviglia {234}
Metropolitan Opera House; 02/3/1951
[Met Performance] CID:156330
La Bohème {446}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/10/1951
Debut: Carlo Tomanelli
[Met Performance] CID:156390  Opera News
La Bohème {447}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/17/1951
Broadcast
[Met Performance] CID:156440
La Bohème {448}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/21/1951
[Met Performance] CID:156500
Faust {493}
Lyric Theatre, Baltimore, Maryland; 03/27/1951
[Met Performance] CID:156530
La Bohème {449}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/30/1951
[Met Performance] CID:156630
La Traviata {344}
Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts; 04/9/1951
[Met Performance] CID:156650
La Bohème {452}
Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts; 04/11/1951
[Met Performance] CID:156700
Faust {494}
Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts; 04/14/1951
[Met Performance] CID:156840
Faust {495}
Ellis Auditorium, Memphis, Tennessee; 04/26/1951
[Met Performance] CID:156880
Il Barbiere di Siviglia {242}
Fair Park Auditorium, Dallas, Texas; 04/29/1951
[Met Performance] CID:156900
Faust {496}
City Auditorium, Houston, Texas; 05/1/1951
[Met Performance] CID:156960
Faust {497}
Northrup Memorial Auditorium, Minneapolis, Minnesota; 05/6/1951
[Met Performance] CID:156990
Faust {498}
Purdue Hall of Music, Lafayette, Indiana; 05/9/1951
[Met Performance] CID:158090
La Bohème {454}
Metropolitan Opera House; 11/24/1951
Review
[Met Performance] CID:158140
La Bohème {455}
Metropolitan Opera House; 11/29/1951
Review
[Met Performance] CID:158220
Manon {164}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/7/1951
Debuts: Frances Cavicchio, Gilbert Reed
Review
[Met Performance] CID:158260
La Traviata {350}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/11/1951
[Met Performance] CID:158300  Opera News
Manon {165}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/15/1951
Broadcast
[Met Performance] CID:158390
Rigoletto {312}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/22/1951
[Met Performance] CID:158420 
Manon {166}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/26/1951
Review
[Met Performance] CID:158480
Manon {167}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/1/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159090
La Bohème {462}
Metropolitan Opera House; 02/26/1952
Debut: Brenda Lewis
Review
[Met Performance] CID:159110
Manon {169}
Metropolitan Opera House; 02/28/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159190
Madama Butterfly {316}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/6/1952
Review
[Met Performance] CID:159290 
La Bohème {463}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/15/1952
Broadcast
[Met Performance] CID:159370
La Bohème {464}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/22/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159440
Madama Butterfly {317}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/29/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159490
La Traviata {356}
Metropolitan Opera House; 04/4/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159530
Manon {170}
Metropolitan Opera House; 04/7/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159590
La Traviata {357}
Metropolitan Opera House; 04/12/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159640
La Bohème {465}
Music Hall, Cleveland, Ohio; 04/18/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159710
Manon {171}
Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts; 04/23/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159760
La Bohème {466}
Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts; 04/27/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159810
La Traviata {359}
Fox Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia; 05/1/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159860
Madama Butterfly {320}
Birmingham, Alabama; 05/6/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159900
La Bohème {468}
Dallas, Texas; 05/10/1952
[Met Performance] CID:159970
Rigoletto {321}
Minneapolis, Minnesota; 05/16/1952
[Met Performance] CID:170140
Carmen {531}
Metropolitan Opera House; 11/30/1955
Review
[Met Performance] CID:170230
Faust {536}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/9/1955
Review
[Met Performance] CID:170260
Carmen {532}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/12/1955
[Met Performance] CID:170320
Faust {537}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/17/1955
[Met Performance] CID:170350
Faust {538}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/21/1955
[Met Performance] CID:170410
Carmen {533}
Metropolitan Opera House; 12/27/1955
Review
[Met Performance] CID:170530
Rigoletto {359}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/7/1956
Review
[Met Performance] CID:170580
Tosca {335}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/13/1956
Debut: Tito Gobbi
Reviews
[Met Performance] CID:170620
Faust {539}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/16/1956
Review
[Met Performance] CID:170670
Carmen {534}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/21/1956
Broadcast
[Met Performance] CID:170700
Tosca {337}
The American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 01/24/1956
Review
[Met Performance] CID:170970
Tosca {339}
Metropolitan Opera House; 02/20/1956
Debut: Daniele Barioni
Review
[Met Performance] CID:201080
Les Contes d’Hoffmann {108}
Metropolitan Opera House; 01/27/1965
Review
[Met Concert/Gala] CID:351280
National Council Concert
Metropolitan Opera House; 04/07/1967
First Appearance: Linda Phillips, Costanza Cuccaro, Leo Goeke
[Met Performance] CID:244480
Der Rosenkavalier {253}
Metropolitan Opera House; 03/8/1976
Debut: Tatiana Troyanos, Kendall Quinn
Review
[Met Performance] CID:351994 
New Production
Il Trittico {60}
Il Tabarro {66}
Suor Angelica {60}
Gianni Schicchi {124}

Metropolitan Opera House; 04/20/2007
Debuts: Jack O’Brien, Douglas W. Schmidt, Jess Goldstein, Jules Fisher, Peggy Eisenhower, Anne-Carolyn Bird, Leah Wool, Olga Mykytenko, Donato Di Stefano
Broadcast/Streamed
Review
[Met Performance] CID:352000
Il Trittico {61}
Il Tabarro {67}
Suor Angelica {61}
Gianni Schicchi {125}

Metropolitan Opera House; 04/23/2007
[Met Performance] CID:352009 Opera News
Il Trittico {62}
Il Tabarro {68}
Suor Angelica {62}
Gianni Schicchi {126}

Metropolitan Opera House; 04/28/2007
HD Simulcast
[Met Performance] CID:352016
Il Trittico {63}
Il Tabarro {69}
Suor Angelica {63}
Gianni Schicchi {127}

Metropolitan Opera House; 05/01/2007
Broadcast/Streamed
[Met Performance] CID:352024
Il Trittico {64}
Il Tabarro {70}
Suor Angelica {64}
Gianni Schicchi {128}

Metropolitan Opera House; 05/04/2007
[Met Performance] CID:352028
Il Trittico {65}
Il Tabarro {71}
Suor Angelica {65}
Gianni Schicchi {129}

Metropolitan Opera House; 05/07/2007
Broadcast
[Met Performance] CID:352034
Il Trittico {66}
Il Tabarro {72}
Suor Angelica {66}
Gianni Schicchi {130}

Metropolitan Opera House; 05/10/2007
[Met Performance] CID:352037
Il Trittico {67}
Il Tabarro {73}
Suor Angelica {67}
Gianni Schicchi {131}

Metropolitan Opera House; 05/12/2007
[Met Performance] CID:352455
La Bohème {1195}
Metropolitan Opera House; 04/01/2008
Broadcast/Streamed
[Met Performance] CID:353178 
Il Trittico {68}
Il Tabarro {74}
Suor Angelica {68}
Gianni Schicchi {132}

Metropolitan Opera House; 11/20/2009
Debut: Stefano Ranzani, Saimir Pirgu, Neel Ram Nagarajan, Joyce El-Khoury
Broadcast/Streamed
Review
[Met Performance] CID:353196
Il Trittico {69}
Il Tabarro {75}
Suor Angelica {69}
Gianni Schicchi {133}

Metropolitan Opera House; 11/25/2009
Broadcast
[Met Performance] CID:353205
Il Trittico {71}
Il Tabarro {77}
Suor Angelica {71}
Gianni Schicchi {135}

Metropolitan Opera House; 12/01/2009
[Met Performance] CID:353212
Il Trittico {72}
Il Tabarro {78}
Suor Angelica {72}
Gianni Schicchi {136}

Metropolitan Opera House; 12/05/2009
[Met Performance] CID:353220
Il Trittico {73}
Il Tabarro {79}
Suor Angelica {73}
Gianni Schicchi {137}

Metropolitan Opera House; 12/09/2009
[Met Performance] CID:357062
Il Trittico {74}
Il Tabarro {80}
Suor Angelica {74}
Gianni Schicchi {138}

Metropolitan Opera House; 12/12/2009
Broadcast

Recordings with Maria Callas

Di Stefano sang the tenor leads in several of the most famous recordings of Maria Callas, all of which were for EMI. Together they recorded the following complete operas:

  • Lucia di Lammermoor – 1953
  • I puritani – 1953
  • Cavalleria rusticana – 1953
  • Tosca – 1953
  • Pagliacci – 1954
  • Rigoletto – 1955
  • Il trovatore – 1956
  • La bohème – 1956
  • Un ballo in maschera – 1956
  • Manon Lescaut – 1957

A series of duets with Di Stefano and Callas was recorded by the Philips label in the period November–December 1972, with Antonio de Almeida conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. These recordings were not published officially, but a ’pirate’ version did appear.

Other recordings

Besides his recordings with Callas, he also made complete EMI sets of Madama Butterfly (opposite Victoria de los Ángeles, 1954) and La traviata (with Antonietta Stella and Tito Gobbi, 1955).

For English Decca he recorded L’elisir d’amore with Hilde Gueden and Fernando Corena (1955), La Gioconda (with Zinka Milanov and Leonard Warren, 1957), La forza del destino (1958) and a second Tosca (with Leontyne Price and Giuseppe Taddei, Herbert von Karajan conducting, 1962).

For Ricordi (Ricordi MRO 104/105), he made a complete stereo Lucia di Lammermoor with Renata Scotto, Ettore Bastianini and Ivo Vinco in 1958, with Nino Sanzogno conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan.

In 1995, VAI issued an approved version of La bohème, from a 1959 performance in New Orleans, with the tenor starring opposite Licia Albanese, Audrey Schuh, Giuseppe Valdengo and Norman Treigle. Additionally, in 1962 the tenor recorded excerpts from Massenet’s Manon, with Anna Moffo, conducted by René Leibowitz.

In 1951, Di Stefano sang in a performance of Verdi’s Requiem, at Carnegie Hall, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, the other soloists being Herva Nelli, Fedora Barbieri and Cesare Siepi. It was released as a recording by RCA.

Read more