Singer Spotlight - Giorgio Tozzi
I am beginning a new feature on my blog. I’m calling it “Singer Spotlight”. In it I will feature a singer that either is well-known or I feel should be known. I will include YouTube videos to hear examples and I will contribute my observations.
As I always say, my comments are just my observations. They are not meant to dictate to others whether a singer is good or not. But the main purpose is to give readers the opportunity to read the things I notice when listening to a singer. I will include both classical and non-classical artists of all voice-types.
To begin with we will look at the American Bass Giorgio Tozzi. Unfortunately he died a couple days ago. He had a long career as a performer and also as a teacher. He taught at Julliard, Brigham Young University and Indiana University. His bio from Wikipedia:
Giorgio Tozzi (January 8, 1923 – May 30, 2011) was for many years a leading bass with the Metropolitan Opera, as well as playing lead roles in nearly every major opera house worldwide.
Tozzi was born in Chicago, Illinois. He studied at DePaul University with Rosa Raisa, Giacomo Rimini and John Daggett Howell, making his professional debut in the Broadway production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in 1948 as Tarquinius. His signature roles included Figaro in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, Phillip II in Verdi’s Don Carlo, Hans Sachs in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust.
In 1957 he portrayed the title role in a nationally broadcast performance of Modest Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov with the NBC Opera Theatre. In 1958 he created the role of The Doctor in Barber’s Vanessa.
Tozzi was the recipient of three Grammy Awards: in 1960 the Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance, Operatic or Choral for The Marriage of Figaro with Erich Leinsdorf; in 1961 the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording for Puccini’s Turandot, with Erich Leinsdorf; and in 1963 the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording for Georg Solti’s recording of Verdi’s Aida (with Leontyne Price and Jon Vickers). Tozzi also sang the bass part in the recording of Sir Thomas Beecham’s version of Handel’s Messiah for RCA in 1959.
After dubbing the singing parts for the character of Emile de Becque (acted by Rossano Brazzi) in the 1958 film version of South Pacific, Tozzi spent many years playing the role of de Becque himself in various revivals and road tours of the show, including one at Lincoln Center in the late 1960s. In 1980, Tozzi earned a Tony award nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his work as Tony in The Most Happy Fella.
He was a professor at Juilliard, Brigham Young University, and Indiana University. In 2006 he retired as Distinguished Professor of Voice at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.
Tozzi published a novel in 1997, The Golem of the Golden West.
Tozzi died on May 30, 2011, in Bloomington, Indiana, aged 88. According to his son, the cause was a heart attack.
Giorgio Tozzi was highly regarded during his career. He started as a Baritone and transitioned to Bass following his training in Italy. I would consider him more accurately as a Bass-Baritone. Below we can hear him as Colline from La boheme,
But what I think is so great about Tozzi is his natural pronunciation and how much color he is able to have while still pronouncing clearly. To illustrate this we should watch this duet with Nicolai Gedda from The Bartered Bride by Smetena. (Warning – the audio is high on this clip)
And perhaps he was best known by the general public as the voice of Emile de Becque in the movie of South Pacific in 1958.
One more, this an example of an early recording when he thought he was a Baritone. “Prologue” from Pagliacci and “Eri tu” from Un Ballo in Maschera.
Not bad at all. Better than most Baritones these days.
As always comments are welcome.