Mario Del Monaco was an Italian tenor who is regarded as one of the greatest dramatic tenors of the 20th century.
Del Monaco was born in Florence to a musical upper-class family. As a young boy he studied the violin but had a passion for singing. He graduated from the Rossini Conservatory at Pesaro, where he studied with maestro Arturo Melocchi, and he also graduated at the School of Art, in Pesaro. His career began in Cagli, in 1939, as a Turiddu in Cavalleria rusticana by Mascagni, but Del Monaco’s first success was on December 31, 1940, as Pinkerton at the Puccini Theater in Milan.
He sang in Italy during the Second World War and married, in 1941, Rina Filipini. In 1946, he appeared at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, for the first time. During the ensuing years he became famous not only in London but also across the operatic world for his powerful, metallic voice. It was almost heldentenor-like in scope but Del Monaco was no Wagnerian, confining his activities overwhelmingly to the Italian repertoire. Del Monaco made his first recordings in Milan in 1948 for HMV. Later, he was partnered by Renata Tebaldi in a long series of Verdi and Puccini operas recorded for Decca. On the same label was his 1969 recording of Giordano’s Fedora, opposite Magda Olivero and Tito Gobbi.
Del Monaco sang at the New York Metropolitan Opera from 1951 to 1959, enjoying particular success in dramatic Verdi parts such as Radamès. He soon established himself as one of a quartet of Italian tenor superstars who reached the peak of their fame in the 1950s and '60s, the others being Giuseppe Di Stefano, Carlo Bergonzi and Franco Corelli. It may be argued that this was a group of superstars. Del Monaco's trademark roles during this period were Giordano's Andrea Chénier and Verdi's Otello. He first tackled Otello in 1950 and kept refining his interpretation throughout his career. It is said that he sang Otello an astonishing 427 times. Aptly, the tenor was buried in his Otello costume. Although Otello was his best role, throughout his career, Del Monaco sang a number of other roles with great acclaim, for example: Canio in Pagliacci (Leoncavallo), Radames in Aida (Verdi), Don Jose in Carmen (Bizet), Chenier in Andrea Chénier (Giordano), Manrico in Il Trovatore (Verdi), Samson in Samson and Delilah (Saint-Saëns), and Don Alvaro in La forza del destino (Verdi).
In 1975 he retired from stage, and lived in his villa in Lancenigo, where he spent the last few years in teaching opera voice . He died in Mestre (Italy), as a result of nephritis. He is buried in the central cemetery in Pesaro, wrapped in the role of Otello, drawn by himself. The tomb was created by the sculptor, Giò Pomodoro.
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