Bass Giorgio Tozzi Dies At 88

Bass Georgio Tozzi. i i
courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment
Bass Georgio Tozzi.
courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment

A singer whose voice charmed millions of listeners even if they didn't know his name, American bass Giorgio Tozzi died May 30. He was 88 years old.

A native of Chicago born in 1923, Tozzi claimed a wide repertoire, from the title role in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro to Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov (which NBC broadcast in 1961). He created the role of The Doctor in Barber's Vanessa for its world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 1958.

Tozzi was also very comfortably a crossover artist before that term existed. He became very well known for his performances in Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. Tozzi's voice is heard in the songs in the 1958 film version; the film's star, Rossano Brazzi, was dubbed. Tozzi also later garnered a Tony nomination for his turn in the Frank Loesser musical The Most Happy Fella. The bass also became very highly regarded as a vocal teacher, first at the Juilliard School and later at Indiana University, from which he retired in 2006 as Distinguished Professor of Voice.

Tozzi sang at the Metropolitan Opera on more than 500 occasions after making his 1955 debut as Alvise in Ponchielli's La Gioconda. Among those performances was the opening night of the 1957-58 season, in which he sang Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin in a Peter Brook production and in a cast that also included George London and Richard Tucker, with Dmitri Mitropoulos conducting.

Three recordings on which he appeared won Grammy Awards. Two were led by Erich Leinsdorf: the Marriage of Figaro in 1959 with George London, Lisa Della Casa and Roberta Peters, and a Puccini Turandot the following year with Birgit Nilsson, Renata Tebaldi and Jussi Björling. The third was Verdi's Aida in 1962 with conductor Georg Solti, Leontyne Price, Jon Vickers and Robert Merrill.

In a 1961 New York Times Magazine profile, writer Raymond Ericson praised Tozzi for both vocal beauty and acting skills: "What makes Tozzi's voice outstanding is its mellow, velvety smoothness. Many saintly figures of opera are transformed from intoning bores into living, compassionate beings as he sings. He makes singing seem effortless—a comment that irritates him because, as he says, he has had to 'sweat blood over every phrase.'"

Do you have memories of Tozzi to share? Post them in the comments section below.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.