Bechi studied at the Florence Conservatory, where he was a pupil of Raoul Frazzi and Di Giorgi. He made his operatic début as Germont père/La traviata at Empoli in 1936, subsequently singing such rôles as Figaro/Il barbiere di Siviglia, Enrico/Lucia di Lammermoor and Rigoletto in the theatres of Alessandria, Bari, Palermo and Reggio Emilia. During 1937 he sang at the Cairo and Rome Opera Houses, and in 1938 was invited to appear as Baldassare in Cilea’s L’Arlesiana at Rome. Here he also participated in the première of Lodovico Rocca’s Monte Ivnor in 1939 and continued to appear regularly at the Rome Opera until 1952. Bechi made his début at La Scala, Milan during the 1939–1940 season as Don Carlo/La forza del destino, followed by Cascart in Leoncavallo’s Zazà opposite Beniamino Gigli and Mafalda Favero. He was active at La Scala throughout World War II, during which he also appeared in 1942 as a guest in Berlin. At the Florence Maggio Musicale in 1941 Bechi sang in the first performance of Alfano’s Don Juan de Mañara and after the end of the war he appeared at opera houses in South America (Rio de Janeiro, 1946; Buenos Aires, 1947) and in the Iberian peninsular (Lisbon and Barcelona).
Meanwhile Bechi continued to pursue a successful career in Italy. He sang the title rôle in Nabucco in 1946 at the reopening of La Scala, where he appeared regularly until 1953 in rôles such as Alfonso/La favorita, di Luna/Il trovatore, Iago/Otello, and Rigoletto. In addition to the normal run of baritone parts which he essayed (including Alfio/Cavalleria rusticana, Amonasro/Aida, Gérard/Andrea Chénier and Renato/Un ballo in maschera) he also sang Severo/Poliuto at Bergamo as part of the Donizetti centenary celebrations in 1948 and the title rôle in Thomas’s Hamlet at Palermo in 1949.
In 1950 Bechi took part in the visit of the La Scala company to Covent Garden, singing Iago and the title rôle in Falstaff, returning to England in 1958 to sing the title part in Rossini’s William Tell at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. His only North American appearances were in 1952, at Chicago, San Francisco and in concert. Later appearances included the title rôle in Salieri’s Falstaff at Siena in 1961, prior to his retirement from the stage in 1965, after which he settled in Florence. During the later part of his career Bechi was featured on the soundtrack of several Italian opera films (for instance Aida opposite Renata Tebaldi (voice)/Sophia Loren (actress) in 1953) as well as in person (La traviata, with Anna Moffo, 1968). He also appeared in several romantic films such as Torna a Sorrento. From 1964 Bechi led an opera class at the Accademia Chigiana and also served as artistic director of the Teatro San Carlo in Lisbon.
Bechi possessed a firm, heroic baritone voice which he used to great dramatic effect in both melodrama and comedy. He was a powerful presence on stage, as may be seen from his film appearance as Germont père in La traviata, a remarkably convincing assumption of this rôle. His complete opera recordings made for HMV with Gigli are uniformly successful.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).