The vibrantly voiced Italian bass Cesare Siepi was born in Milan in 1923. After study at that city’s Conservatorio, he made his début as Sparafucile in Rigoletto in Schio in 1941. In 1943, however, he fled to Switzerland, because of his strong anti-Fascist views. Five years later he first appeared at La Scala, Milan, as Ramfis in Aida, Padre Guardiano in La forza del destino and Zaccaria in Nabucco. Siepe was chosen by Toscanini to take part in the Boito celebration at La Scala as Mefistofele and Simon Mago in Nerone. He continued with the Company as a regular member for four years before singing at the Metropolitan in New York as Philip II in Don Carlos on the opening night of Rudolf Bing’s tenure in November 1950. He was a valued member at the Met for 23 seasons singing 379 performances of 18 rôles. These included Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Boris Godunov, Gurnemanz in Parsifal and Orovesco in Norma.
He appeared at the Salzburg Festival (1953-58), San Francisco (1954), Covent Garden (1962-73), Spain and South America. Siepi’s diversity was such that he appeared in a Broadway musical in 1962 entitled Bravo Giovanni and recorded an album of Cole Porter songs. His career was varied and long so that he was still appearing in Italy until the 1980s. He possessed a smooth, rich and evenly produced voice allied to excellent musicianship and a splendid stage presence. He recorded extensively for a number of labels.