Giovanni Inghilleri trained as a pianist and worked initially as a répétiteur in several Italian opera houses. His own vocal training took place at the Rome Conservatory and also with the distinguished baritone Mario Sammarco. Having made his operatic stage debut as Valentin / Faust (Gounod) at the Teatro Carcano in Milan during 1919, Inghilleri subsequently sang at a number of regional Italian opera houses, including the Carlo Felice, Genoa, the Fenice, Venice and the Communale, Florence. At the Teatro Massimo, Palermo, he created the role of Tebaldo in the first performance of Zandonai’s Giulietta e Romeo in 1922 with great success; he was to become a significant interpreter of operas by the verismo composers, notably Mascagni and Puccini as well as Zandonai. The following year he took part in the first performance of Morenita by Mario Persico at the San Carlo, Naples, where he was to sing regularly until 1948.
At the Royal Opera House, London, Inghilleri’s debut came in 1928 as Tonio / Pagliacci, followed by return engagements in 1929, 1930 and 1935. His London repertoire was extensive and included Gérard / Andrea Chénier, Iago / Otello, Amonasro / Aida, Marcello / La Bohème, Scarpia / Tosca, Barnaba / La Gioconda and Manfredo in Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre re. He was especially successful as Germont père in La traviata, singing opposite Ponselle and Gigli in 1931, when he was praised for his ‘steadiness of tone, flawless phrasing and ease of manner’. Inghilleri sang in Chicago during 1929 and 1930, and also appeared with success in France and Spain.
During the 1930s Inghilleri took part in a number of Italian premieres including Casella’s La donna serpente (Rome, 1932), Malipiero’s Giulio Cesare (Genoa, 1936), Alberto Ghislanzoni’s Re Lear (Rome, 1937) and Cottozzo’s I misteri dolorosi (1937). He made his debut at La Scala, Milan in 1941 and enjoyed considerable success there, singing Gérard in the 1946 celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the first performance of Andrea Chénier under the baton of the composer Giordano himself.
After World War II Inghilleri sang Verdi’s Falstaff at the Theatre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, gave concerts in England during 1948, continued to sing at La Scala until 1949 and in 1952 appeared at the Maggio Musicale in Florence and at the Verona Arena. Later roles included the Wanderer / Siegfried, Shaklovity / Khovanshchina and Michele / Il tabarro. Having retired in 1953, he taught in Milan and became a professor at the Pesaro Conservatory in 1956. He was also active as a composer, writing an opera, La burla, a ballet and songs.
Inghilleri possessed a fine, if not first-class, voice, which he used with authority and musicianship, reflecting his training as a pianist. His portrayals were highly imaginative and his diction exemplary, resulting in performances that gripped. His vocal longevity is clearly demonstrated by his complete opera recordings, made as far apart as 1928 (Aida with Sabajno for HMV) and the early 1950s (La Bohème and Madama Butterfly with Erede for Decca).
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).