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NICOLA ROSSI-LEMENI

Following World War II Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (1920–1991) was one of three important basses in Italy, with Boris Christoff and Cesare Siepi. Half Russian and born in Istanbul, he made his début in 1946 at La Fenice in Venice, as Varlaam in Boris Godunov. In 1947 he went to the United States to appear with a new company in Chicago as Timur in Turandot, and there met Callas, who was to sing the title rôle. It folded, however, before it began. In New York they auditioned with the tenor Giovanni Zenatello, then retired, who was Artistic Director at Verona arena. As a result in August Callas made her Italian début, as Gioconda, and Rossi-Lemeni was Alvise. In 1948 he sang at La Scala Milan and the San Carlo Naples. In 1949, again with Callas, he appeared at the Colón in Buenos Aires. In the early 1950s his career took him to Covent Garden, London, San Francisco Opera, the Metropolitan New York, the Paris Opéra and, again with Callas, to the Lyric Chicago. His stage personality was addressed yet he did not establish himself at any of these. His voice had no ring on the tone and was not properly supported; air escaped through it like leaking gas. Although at first he sang Boris, Don Giovanni, Méphistophélès in Faust, Boito's Mefistofele, Filippo in Don Carlo, Guardiano in La forza del destino, Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Colline in La bohème, Ramfis in Aida, Oroveso in Norma, Giorgio in I puritani, by the mid-1950s he was undertaking buffo and character rôles: Caspar in Weber's Franco Cacciatore, Dulcamara, Selim in Rossini's Il turco in Italia, Becket in Pizzetti's Assassino nella cattedrale and Lazaro di Jorio in La figlia di Jorio, Lunardo in Wolf-Ferrari's Quatro Rusteghi, Cerevek in Mussorgsky's La fiesta di Sorocinzi, and Bloch's Macbeth. He appeared in several world premières and after 1965 became a stage director. For Columbia he recorded Giorgio, Oroveso and Selim with Callas, for Cetra, Filippo, and for Philips, Rossini's Mosé.


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