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After studying the violin, Renato Capecchi served as a soldier during World War II. He subsequently studied singing with Ubaldo Carrozzi in Milan and made his début in 1948 in a concert given by Italian Radio. The following year saw his stage début, as Amonasro/Aida at Reggio Emilia. Capecchi was quickly invited to appear at La Scala, Milan, initially during 1950 in the world première of Gian Francesco Malipiero’s L’allegra brigata. His début at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, came at the end of 1951 as Germont père/La traviata, followed by appearances there as Silvio/Pagliacci, Enrico/Lucia di Lammermoor, Marcello/La Bohème, Escamillo/Carmen and Figaro/Il barbiere di Siviglia during 1952, 1953 and 1954.

Capecchi was active throughout Italy and Europe as a dramatic and buffo baritone during the 1950s. In 1954 he took part in the La Scala recording for Columbia-UK of La forza del destino as Fra Melitone (the rôle in which he made his début at Covent Garden in 1962 with Georg Solti conducting). Another highlight during the 1950s was his recording of the title rôle in Rigoletto for the Philips label with the forces of the San Carlo, Naples. Capecchi also specialised in contemporary music: among the new operas in which he appeared were Billy Budd (Ghedini, Venice, 1949), I festini (Gian Francesco Malipiero, Bergamo, 1954), Il giudizio universale (Tosatti, Milan, 1955), Una domanda di matrimonio (Chailly, Milan, 1957), La riva delle Sirti (Chailly, Monte Carlo, 1959) and Il mercante di Venezia (Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Florence, 1961).

During the1960s Capecchi gradually moved from the lyric/dramatic baritone repertoire into that of buffo and later comprimario rôles; for instance he returned to Covent Garden in 1973 as Dr Bartolo/Il barbiere di Siviglia. In 1975 he returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Don Alfonso/Così fan tutte, continuing to appear there regularly until 1994 in rôles such as the Sacristan/Tosca, Dr Bartolo/Le nozze di Figaro, Fra Melitone and Don Pasquale, Geronte/Manon Lescaut, Benoit and Alcindoro/La Bohème, the Bailiff/Werther, Baron Douphol/La traviata, and Mathieu/Andrea Chénier. In these parts he made up for any loss of vocal quality with a remarkable dramatic presence. This was particularly evident in his performances of the title rôle in Falstaff at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1977 and 1980. Capecchi remained active into the 1990s, for instance appearing as Don Alfonso in Houston in 1991 and as Gianni Schicchi in Toronto as late as 1996. By the close of his stage career he had sung around 200 parts.

In addition to his operatic appearances Capecchi was active as a director, staging La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera, Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment at the New York City Opera and Il barbiere di Siviglia at the University of Colorado, as well as productions at the San Francisco Opera and at the Manhattan School of Music, where he taught for many years. He also taught extensively throughout America and Europe in masterclasses, and enjoyed success in producing programs for television. His recorded legacy reflects his strengths as a lyric/dramatic and particularly buffo baritone of note.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).

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