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CESARE VALLETTI

The son of a doctor, Valletti studied music privately in Rome and became a student of the tenor Tito Schipa. He made his operatic stage debut at Bari in 1947 at the Teatro Petruzelli as Alfredo / La traviata, after which he appeared in many Italian opera houses in both the Mozartian and bel canto repertoires.

Internationally, Valletti’s breakthrough came in 1950 when he sang Narciso / Il turco in Italia at the Teatro Eliseo, Rome opposite Maria Callas and Mariano Stabile. He also deputized as Fenton / Falstaff at La Scala, Milan in a production which subsequently toured to the Royal Opera House, London. The following year he sang Alfredo in Mexico City, once again opposite Maria Callas, and went on to appear at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires; Rio de Janeiro; the Vienna State Opera and in Paris and Amsterdam. His international presence was also greatly aided by his participation in numerous Italian radio opera productions released as commercial recordings on the Cetra label.

In North America Valletti first appeared in 1953 in San Francisco, singing the title role of Werther opposite Giulietta Simionato. During the same year he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York as Don Ottavio / Don Giovanni. He was welcomed by Olin Downes, who wrote in the New York Times: ‘His voice is not overlarge, but he has a beautiful style and he delivered with finish, flexibility and fine taste the two great airs of the first and second acts. He even looked like a man and not a ‘ham’ as customarily is the case.’ The Met became a major focus for Valletti’s operatic work until 1960, his roles including Count Almaviva / Il barbiere di Siviglia, Des Grieux / Manon (both 1954), Ferrando / Così fan tutte (in English), Ernesto / Don Pasquale in which he ‘spun out the most delectable pianissimos’ (Musical America) (both 1955), Alfredo and Alfred / Die Fledermaus (both 1958) and Tamino / Die Zauberflöte (1959). His last (unplanned) performance at the Met was as Don Ottavio in February 1960; the following November he returned to sing Nemorino in a new production of L’elisir d’amore but was relieved of his position after the dress rehearsal by Rudolf Bing and never returned to the Met, despite many invitations to do so.

In Europe Valletti sang Elvino / La sonnambula in 1955 at La Scala opposite Callas with Leonard Bernstein conducting; and at the Maggio Musicale, Florence as Giacomo / La donna del lago (1958), Idamante / Idomeneo (1962) and Giannetto / La gazza ladra (1965). He returned to Covent Garden in 1958 to sing opposite Callas in La traviata (1958) in what is generally considered to be one of her finest performances. Valletti first appeared at the Salzburg Festival as Don Ottavio in 1960 with Karajan conducting (another classic performance) and also gave a highly praised song recital there, marking his emergence as a recitalist of considerable note.

Having formally retired in 1967 (although he sang Nerone in L’incoronazione di Poppea at the Caramoor Festival in America in 1968) Valletti left the world of opera completely, turning instead to the pasta-machine manufacturing business of his father-in-law, of which he was to become a director. His wife was a grand-daughter of the composer Ildebrando Pizzetti. He died, a wealthy man, of a heart attack while having treatment for liver cancer.

Like his teacher Schipa, Valletti possessed an innate sense of style, line and phrasing. His voice was not large, but was agile and carried well; while on-stage he struck a good figure and was an effective actor. In sum he was the leading tenore di grazia of the 1950s, as his recordings clearly demonstrate.

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

Role: Classical Artist 
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