Italian tenor Marcello Giordani dies at 56

October 07, 2019

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Augusta (Sicily): Tenor Marcello Giordani, renowned for a voice of beauty and heft that made him a star at the world’s top opera houses, died Saturday. He was 56.

Giordani had a heart attack following lunch at his home in Monte Tauro, a suburb of Augusta in Sicily, and could not be revived, his vocal coach, Bill Schuman, said.

“I talked to his wife, Wilma,’” Schuman said. “He said he was thirsty, got up from his chair for some water and collapsed. They had a helicopter-ambulance come in, but he was already gone.” In an era when the Three Tenors waned in the 1990s and 2000s, Giordani was sought after in lyric and later spinto roles.

“It’s a tragic loss,” soprano Rene Fleming, a frequent singing partner, wrote in a text to the AP, recalling him as “a remarkably lovely man.” “He possessed the easiest, most clarion high notes, and was convincing in every role,” she said.

Born in Sicily on Jan 25, 1963, Giordani was the son of a prison guard who retired and then owned a gas station.

“That’s mostly where I made my debut, making coffee,” he said in an interview in 2007. “People still remember me when I was 12 or 13, singing or bringing coffee.” He moved to Milan when he was 23. He made his professional debut as the Duke in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at Spoleto, Italy, in 1986, and sang his first performance at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala as Rodolfo in Puccini’s “La Boheme” in 1988.

His American debut followed as Nadir in Bizet’s “Les Pecheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers)” at the Portland Opera during the 1988-89 season, and he made his first appearance at the Vienna State Opera in 1992 as the Italian Singer in Strauss’ “De Rosenkavalier.”

Giordani considered the key to his career his move to New York in 1994, when he began studying with Schuman. Conductor Riccardo Muti told Giordani he needed to improve his technique, and Giordani’s agent, Matthew Laifer, directed the tenor to Schuman.

Giordani called Schuman “my miracle, my blessing.” Debuts followed in 1995 at London’s Royal Opera as Alfredo in Verdi’s “La Traviata” with conductor Georg Solti and at New York’s Metropolitan Opera as Rodolfo.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2019