Few artists in the history of singing have served music with the elegance, freshness, and sense of style of Teresa Berganza, who died today in Madrid where she was born in 1933.
For the entire duration of her long career the great mezzo-soprano was a regular guest at La Scala where her name was linked to interpretations which are highlights of the theatre’s history: Barbiere di Siviglia, Cenerentola and Italiana in Algeri conducted by Claudio Abbado.
A few months after her debut, which took place in 1957 at Aix-en-Provence in Così fan tutte, Berganza made her debut at the Piccola Scala theatre in the role of the page Isoliero (the opera was performed in Italian) in Conte Ory conducted by Nino Sanzogno with Graziella Sciutti as the protagonist. Rossini and Mozart, together with the music of the composers of her homeland, would accompany her from triumph to triumph in the years to come.
In 1961 she was again at the Piccola Scala, first with Sanzogno in the role of Dorabella together with Lisa della Casa as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, then with Bruno Bartoletti as the protagonist of Cesti’s Orontea. Bruno Maderna conducted her in the 1963 production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. In 1969 Claudio Abbado brought her to La Scala as Rosina in Il barbiere directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. They upturned the prevailing view of Rossini’s comic operas and eliminated the farcical tradition and imposed an elegant, lively reading, which was faithful to the score, and it how the opera is mostly seen today. They did the same in 1973 with La Cenerentola on tour at the Wiener Festwochen (at La Scala performances the part of Angelina had been sung by Lucia Valentini Terrani; Berganza sang the performances in 1975 and in the tour in London in 1976) and especially with L’italiana in Algeri which inaugurated the 1973-1974 season, the first and so far only opera buffa chosen for the season opening on 7 December.
In 1974 Abbado wanted her for Cherubino in the Nozze di Figaro (the Countess was Mirella Freni), and a long series of recitals began during which Berganza also presented Spanish composers (in this case, de Falla) and was known for her numerous encores, transforming the concerts into joyful musical parties. She returned in recital to La Scala in 1975, 1986, 1988, 1991, and 1995. Her last appearance in 1997, with the La Scala Chamber Orchestra, was in a programme entirely dedicated to de Falla.
In 1981 she was in Stravinsky’s Pulcinella conducted by Donato Renzetti.
The staff at La Scala and the public of the Milanese opera house will cherish a memory of her full of admiration, gratitude and genuine, warm affection.
Teresa Berganza: b. 16 March 1933 (Madrid) – d. 13 May 2022 (San Lorenzo de El Escorial)
Teresa Berganza at La Scala
|17 January 1958||5||LE COMTE ORY||Isoliero||Rossini||Nino Sanzogno||Teatro alla Scala|
|28 March 1961||4||COSÌ FAN TUTTE||Dorabella||Mozart||Nino Sanzogno Peter Maag||Teatro alla Scala|
|16 March 1962||5||COSÌ FAN TUTTE||Dorabella||Mozart||Nino Sanzogno||Teatro alla Scala|
|4 June1961||4||ORONTEA||Orontea||Cesti||Bruno Bartoletti||Teatro alla Scala|
|6 May 1963||3||DIDONE ED ENEA||Didone||Purcell||Bruno Maderna||Teatro alla Scala|
|9 December 1969||4||IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA||Rosina||Rossini||Claudio Abbado||Teatro alla Scala|
|22 May 1973||3||LA CENERENTOLA||Angelina||Rossini||Claudio Abbado||Vienna – Theater an der Wien|
|9 December 1975||2||LA CENERENTOLA||Angelina||Rossini||Claudio Abbado||Teatro alla Scala|
|3 March 1976||1||LA CENERENTOLA||Angelina||Rossini||Claudio Abbado||London – Covent Garden|
|7 December 1973||6||L’ITALIANA IN ALGERI||Isabella||Rossini||Claudio Abbado||Teatro alla Scala|
|19 April 1974||8||LE NOZZE DI FIGARO||Cherubino||Mozart||Claudio Abbado||Teatro alla Scala|
|24 May 1974||1||CONCERTO DI CANTO TERESA BERGANZA||Mezzosoprano||Various||–||Teatro alla Scala|
|5 February 1975||1||CONCERTO DI CANTO TERESA BERGANZA||Mezzosoprano||Various||–||Teatro alla Scala|
|15 December 1986||1||CONCERTO DI CANTO TERESA BERGANZA||Mezzosoprano||Various||–||Teatro alla Scala|
|19 December 1988||1||CONCERTO DI CANTO TERESA BERGANZA||Mezzosoprano||Various||–||Teatro alla Scala|
|4 March 1991||1||CONCERTO DI CANTO TERESA BERGANZA||Mezzosoprano||Various||–||Teatro alla Scala|
|5 November 1995||1||CONCERTO DI CANTO TERESA BERGANZA||Mezzosoprano||Various||–||Teatro alla Scala|
|23 June 1982||2||PULCINELLA||Mezzosoprano||Stravinsky||Donato Renzetti||Teatro alla Scala|
|4 May 1997||1||CONCERTO MUSICHE DI DE FALLA||Mezzosoprano||De Falla||Miguel A. Gomez-Martinez||Teatro alla Scala|
TERESA BERGANZA AT LA SCALA in photos
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.