Lyric soprano Renata Tebaldi, who was one of the twentieth century's most talented bel canto singers, shunned the limelight when not on the stage. When in 1946 Toscanini declared that she had "the voice of an angel", she instantly acquired the status of an international prima donna. She had a repertoire of 45 operas, which she listened to untiringly till the end of her career. "I found it immensely satisfying to know that I could make so many people happy by singing - and such a range of people!"
Renata's father, Teobaldo Tebaldi, was a cellist and her mother, Giuseppina, was a nurse. Her parents separated before Renata was born in Pesaro.
Renata developed a keen interest in music and in 1935 began taking piano lessons from her cousin Giuseppina Pasani in Parma. Her teacher was very impressed by Renata's abilities and enrolled her for the entrance exam at the Parma conservatoire when she was 17. She was admitted a year in advance and began studying under Ettore Campogalliani. Not long afterwards, she continued her singing lessons with Carmen Melis in Milan. Despite the war, the Teatro Regio in Parma managed to maintain its musical season, so Renata was able to make her stage debut in La Bohème by Puccini and Andrea Chénier * by Giordano. In 1945, she sang in *Otello by Verdi in Trieste. 1946 marked a turning point in Renata Tebaldi's career. After seeing her sing the role of Elsa in Wagner's *Lohengrin, Arturo Toscanini invited her to audition to sing The Prayer from Rossini's opera Moses in Egypt (Mosè in Egitto) and the Te Deum by Verdi at the inaugural concert for the reopening of the La Scala opera house on 11 May 1946. The legend of the "angel's voice" descended from heaven was born. In 1950, she sang Verdi's Aida for the first time at La Scala in Milan. For the final performances, she was replaced by *Maria Callas, her supposed rival, sparking a media battle between each singer's hordes of admirers. As a member of La Scala's troupe, Renata Tebaldi did her first tour abroad to London (in Otello at Covent Garden) and Edinburg. In 1951, she sang Verdi's *Giovanna D’Arco in the Madeleine Church in Paris.
She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera on 31 January 1955 singing Verdi's Otello. She subsequently spent most of her career in the United States, up until 1973. Her popularity in North America was such that she was nicknamed "Miss Sold-Out" and numerous fan clubs were created, such as the "*Renata Tebaldi's Music Club*". In 1963, problems with her voice forced her to reconsider her technique and consequently her repertoire. Her vocal range became broader but her high notes took on a harder tone. In 1966, after resting her voice for a lengthy period, Renata returned to the Metropolitan and sang, for the first time, La Gioconda by Ponchielli and La fanciulla del West by Puccini. She retired from the stage in January 1973.
On 23 May 1976, she gave a final concert at La Scala to raise funds for the victims of the Friuli earthquake.
She died on 19 December 2004 in San Marino.
Renata Tebaldi is best-known for her performances of Verdi, Puccini, Giordano, Rossini and Ponchielli, but she was also a very popular singer of Mozart, Wagner, Handel and Tchaikovsky.
Six landmark dates in the life of Renata Tebaldi: *
23 May 1944: Renata Tebaldi's official debut in Rovigo, singing the role of Elena in Mefistofele by Arrigo Boito
3 February 1951: performed Verdi's La traviata at La Scala in Milan
31 January 1955: debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Verdi's Otello
22 September 1966: sang in Ponchielli's La Gioconda at the Met
1968: last recording with Decca: La Wally by Catalani with Mario del Monaco, Orchestre National de l’Opéra de Monte-Carlo and Coro Lirico Di Torino, conducted by Fausto Cleva
11 February 1970: sang in La fanciulla del West by Puccini at the Met
Biography compiled from Radio France Documentation, February 2016