Coffee with Carlo Bergonzi

Coffee with Carlo Bergonzi


norman lebrecht

July 27, 2014

I met the great tenor once, by chance.

It was late in the year 2000, and I was doing a recce of Verdi’s hangouts in the Parma region, ahead of the centennial year of the composer’s death. Late in the day, we drove into Busseto, the little village where he was born.

Not much to see on a misty November afternoon and nowhere to hang out. The cafe was open and a small knot of seniors were clustered around a table. One of them waved an arm, calling us over. Where from? London. What doing? Verdi pilgrimage. Why? Newspaper article. Big, beaming smile.

‘I am Carlo Bergonzi,’ announced the legend, ordering coffees all round.

He could not stay more than a few minutes as there was a pupil waiting for a lesson, but in those few minutes he offered reminiscences, requested updates on the state of Covent Garden and volunteered a few pearls of vocal wisdom.

Priceless moments, unforgettable.

Carlo Bergonzi died on Friday night, aged 90. bergonzi2


  • Prewartreasure says:

    Lovely tale, Norman, thanks.

    Reminded me of the occasion when, a couple of years later, shortly before his death, I met the great Hans Hotter in a Bayreuth bookshop. All those recordings I had [have] of him surged into life. “Nun zäume dein ross reisige maid….”

    There’ll never be another H.H. (sigh)

  • Robert Levin says:

    I was not as lucky as you, Norman. My family and I, during a trip to Italy several years ago, stopped in Busseto and stayed one night at Bergonzi’s hotel, I Due Foscari. I had called months before and spoken to his son, who told me that there was a good chance his father would be there at the time of our visit. Sadly, he was not there.

  • About Opera says:

    A homage to d’Artagnan: Carlo Bergonzi (1924 – 2014)