Death of a Callas soprano, 90

Death of a Callas soprano, 90


norman lebrecht

July 11, 2020

The marvellous Italian soprano Gabriella Tucci died today in Rome, aged 90. She made her 1951 debut at Spoleto opposite Beniamino Gigli, in 1951. Her next role was in Cherubini’s Medea opposite Maria Callas.

She sang in all major international opera houses over the next two decades but drew little interest from record companies, such was the density of the competition.


  • Everest says:

    She sang 259 performances, all of leading roles, in 13 seasons at the Metropolitam Opera. RIP

  • Straussian says:

    A Callas Soprano? That statement is a head scratcher. Tucci was a fine singer in her own right.

  • Thomas Dawkins says:

    Despite singing over 250 performances in 20 roles at the MET alone, she only seems to have done a couple of studio recordings: the Il trovatore excerpted above with Corelli, Merrill, and Simionato, and a Pagliacci with Mario del Monaco. But if I could only leave one recording as a legacy and it was that Trovatore, so be it!

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Gabriella Tucci was so much more than “a Callas soprano”, Norman, as you so dismissively characterize her. What were you thinking?
    I’m just going to copy and paste part of her wikipedia entry just to save myself a lot of typing:
    “She made her debut at La Scala in Milan in 1959, as Mimi in La bohème. The following year saw her debuts at both the Royal Opera House in London, as Aida, and at the Metropolitan Opera, in the title role of Madama Butterfly. She sang at the Metropolitan Opera until 1972, other roles included: Euridice, Marguerite, Leonora in both Il trovatore and La forza del destino, Maria Boccanegra/Amelia, Violetta, Aida, Desdemona, Alice Ford, Mimi, Donna Elvira, etc.
    “Tucci also appeared in Vienna, Berlin, and Buenos Aires. She traveled with the La Scala Opera to Moscow and Tokyo, performances that have been documented in live recordings.
    “A versatile singer and an accomplished actress, Tucci was able to tackle a wide range of roles from bel canto to verismo, singing Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Elvira in I puritani, Gilda in Rigoletto, Violetta in La traviata, and Marguerite in Faust, as well as Maddalena in Andrea Chénier and the title role in Tosca.”
    Gabriella, as you can see, had a long and fruitful life.
    The world of opera was diminished by her retirement, and we are all diminished by her passing.
    Brava, Gabriella, ed addio….

    • Tom Phillips says:

      She WAS an excellent singer. Unfortunately there was lots more competition back then for first-rate performances of Italian operas than there is today so she was somewhat taken for granted and overlooked. Nowadays, we’re supposed to get excited about such singers of Puccini repertoire as Patricia Racette or Kristin Opolais.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      Perhaps N.L. meant to type “Death of a Classy Soprano.”

      I have that Pagliacci she recorded with del Monaco and it is a powerhouse performance. Even the recorded sound remains exceptionally vivid.

  • Zvi Netanel says:

    How low and oh so easy to tarnish an excellent artist’s career as a mere”Callas Soprano”.

  • Ed Gordon says:

    She did make a TROVATORE with Corelli, and it was with that recording that I learned the opera. I am forever grateful.

  • David A Newton says:

    Wonderful, underrated soprano. I heard her as Desdemona (with Del Monaco!!) in 1960. She not only sang beautifully, but she was an excellent actress as well. I also remember her excellent performances on MET broadcasts of Traviata and Madame Butterfly.

  • scarpiax says:

    being compared to maria callas is a compliment in a left handed way. maria was superb and to be compared in the same breath is a compliment.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      I hear what you’re saying, scarpiax. And I am a huge Callas fan myself.
      But Tucci was great enough that she could stand on her own two feet.

  • fred says:

    for the copy and pasters, she did NOT die on 11th July but on the 9th…why has fact checking become such a rarity on the internet?

  • Edgar Self says:

    To amico greg Bottini and other Tucci admirers including me. Why not call her a great soprano who sang with Callas among others? Or leav rhe great Callas out of the lead, as Tucci had her own distinguished and separate career. Did she also record Mozart? I don’t know just what a “Callas soprano” might be, and wouldn’t want to surmise. Would it include tebaldi?

    Greg, I’m back from three weeks in hospital with multiple fractures of femur, but whether veterinary hospital, psychiatric, or rehab cannot be ascertained with certitude due to medical records” privacy. Otherwise, reports greatly exaggerated. I’m home now trying to catch up with the congnoscenti and big boys Any mention of Callas invokes. two of the other great singing actresses I know, all with individual vocal idiosyncracies Tucci did not share so far as I know: Claudia Muzio and Magda Oliver, divine all, snf I often include Licia Albanesi and Lotte Lehmann with the same caveat, all now beyond reach of cavil.