Gino Penno (1920–1998) was an Italian tenor, who enjoyed a short but brilliant career in opera in the 1950s.
Tenor is a male voice type in classical music whose vocal range lies between the countertenor and baritone. The tenor's vocal range extends up to C5. The low extreme for tenors is roughly A♭2 (two A♭s below middle C). At the highest extreme, some tenors can sing up to the second F above middle C (F5). The tenor voice type is generally divided into the leggero tenor, lyric tenor, spinto tenor, dramatic tenor, heldentenor, and tenor buffo or spieltenor.
Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.
Penno was born in Felizzano, Italy, and studied with Ettore Campogalliani. After winning a singing competition, he entered the Scuola di Canto of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. While still a student, he sang a number of comprimario roles, and appeared in his first leading role in 1950, Floreski in Cherubini's Lodoiska .
Felizzano is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Alessandria in the Italian region Piedmont, located about 60 kilometres (37 mi) southeast of Turin and about 15 kilometres (9 mi) west of Alessandria. As of 31 December 2004, it had a population of 2,405 and an area of 25.2 square kilometres (9.7 sq mi).
A comprimario is a small supporting role in an opera. The word is derived from the Italian "con primario", or "with the primary", meaning that the comprimario role is not a principal role. The term usually refers to characters who do not sing any full-length arias or long scenes.
In the early 1950s, he became known throughout Italy, as a highly competent heldentenor, singing Siegfried at the Verona Arena and Lohengrin in Rome. He also partnered the new diva Maria Callas in Norma , Macbeth , Il trovatore , and Medea , in various theatres in Italy.
Der Ring des Nibelungen, WWV 86, is a cycle of four German-language epic music dramas composed by Richard Wagner. The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The composer termed the cycle a "Bühnenfestspiel", structured in three days preceded by a Vorabend. It is often referred to as the Ring Cycle, Wagner's Ring, or simply The Ring.
The Verona Arena is a Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Bra in Verona, Italy built in the first century. It is still in use today and is internationally famous for the large-scale opera performances given there. It is one of the best preserved ancient structures of its kind. In ancient times, nearly 30,000 people was the housing capacity of the Arena. Nowadays, for security reasons, the maximum attendance is 15,000 people. It would be used as the closing ceremony if Milan/Cortina d'Ampezzo is awarded the 2026 Winter Olympics.
Lohengrin, WWV 75, is a Romantic opera in three acts composed and written by Richard Wagner, first performed in 1850. The story of the eponymous character is taken from medieval German romance, notably the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach and its sequel, Lohengrin, written by a different author, itself inspired by the epic of Garin le Loherain. It is part of the Knight of the Swan tradition.
In 1951, his career took an international turn. He appeared at the Paris Opéra, the Liceo in Barcelona, the Monte Carlo Opera, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and the Royal Opera House in London.
The Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was called the Salle des Capucines, because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier, in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier. The theatre is also often referred to as the Opéra Garnier and historically was known as the Opéra de Paris or simply the Opéra, as it was the primary home of the Paris Opera and its associated Paris Opera Ballet until 1989, when the Opéra Bastille opened at the Place de la Bastille. The Paris Opera now uses the Palais Garnier mainly for ballet.
The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company based in New York City, resident at the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager. As of 2018, the company's current music director is Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
The Royal Opera House (ROH) is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Originally called the Theatre Royal, it served primarily as a playhouse for the first hundred years of its history. In 1734, the first ballet was presented. A year later, Handel's first season of operas began. Many of his operas and oratorios were specifically written for Covent Garden and had their premieres there.
By the end of the 1950s he was gone from the international opera scene. The reason of his retirement is unknown, different sources adduce health problems, a loss of voice, or a wish for a career as a lawyer!
Penno died in Milan, on February 8, 1998, aged 77.
He can be heard on a few radio broadcasts from RAI, notably Ernani and Attila , opposite Caterina Mancini, and Macbeth, with Callas.
RAI – Radiotelevisione italiana (Italian pronunciation: [ˈrai ˌradjoteleviˈzjoːne itaˈljaːna]; commercially styled as Rai since 2000; known until 1954 as Radio Audizioni Italiane is the national public broadcasting company of Italy, owned by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Ernani is an operatic dramma lirico in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play Hernani by Victor Hugo.
Attila is an opera in a prologue and three acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera, based on the 1809 play Attila, König der Hunnen by Zacharias Werner. The opera received its first performance at La Fenice in Venice on 17 March 1846.
Penno lost his voice during a Trovatore at the Met in 1956. He was barely able to continue the performance. Though he appeared once more that season as a last minute replacement for Kurt Baum after the latter cancelled a Forza del destino following act two, it was the end of his American career and it would seem the end of his career on the major opera house circuit.
He seems to have continued in smaller opera houses in Italy for a few more seasons.
An important document of him at his best is an Italian language performance of Wagner's Lohengrin from Naples, broadcast on November 20, 1954. The cast includes Renata Tebaldi and is conducted by Gabriele Santini. It is currently on CD on the Hardy label. He was very highly thought of both for his musicianship and his reportedly enormous voice, of magnificent quality.
Maria Callas, Commendatore OMRI was an American-born Greek soprano. She was one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century. Many critics praised her bel canto technique, wide-ranging voice and dramatic interpretations. Her repertoire ranged from classical opera seria to the bel canto operas of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini and further, to the works of Verdi and Puccini; and, in her early career, to the music dramas of Wagner. Her musical and dramatic talents led to her being hailed as La Divina.
Franco Corelli was an Italian tenor who had a major international opera career between 1951 and 1976. Associated in particular with the spinto and dramatic tenor roles of the Italian repertory, he was celebrated universally for his powerhouse voice, electrifying top notes, clear timbre, passionate singing and remarkable performances. Dubbed the "prince of tenors", Corelli possessed handsome features and a charismatic stage presence which endeared him to audiences. He had a long and fruitful partnership with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City between 1961 and 1975. He also appeared on the stages of most of the major opera houses in Europe and with opera companies throughout North America.
Tito Gobbi was an Italian operatic baritone with an international reputation.
Giuseppe Di Stefano was an Italian operatic tenor, one of the most beautiful voices who sang professionally from the mid 1940s until the early 1990s, although there was a sharp decline in his, until then extraordinary, vocal powers during the early 1960s. Called Pippo by both fans and friends, he was known as the "Golden voice" or "The most beautiful voice", as the true successor of Beniamino Gigli. Luciano Pavarotti said he modeled himself after Di Stefano. In an interview Pavarotti said "Di Stefano is my idol. There is a solar voice...It was the most incredible, open voice you could hear. The musicality of di Stefano is as natural and beautiful as the voice is phenomenal". Di Stefano was also the tenor who most inspired José Carreras.
Joseph O'Mara was an Irish opera singer of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. After studying opera in Milan, Italy, he made his London stage debut in 1891 in the tenor title role of the opera Ivanhoe by Arthur Sullivan and soon appeared in other operas. In 1894 he first appeared at Covent Garden Theatre. For three years, he was the principal tenor at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, also appearing in the pantomime there and elsewhere. In 1896, he created the tenor lead, Mike Murphy, in Charles Villiers Stanford's opera Shamus O'Brien, also playing the role on tour and in America.
Piero Cappuccilli was an Italian operatic baritone. Best known for his interpretations of Verdi roles, he was widely regarded as one of the finest Italian baritones of the second half of the 20th century. He was enormously admired within the field of opera for his rich and abundant voice, fine vocal technique and exceptional breath control. In the great Italian tradition he fused words and music into elegant phrases. He focused on Italian repertory, particularly the operas of Verdi, singing 17 major roles.
Ebe Stignani was an Italian opera singer, who was pre-eminent in the dramatic mezzo-soprano roles of the Italian repertoire during a stage career of more than thirty years.
Ettore Bastianini was an Italian opera singer who was particularly associated with the operas of the bel canto tradition.
Gino Sinimberghi was a tenor opera singer from Rome, Italy.
Pier Miranda Ferraro was an Italian operatic tenor who had an active international opera career from 1951 through 1981. He particularly excelled in the dramatic Italian repertoire with his signature role being the title role in Giuseppe Verdi's opera Otello. Other important roles in his performance repertoire included Radames in Verdi's Aida, Alvaro in La Forza del Destino, and des Grieux in Giacomo Puccini's Manon Lescaut. He also found success in the German repertoire portraying Wagnerian heroes. Although he was a gifted singer and had a highly impressive list of performance credits, he never achieved the international recognition enjoyed by his most important contemporaries, such as Franco Corelli or Mario Del Monaco. After retiring from the opera stage in 1981 he took up a second highly successful career as a voice teacher.
Caterina Mancini was an Italian dramatic coloratura soprano, primarily active in Italy in the 1950s.
Ugo Savarese was an Italian operatic baritone, particularly associated with the Italian repertory.
Enzo Mascherini was an Italian operatic baritone, one of the leading baritones of his generation.
Anselmo Colzani was an Italian operatic baritone who had an international opera career from the late 1940s through 1980. He particularly excelled in the Italian repertory and was most associated with the works of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. He began his career in Italy in 1947 where he quickly became a regular presence at that country's best opera houses, including La Scala. In the mid-1950s he began appearing at major opera houses throughout Europe and the United States. In 1960 he joined the roster at the Metropolitan Opera where he spent most of his time through 1978. Opera News commented that while his voice may have "lacked the sheer beauty [of other baritones], his performances had an Italianate urgency and forthright thrust that were unique, which established himself as a powerful, striking presence."
Kenneth (Ken) Neate was a renowned Australian operatic and concert tenor, opera producer and singing teacher, composer and author. He appeared at the Bayreuth Festival in 1963 as Loge in Rheingold and he was noted as a dramatic tenor in German, French, and Italian repertoire in opera houses in England, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Australia. His operatic career lasted 38 years, followed by ten years as lecturer in Voice and Opera Studies at the Richard Strauss Conservatorium in Munich.
Franz Ferenczy was a nineteenth-century German tenor who had a prolific opera career in Europe between 1859-1880. Possessing a powerful voice with a wide vocal range, Ferenczy particularly excelled in the operas of Giacomo Meyerbeer and Richard Wagner. He is best remembered today for originating the role of Samson in the world premiere of Camille Saint-Saëns's Samson et Dalila in 1877. His brother, José Ferenczy (1852–1908), was also a successful operatic tenor.
Giuseppe Borgatti was an Italian dramatic tenor with an outstanding voice. The creator of the title role in Umberto Giordano's verismo opera Andrea Chénier, he subsequently earned renown for his performances of the music of Richard Wagner, becoming in 1904 the first Italian tenor to appear at the Bayreuth Festival. He sang a variety of leading roles at La Scala, Milan, from 1896 until 1914, but deteriorating eyesight caused by glaucoma put a premature end to his stage career, after which he turned successfully to teaching.
Giacomo Vaghi was an Italian opera singer who had an active international career from 1925-1956. Along with Tancredi Pasero and Ezio Pinza, he was one of the leading operatic basses of his generation. He possessed a rich voice with a dark timbre that drew him particular acclaim in the operas of Giuseppe Verdi. He appears on several complete opera recordings made with EMI Classics and Cetra Records.
Kurt Baum was an Austria-Hungary born American operatic tenor. He is best remembered for his 25 seasons spent with the Metropolitan Opera, between 1941 and 1966.
Concepció Bordalba was a Catalan operatic soprano who performed under the name Concetta Bordalba outside her native Spain. She spent most of her career in Italy or with touring Italian opera companies and was particularly known for her performances as Elsa in Wagner's Lohengrin and Margherita in Boito's Mefistofele.