Bass  Nicola  Rossi - Lemeni

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


Nicola Rossi-Lemeni; Operatic Basso Earned Fame During '50s


Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, one of the best-known operatic bassos of the 1950s, has died in Bloomington, Ind., where he was a professor of music at Indiana University.

Joanne Nesbit, a school spokesman, said Rossi-Lemeni was 70 when he died Tuesday of cancer.

With a repertoire of 90 roles, the Russian-Italian singer was a sought-after performer for two decades, primarily as Boris Godunov and Don Giovanni.

Such later stars as Cesare Siepi and Jerome Hines surpassed his popularity in the United States and he began to appear more and more in Europe, mostly in Italy at La Scala and opposite such divas as Maria Callas.

Boris Godunov is widely believed to have been his greatest individual triumph. Rossi-Lemeni was born in Istanbul, Turkey--then called Constantinople--and sang the role in fluent Russian learned from his mother. He once received 48 curtain calls after a performance as Boris in the Soviet Union.

Verdi's King Philip, Mozart's Giovanni, the two Mephistos, Donizetti's Henry VIII, Rossini's Moses and Bloch's Macbeth were among his favorite roles during his 30 years of singing.

One of his significant achievements was to create the role of Thomas Becket in Ildebrando Pizetti's "L'Assassinio Nella Cattedrale." The opera, based on T. S. Eliot's play, "Murder in the Cathedral," is the only one ever sung at the Vatican. After the performance, Pope John XXIII knighted Rossi-Lemeni in the order of St. Sylvester, an honor shared by only one other singer, Irish tenor John McCormack.

Rossi-Lemeni's other world premieres were in "View From the Bridge," "The Adventurer" and "La Reine Morte," all by Renzo Rossellini.

He gave only 12 performances in a single season (1953-54) at the Metropolitan, and in the early 1950s was seen in Los Angeles with the San Francisco Opera and at the Hollywood Bowl.

Rossi-Lemeni also launched the first season of Chicago's Lyric Opera in 1954 as Don Giovanni.

He joined Indiana University in 1980 where he taught and staged several operas.

He wrote five volumes of poetry, directed for the operatic stage and was a painter in the modern Impressionist vein.

Survivors include his wife, Virginia Zeani, a Romanian soprano and fellow Indiana University faculty member.

*     *     *     *     *

Opera Singer Nicola Rossi-Lemeni

March 13, 1991, By John von Rhein, in the Chicago Tribune

Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, the versatile Italian singer whose dark, brooding bass voice and commanding stage presence brought distinction to the early seasons of Lyric Opera, died of liver cancer Tuesday at Bloomington Hospital in Bloomington, Ind. He was 70.

Mr. Rossi-Lemeni was among the brightest stars in a constellation of Italian opera singers, including Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Giulietta Simionato, Giuseppe di Stefano, Ettore Bastianini and Tito Gobbi, who made notable careers in American opera theaters shortly after World War II.

Although he won acclaim singing at the Metropolitan, San Francisco, Covent Garden and other houses, it was the Lyric Opera of Chicago (originally called Lyric Theater) that gave him perhaps his greatest American successes.

Mr. Rossi-Lemeni made his Chicago opera debut in the title role of Mozart`s ``Don Giovanni`` during the Lyric`s ``calling card`` season in February 1954, singing opposite Eleanor Steber and Bidu Sayão. He returned in November to open the fall Lyric season in two historic performances of Bellini`s ``Norma,`` sharing the stage with Callas and Simionato. Later that month he sang Basilio in Rossini`s ``The Barber of Seville,`` winning acclaim for his ability to switch effortlessly from serious to comic roles.

Of Mr. Rossi-Lemeni`s Chicago recital debut in November 1952, critic Claudia Cassidy, an early Rossi-Lemeni enthusiast, wrote: ``It is a huge voice, blackly Russian, superbly focused, almost unbelievably chameleonic. . . . It is a voice full of shadows.``

Mr. Rossi-Lemeni`s final Chicago appearance was a non-singing stint at Lyric`s 25th anniversary gala concert in 1979.

Born in Istanbul of Italian and Russian parentage, Mr. Rossi-Lemeni made his debut in Venice in 1946 as Varlaam in Mussorgsky`s ``Boris Godunov.``

In his prime he was acclaimed for his smooth, mellow voice and uncommon musical and dramatic intelligence, qualities that suited him for such roles as Godunov and Philip II in Verdi`s ``Don Carlo.``

In recent years he and his wife, the soprano Virginia Zeani, had been teaching voice on the faculty of the Indiana University School of Music, Bloomington, which last month awarded him the title of distinguished professor.

Besides his wife, survivors include a son, Alexandro, a surgeon living in Rome; and his father, Paolo Rossi-Lemeni.

*     *     *     *     *

Nicola Rossi-Lemeni at Lyric Opera of Chicago


1954 - [Calling Card Production in February] Don Giovanni (Giovanni) with Steber, Jordan, Sayão, Brownlee, Simoneau, Alvary; Rescigno
            [Fall Season] Norma (Oroveso) with Callas, Simionato, Picchi; Rescigno
            Barber of Seville (Basilio) with Simionato, Gobbi, Simoneau, Badioli; Rescigno

1955 - Puritani (Giorgio Walton) with Callas, de Stefano, Bastianini, Wildermann; Rescigno
            Bohème (Colline) with Tebaldi, di Stefano, Gobbi, Lind, Torgi, Foldi; Serafin
            Faust (Mephistofélès) with Carteri, Bjoerling, Weede, Dunn; Serafin
            Elisir d'amore (Dulcamara) with Carteri, Simoneau, Thompson; Serafin
            Amore dei tre re (Archibaldo) with Kirsten, Bergonzi, Weede; Serafin

1956 - Don Giovanni (Giovanni) with Steber, Likova/Lind, Wilson, Corena, Simoneau, Foldi; Solti
            Forza del destino (Guardiano) with Tebaldi, Tucker, Bastianini, Simionato, Badioli, Krainik (Curra); Solti

--  Note: Names which are links refer to my Interviews elsewhere on this website.  BD 

In January of 1985, Signor Rossi-Lemeni allowed me to call him on the telephone for an interview.  He was slightly fearful of his English, but his responses came through brilliantly, and his exuberance was always apparent.  I have tidied up the grammar a bit here and there, but have left many instances of foreign-sounding word-order if his meaning was clear and his ideas were expressed without any problem.

Bruce Duffie:    First I would like to ask you about Chicago.  You were here for the very first performance of Lyric Opera in 1954 (cast shown in photo below).  Was there any extra special preparation, knowing that you were beginning an opera company?

Nicola Rossi-Lemeni:    No, there was no extra special preparation.  It was like starting an adventure.  They decided to start to see how it would go with this famous
calling card Don Giovanni.  It went very well.  It was certainly better that was expected.  It was very well received, the performances were very good, and this was the starting point of the Lyric Opera.


BD:    You say  it was better than expected.  Were you not expecting it to go well?

NR-L:    Everything was so immature in a way.  The theater didn’t seem to be prepared from the technical point of view to put on a very important performance.  But altogether it went very well as far as the sets are concerned, and the costumes and the lighting and all this.

BD:    Did it impress you to know that you were using sets that had been built for the old Chicago Grand Opera Company in the ‘20s and ‘30s?

NR-L:    I thought they were a little bit old-looking, but altogether, I tell you, it was a very, very beautiful experience for me then.

BD:    Tell me about the role of Don Giovanni.  Is he really a swine?

rossi-lemeniNR-L:    No.  I always look at that role as a very interesting role, a very complicated role in a way because there are so many legends surrounding Don Giovanni.  From the very first legends, almost mediaeval legends in Spain and through all Europe, then one sees what has been done through all the play writers.  There are so many things that can be confused by the fact that there are basically two Don Giovannis as he is represented.  There is the Don Giovanni Tenorio [opera by Giuseppe Gazzaniga (1743-1818)] and then the Don Giovanni de Manara who returns to Earth and is punished because of his sins.  He doesn’t even find the right punishment in hell, so for his punishment he needs to go back to earth and to have the experience of falling in love for real.  All this together turns in my mind very much, and I try to make a Don Giovanni who is really a very important character.  Mozart really wanted to write the opera to be called a Dramma Giocoso [drama with jokes].  It wasn’t an opera buffa [comic opera] so it would be really a laughable character, but it is a character that must follow the line of the music so that it is giocoso.  At the same time, the character must be of a serious nature because of all the legends and all the literary traditions that is attached to him. 

BD:    You say he’s complicated.  Does that mean Giovanni is multi-faceted?

NR-L:    Yes, I think so because he is not just a man that only enjoys life and doesn’t care about anybody, he is also a very high-ranked gentleman.  He’s a nobleman, so all his mannerisms are like this and his approach to other people can always come from his rank.  What is fascinating about Don Giovanni is that something mysterious is always around him.  It is mysterious not only because of his aristocratic ascendance, but also because he’s so careless about everything.  He’s very brave, and it is very important to show this in him, and because of his bravery he really becomes a kind of a hero of freedom.

BD:    Is he, perhaps, too brave? 

NR-L:    Even too brave, yes, because he defies everything.  He defies heaven and hell.  What is really to me the climax for Don Giovanni’s character, from the point of view of the legend in the positive sense, is the concertato of the first act that ends with
Viva la libertà!  This phrase gives me the key to Don Giovanni in a noble way.  All the stories with women are only episodes.  What really is important for him is this sense of freedom, this feeling of freedom that really means that he doesn’t have to answer to anybody about his actions.

BD:    He only answers to himself?

NR-L:    Yes, exactly.

BD:    Should the opera end with the death of Don Giovanni, or is the final epilogue really a good idea for modern stage productions?

NR-L:    This also bothers me.  I think this epilogue makes Don Giovanni smaller in stature.  I really would have liked to see the opera end with the death of Don Giovanni, but at the same time it’s a very understandable for the spirit of Mozart and the idea held by Da Ponte.  He wanted to complete the opera  for the opera’s sake, so he wanted this confusion.  In a way, the drama ends with the death of Don Giovanni, but musically the opera must really conclude with the epilogue that he gives, meaning everybody saying something about Don Giovanni.

BD:    So it’s really just a musical coda?

NR-L:    Yes, I think so.

BD:    If you were to stage Don Giovanni, you would not leave that epilogue out?

NR-L:    Oh, no, not at all.  Always the composer must be respected.  The respect of the composer is the first thing that he must do, and this is something that always guides me when I do something.  I cannot always understand how they can change so much in the composer’s intentions.  Today there are so many stage directors that really change completely the opera.

BD:    Are stage directors today not respecting the composer at all?

NR-L:    Exactly, yes, I think so.  One is the Italian Luca Ronconi (1933-2015).  He did something really abominable in Italy with Walküre and with Butterfly, and other things.  He was unlike Luchino Visconti (1906-76), who always respected the composer.  Visconti added new dimensions to the opera because he went in a deeper way with the intentions of the composer.  On the contrary, Ronconi tries to completely destroy the composer’s intention.  He saw himself as the composer!

BD:    Why does he do this?

NR-L:    Unfortunately it’s the mentality of the elite of the so-called elite of today.  They are represented by the press, I must say.  They always pay attention only to something that is different from anything else that has been done before.

BD:    They’re always looking for something new?

NR-L:    Always looking for something that may really bewilder people by being different in their approach.    We saw, for example, productions of Butterfly where Butterfly is really absolutely a whore in a whorehouse, and there is no idea of respecting the sentimental and sweet approach of Puccini to what is really a love story.


BD:    Do the operas of 19th and early 20th centuries speak to the audiences of the 1980s?

NR-L:    Oh, I think so.  They always speak when the message is sincere and  faithful.

BD:    So it is the director’s job to bring that across?

NR-L:    I think so.  This is my opinion.  Then, of course, I always find the contrary of what I’m saying because I find always this exultation of something that is absolutely new.

BD:    Should we not try to find something new in the old scores and the old directions?

NR-L:    I don’t think it is something new that has to be found.  What has to be found is always a closer approach to the intentions of the composer.  There are so many subtleties in the music and in the work of a composer according to what he had from the libretto.  Sometimes the libretto is influenced so much by the composer that it’s almost done by the composer himself.  So we need to understand how and why the composer saw these things, and in the music you always find the best solution.  Sometimes the staging of an opera is absolutely described in the music of the composer, even if he doesn’t leave a specific note about this.  But we find in the music the spirit, the idea of the dynamic he wants on stage, the description of what he wants of this.  No composers, as far as I know, wrote his music without visualizing somehow the action and the characters he wanted on stage.

BD:    The composer has to be part dramatist?

NR-L:    Oh, absolutely!

BD:    And some composers were more successful than others?

NR-L:    Oh, yes, of course.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    In the fall of 1954 you came back to Chicago and sang Norma with Maria Callas.

rossi-lemeniNR-L:    Right, yes.

BD:    Tell me about the role of Oroveso, and working with Callas.

NR-L:    It was an important event because this was the debut of Maria Callas in the United States.  I always liked to sing Oroveso because it’s not a long role, but it is a very authoritative role and written so well that the voice gets the full possibility to emerge.  I had the opportunity to sing Oroveso with Callas in La Scala and then again in Chicago.

BD:    And you made the recording also?

NR-L:    Also the recording, yes, right.

BD:    Can you bring the same attention and the same feeling for the stage when you make a recording?

NR-L:    I cannot tell you this really because on stage you are so much inspired by the possibility of actually acting the role, and this gives always more power.  At the same time you are on stage you are placed, but something else happens.  It’s the encounter with the audience.  From one night to the other you can change because there is a subtle magnetic contact with the audience that can inspire you and pull you up... or make you fall down sometimes, yes!  [Both laugh]  So it is very different, really.  This is why so much emphasis is placed on the event and the live recordings.  They are never perfect like in the studio, but they have so much more life and interest for the personality of the singers.

BD:    Is there no way to bring that personality though in a studio recording?

NR-L:    Yes, there is a way.  You can do it very well, but the moment you are passionately inspired and trying to bring out something very important, they can stop you because the sound is not perfect.  Then you have to redo again the same phrase even two or three times more, and all this makes for a dimming down of the intensity.

BD:    It interrupts everything?

NR-L:    Yes.

BD:    Can recordings be too perfect?

NR-L:    I think so.  Sometimes, yes. 

BD:    I was never privileged to see Callas on the opera stage.  Was she really as magical as the legend says?

NR-L:    I think of Callas in the best possible way, so I’m not at all criticizing her.  But I criticize this legend that has been built around her because really it went too much beyond reality.  She was impressive; she was important; she gave something new to the previous generation of singers because she was so intense in what she was doing.  This intensity came out first of all from her musicality.  She was very musical, and so it was possible to rely on her at any moment.  She could have been in good shape, bad shape, been worried or not, but her musicality always was the highest point of her performance. 

BD:    Have we built her up to be larger than life?

NR-L:    Yes, that is what happened after being used to hearing many coloraturas.  La Sonnambula or even I Puritani had been performed before her by many singers that were just pure coloraturas.  They gave those roles really only a ‘bravura’ style instead of giving it a dramatic style.  She came to this new aspect of the interpretation, giving really a dramatic impact to what was only a ‘bravura’ before her.

BD:    She put the drama back into the drama?

NR-L:    Yes, and this was something that must go to her merit completely.  We see that it was so well accepted by the new audiences, by the modern audiences.  After this we cannot hear anymore something sung in a perfect way but really an instrumental way, like for instance Toti Dal Monte or Lily Pons.  [Laughs]  I don’t want to make any revolution!

BD:    No, no, no, but I see the comparison you’re drawing.

NR-L:    Yes, and after Callas everybody is trying now to sing those roles with this idea, which was in the intentions of the composer.  The composer maybe didn’t even think about this, but we find it in the intensity of his music when we hear a phrase written by Bellini.  It’s so simple, so pure, with an almost a child-like accompaniment.  But the intensity of the phrase requires not only the purity of the voice but the heart and the mind and the real life made of blood and flesh.


BD:    Right now you are a teacher of young up and coming singers.  Do you find that the young singers are trying to sing like Maria Callas, or sing like Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, or others of the older generation?

NR-L:    No, not at all.  I’m sorry to say not at all.  Very few examples I could give you in the studios that we have under our control that try to do something.

BD:    Is it a mistake?

NR-L:    I don’t know.  Something happens with this new generation.  They have no feeling.  They don’t give the heart.  I’m always really struggling with the idea because I also have the opera workshop, so I have to take care of students that even are not mine.  Always what I have to tell them is,
You must understand what you are now, what kind of character you present, and how much this character must be part of your whole self because you must transfer a message to the audience.  It’s not just necessary to sing the right notes and be trying also to project well your voice.  You must give something more than that!  I find that young people don’t know what they have to say to the audience even when they are singing correctly.

rossi-lemeniBD:    Is it more of a superficiality then?

NR-L:    Oh, absolutely, superficiality and also lack of sensitivity!

BD:    This leads to one of my favorite questions for you as a singing actor and also for you as a teacher.  When you bring a role to the stage, are you the character or are you portraying a character?

NR-L:    I should say that I hope to be in the middle.  I always thought that I have to bring to the stage the truth about the character, so I must have all the possible information about the character.  If it’s a historical character or just the product of an invention, you need to find the truth of this character and try to assimilate it, and then transfer it to the audience.  All this is not only a feeling; it must be also worked out with technique
— technique for the stage, technique for the gestures, technique for the carriagewhile I try to imagine who I am representing.  At the same time, always the last word, as I said before, always the last and the supreme inspiration comes out from the music.  You find in the music the reasonnot only the musical reason, but the reason of how this character can breathe and walk and sit down and get up.

BD:    Do you constantly learn about each character as you give more and more performances?

NR-L:    Oh, yes, always, always.  Every performance is always something that I’m looking forward to, just in order to discover or something.  As I told you, I am in between because I always try to imagine myself in the audience while I am performing on the stage, and imagining how from the audience I could criticize myself.  This is because if a gesture is not right or if the carriage doesn’t give me the full importance of what I’m doing, I’m not satisfied at all, and then the person in the audience can be unhappy about a performance that I did!

BD:    Were you too self-critical, perhaps?

NR-L:    No, not too much, because I was right away happy when somebody would tell me that I did very well.  [Both laugh]  And I was trusting more to a positive critic than to a negative one!  [More laughter]

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    We’ve been talking mostly about the masterworks of opera.  How can you bring the same intensity, or do you bring the same intensity to an opera which is, to put it mildly, not a masterwork?

NR-L:    It is possible.  I had to do this kind of work and find this kind of conviction because I sang so many modern operas.  Not all of them were really masterworks, but you can always find something positive about them because the effort of an artist
he might be a great artist or a small artistalways touches in some way the source of the spirituality, and by this you can always find any interesting answer to a character that you have to portray.

BD:    Did you enjoy doing twentieth century music?

NR-L:    Oh, yes, very much, and I will tell you why!  Of course sometimes doing the twentieth century music I was missing my great roles like Boris Godunov or Philip II or Don Giovanni or Mephistophélès, but at the same time, sometimes I was so disgusted that every bass who would sing those roles would always be
a revelation.  I never heard about any bass who started to sing Boris without being acclaimed as the heir to Chaliapin.  Everybody was the new Chaliapin, and it wasn’t true.   With all due respect to all of my colleagues, some of whom were very good, but they had nothing to do with Chaliapin because they didn’t even have the idea of approaching what Chaliapin did in this role.  So I was ready for many other roles and many other happenings in the theater.  I was tired of thinking always I had to be confronted with everybody who does Boris, everybody who does Philip, everybody who does Giovanni.  So I always happy to say I will do something now that has no tradition behind it, like Thomas Becket.

Assassinio nella cattedrale (Murder in the Cathedral) is an opera in two acts and an intermezzo by the Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968). The libretto is an adaptation by the composer of an Italian translation of T.S. Eliot's play Murder in the Cathedral. The opera was first performed at La Scala, Milan on 1 March 1958 with Nicola Rossi-Lemeni as Thomas Becket. Also in the cast were Leyla Gencer, Aldo Bertocci, Dino Dondi, and Nicola Zaccaria. It was broadcast on RAI the following December again with Rossi-Lemeni, and the following year in Montreal.  It was given in Vienna in 1960 with Hans Hotter as Becket and conducted by Karajan. In 2006 it would be performed and filmed with Ruggero Raimondi, and in 2013 it would be staged with Ferruccio Furlanetto.


But I did so many others, too!  In 1967 I sang Il Gattopardo (The Leopard), an opera composed by Angelo Musco (1925-69), a Sicilian who died, unfortunately, very soon after this.  The opera is based on the great novel [published in 1958] by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa [(1896-1957), the last Prince of Lampedusa].  It has been done also on an award-winning movie [1963, directed by Luchino Visconti, starring Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale].  He did a very interesting opera, and I was so enchanted representing this character.

Palermo. On December 19 the world premiere of Angelo Musco's Il Gattopardo (The Leopard), with libretto by Luigi Squarzina, was an eagerly anticipated event because of the popularity of Tomasi di Lampedusa's original novel and Luchino Visconti's film. At various press conferences the composer, whose score is published by Ricordi, illustrated how he had set about tackling this work — the recreation of the essential lines of development of the novel through its basic atmosphere and nature, relying above all on the memory to sort out the plot as scene succeeded scene. Listening to the opera has confirmed the nobility of Musco's intentions, but on the other hand stressed his failure to endow the opera with its own vitality and raison d'être. Il Gattopardo is not really an opera or melodramma; the music plays a frankly marginal role compared with the drama which Squarzina has adapted from the novel. The piece, in fact, seems to work, the libretto is well made, and the production (by Squarzina himself) avoids a mannered, Sicilian characterization, and so there is no local colour, no precise background except the timeless world of the memory. But much of the irony of the original is missing, and from Lampedusa's book, Squarzina has brought to the fore Concetta's unhappy love for Tancredi. 'The music is very judicious and discreet, like the sound track of a film — a kind of musical accompaniment to continuous recitative. It is eclectic in style and colour with obvious reminders of the French Impressionists, particularly of Ravel. The last scene of the opera is quite successful with its intelligently achieved effects of rueful comedy. The production was impressive, with a cast of 35, headed by Nicola Rossi-Lemeni who lent his strong personality to the role of Don Fabrizio Salina. In the absence of sustained lyrical writing for the voice, more emphasis was bound to fall on casting and acting. There were fine performances from Lydia Marimpietri (Concetta), Ottavio Garaventa (Tancredi), Guido Mazzini (Don Calogero Sedara) and Maria Bertoldi (Angelica). Squarzina's scrupulous, lively production was enhanced by Pier Luigi Pizzi's sets and costumes which suited the imaginary atmosphere of the opera. Angelo Musco skilfully conducted his own score, and in fact his passion for conducting has always matched his passion for the theatre.


Applause was certainly not lacking, not only at the first performance but also at the later ones and the opera scored a definite success. Next year it is expected that Il Gattopardo will be given in other theatres, and the San Carlo has apparently shown keen interest in Musco-s piece.

--  From a review in OPERA magazine by Luigi Bellingardi, May, 1968

Just to tell you another one, Wallenstein composed [1965] by [Mario] Zafred (1922-87), who actually is the President of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome.  Of course it’s an old story because it’s based on Schiller, but it was a new character, and it gave me so much interest.  Then a very modern opera, The View from the Bridge [Uno sguardo dal ponte] by Rossellini (1908-82), based on Arthur Miller’s play.

Uno sguardo dal ponte is an opera in two acts by composer Renzo Rossellini. The work uses an Italian language libretto by Gerardo Guerrieri which is based on Arthur Miller's play A View from the Bridge. The opera premiered at the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma on March 11, 1961 using a staging by Franco Rossellini, the composer's son. The premiere cast included Clara Petrella, Gianna Galli, Alfredo Kraus, Giuseppe Valdengo, and Nicola Rossi-Lemeni. The Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company presented the United States premiere of the opera on October 17, 1967 with Rossi-Lemeni as Eddie Carbone and Gloria Lane as Beatrice.


This is a very simple character of a workman, Eddie Carbone.  It was also fascinating to me because it presented to me some many new ideas.

BD:    Do opera houses today miss the boat by not doing more contemporary opera?

NR-L:    I think so, because if they perform something contemporary it’s always in a snobbish way.  It’s accepted that you know a new language in the musical field, but they don’t think about what has been really reached by new composers in the theatrical sense with, maybe, weaker operas, but they are always very, very important especially because of the text, because of the literary tradition.  I must say, I don’t want to be too much selfish and speak too much about myself, but unfortunately those roles that I created
like Eddie Carbone and Thomas Becket — are so difficult that nobody has done them after me! 

BD:    Did the composers write them too difficult for anyone to sing?

rossi-lemeniNR-L:    They wrote them thinking of me.  Thomas Becket was dedicated to me by Pizzetti and Carbone was dedicated to me by Rossellini.  They wrote them thinking of my vocal possibilities first of all.  So they are very much in the middle between baritone and bass.  They are a little bit too high for a bass and too low for a baritone, so it’s difficult to find a voice of this kind.  The basses are scared to perform these operas because they are afraid to be strangled in a way!  And for baritones they are too low.  So it was my special instrument that inspired those works, and at the same time the passion that I gave always to those portrayal of the character on stage.  This is something you are born with, so I don’t really want any merit about it.

BD:    But it’s special for you that these composers wrote around your talent and your specific ideas?

NR-L:    Yes, this I can also say that it’s true because I have letters that say the same thing.  But I don’t think that somebody else couldn’t do these things.  He only needs to be in love with the role, to fall in love with this role and to say this is a wonderful thing to do.  He must feel it is the best thing that he can do instead of always doing the same roles of the old repertoire.  For instance, now we are going to do the Murder in the Cathedral here in Bloomington, which is a very daring experiment.  They have two very good students who have the voice and the carriage of the role, and I have to work with them.  One of them is my student, but he’s so in love with the role since the beginning.  He has already read the play, and he’s tried to study it with me.  We didn’t have the translation in English, so he studied it in Italian just to get closer, to get more acquainted with the role.  The other singer has the vocal qualities and is a talented student, but he couldn’t care less.  I saw him two days ago and he hadn’t even looked at the role.  He’s not bewitched by the role.

BD:    Does he feel that it would be a waste of time to learn the role because he may never sing it again in his career?

NR-L:    Maybe that’s what he thinks, and this is an attitude we find also in many professional artists now.  They think it is new and they will never sing it again.  They prefer to sing once more Bohème, or whatever it is.  They are not falling in love really with the idea of creating something.

BD:    Speaking of Murder in the Cathedral, I have two different tapes with you.  One is conducted by Gavazzeni and the other is conducted by the composer.  How are these two performances different?

NR-L:    Gavazzeni was a very good conductor.  He’s still alive but he doesn’t conduct much now.

BD:    I was just wondering because sometimes you find that a composer doesn’t even find all the nuances in his own score.

NR-L:    Exactly, exactly.  This is something that always happens as long as I remember.  When Mascagni conducted his operas, he was terrible.  I heard this from people that were present at his performances.  He was always very slow, and didn’t give as much encouragement to the singers or to the passion of the drama as the conductors who came after him.  With Pizzetti, it was always almost more a reading of the score rather than a interpreting of the score.  But it was a very clear and very understandable, and a very interesting reading.  But everything else, the singers, the singing-actors, had to bring everything by himself.  Pizzetti wouldn’t give too much about this.  Pizzetti conducted it after the opera was created with Gavazzeni, so we were all prepared to give the best of ourselves without being so much urged and pushed by the conductor.  We were alert to the gestures of Pizzetti, but doing what we already learned thanks to the other work that we had previously.  With Gavazzeni it was very interesting because not only is he a musician, he wrote many books.  He’s a man of thoughts.  He’s a literate person, and so it was very interesting to work with him also on the text and all the intentions of the drama.

BD:    So really Gavazzeni could bring more than the composer?

NR-L:    Oh, yes!

BD:    Is this always the case?

NR-L:    We have talented conductors, yes.  I’m sure that Mariani conducted Verdi’s operas better than Verdi would have conducted them!  That is why Verdi was so enthusiastic about him.  Sometimes he was also not happy at all because of the interpretation of Mariani, and maybe sometimes he was going beyond the intentions of Verdi.  But still it was always attractive and encountering the sensitivity of the audience.

marianiAngelo Maurizio Gaspare Mariani (11 October 1821 – 13 June 1873) was an Italian opera conductor and composer. His work as a conductor drew praise from Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Gioachino Rossini and Richard Wagner, and he was a longtime personal friend of Verdi's, although they had a falling out towards the end of Mariani's life.

He claimed to have abolished the system whereby an opera orchestra was jointly conducted by a maestro concertatore at the cembalo and a violin-conductor.

He had his first great success with Giuseppe Verdi's I due Foscari (1846) and Nabucco (1847), both in Milan.  He conducted at least two world premieres (Verdi's Aroldo and Faccio's Amleto); and at least 4 Italian premieres (Meyerbeer's L'Africana, Verdi's Don Carlo, and Lohengrin and Tannhäuser by Wagner).

Despite Verdi's break with Mariani personally, he still had respect for him as a conductor, and he invited him to conduct the world premiere of Aïda in Cairo in December 1871. Mariani declined, saying he was not well enough to travel. This was indeed true, as he was already suffering symptoms of the cancer that would kill him less than two years later. However, it served only to further widen the rift between the two men.

BD:    What advice could you give to a composer who wants to write operas
either a young person or even an established one?

NR-L:    First of all, be aware of the problems of that very special, delicate and powerful instrument that is the human voice.  Do not write against the voice.  On the contrary, write for the best possibility that could be given to the human voice.

BD:    You don’t feel that the composers of today are taking advantage of the voice?

NR-L:    No, not at all.  They really don’t know the voices, or they ask too much from a voice.  And when they ask too much from a voice, this voice cannot be presented in the best way, under the best light.

BD:    They treat the voice like an instrument?

rossi-lemeniNR-L:    They treat the voice like an instrument without thinking there is a range that must be respected with a voice.  Then not only that, but you have to also to imagine one voice.  If you think of a baritone, not all the baritones are the same, so you must give a certain flexibility in your conception of the voice, thinking what one could do, another couldn’t do, and so to be always in the average of the esteem of what human voice can do. That is the first thing really, the respect and admiration for this wonderful instrument that is the human voice.  Generally they don’t have it, and many of the modern composers don’t have it at all.  They think they can just ask the voice to do any miracle, just a flutist can do if he’s talented, or a cellist or any other instruments.

BD:    Are you not optimistic about the future of operatic composition?

NR-L:    Not much.  Well, I’m optimistic in the sense that I think always miracles can happen, and that genius can be born in the future if we find the right solution!  But I’m not optimistic about what concerns the technical and routine approach to what the opera we can do today.  What the new stage directors do is find something new and something that might only astonish people, but not with the sensitive care for a fruitful message.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You’re working in Bloomington with operas in translation.  Does opera work in translation as a general rule?

NR-L:    No, as a general rule, not at all.  The music is too much tied to the text so that the translations are sometimes really awful.  But I’m not against translations generally speaking, because the translations can be done well.  But it must be done by somebody who also knows the music, respects the reason and the intensity of the expression of a voice on certain words and vowels; in other words, the construction of certain words.  If this can be taken care of, then it works all right.  When some operas are done well in translation, I’m not against it.  But when they are not well prepared, you can understand right away that the translator is not a musician, or is even translating from the language that is not the original.  Sometimes you find Russian operas are translated from the German text that are translated already from the Russian text.

BD:    So it’s translated from a translation?

NR-L:    Yes, exactly.  And by the way, as far as Murder in the Cathedral is concerned, Eliot was against a translation.  He said that he liked it very much, always accepting it as an Italian opera inspired by his play.  He didn’t want a libretto written in Italian and inspired by this play to be translated into English, thus being another version of something that would have been his play again.

BD:    So it’s not good then to refit the original English text into the music that was fit around the Italian?

NR-L:    Right, but this time we are in front of a special situation because the translation has been done following the original text.  So it’s well done.  The Italian language is the alias language.  There are only little changes because of the musical necessities.  But the original language is the right language, the earliest language, and it has power and it has the right expression for what it has to be done.  You will find problems with all the translations of French operas into any other language because French is a language that is really so musical by itself.  Many, many operas have been written in that language, and you cannot change them.  It’s so difficult to change.  I sang Faust in Italian and in French, but I think the Italian is horrible!  The French is so much more beautiful.  Take another French opera as an example, Louise by Charpentier.  Hearing Louise in a translation is a completely different opera.  By leaving it in the original French you have the spirit of what the composer wanted to do with it.

BD:    So doing an opera in a poor translation loses more than it gains by bringing the text to the audience?

NR-L:    Absolutely, absolutely.  The audiences today are sufficiently sophisticated that they can follow an opera
not an unknown opera, but an opera that is usually in the repertoire.  They would follow it very well without looking at the translation.  For instance, to hear Bohème in English is something outrageous!  They are going to give Bohème here in English, by the way, and next year we have a project to perform Sonnambula.

BD:    In English as well?

NR-L:    This is the problem.  I am so opposed to this because I say we want to perform an opera that is an example of bel canto.  The bel canto is so much tied to the language for which the composer wrote the music, it’s impossible to make it in translation.

BD:    Do you think what we have on the television is almost the ideal compromise
to sing it in the original with the little subtitles underneath on the screen?

NR-L:    I think this is a good idea.  This is maybe something that will be done here.  The powers that be are thinking of using subtitles somehow or other about the stage; I don’t know where.  But they’re trying to have the operas performed in the original language using this new idea.

BD:    We’re going to get this next fall here in Chicago, with La Rondine, so I will get to see them then.

rossi-lemeniNR-L:    This might work better than translations.  In Puccini, there is no phrase, no accent where a change is better.  Especially the accents are so important in the dramatic music that you cannot change a word.  If it does change, the placement of the musical accents are not in the right place with the words.  The same thing can be said about Mussorgsky.  What Mussorgsky created was this incredible inspiration from the spoken language.  For him the music was really created by the language, and he wrote about this very often.  He was trying to find out how he could express this language in music by being faithful to this spoken language.  This was the miracle that he did in Khovanshchina, and in The Fair of Sorochyntsi.  This is an opera that wasn’t finished.  You will find that the music is exactly the right music for the sense of the text.  [The opera was completed by several different people
— César Cui (1917), Nikolai Tcherepnin (1923), Nicolai Golovanov (1925), Vissarion Shebalin (1931), and Emil Cooper (1942).  The Shebalin version has been commercially recorded at least three times.]

BD:    Speaking of Mussorgsky, let me ask you about the role of Boris Godunov.  Is that perhaps your favorite role?

NR-L:    It’s very difficult to say which role is the favorite when you sang so many roles!  Of course, Boris Godunov is one of the roles that I am in love with, and I am so grateful for this role because he really built up my career more than others maybe.  I cannot say Boris Godunov is my favorite role because if I think of, for example, Thomas Becket or Philip II, or William Tell, or Don Giovanni...  And an opera that I love to perform which was to me really my greatest effort, was Macbeth by Ernest Bloch. 

BD:    Is there a comparison at all with the Verdi Macbeth?

NR-L:    No, there is no comparison because it’s a completely different approach to the text and to the idea of this tragedy.  It is really such a modern approach.  At the same time it is a work of a genius, so you cannot say it’s something that is not enough musical.  Verdi has his own conception, and he did a miracle with Macbeth because it was something so different from anything else he did before and maybe anything else he did after.  But in Bloch we have really the most possible perfect approach to a tragedy written by such a poet, with all the respect for the words for the text, and at the same time a lot of intention in the sense of the atmosphere that he had created with the music.  Ernest Bloch’s Macbeth is really the Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

BD:    If it is so perfect and so wonderful, why is it not better known

NR-L:    Because it’s more difficult!  It’s very difficult from the musical point of the view, from the point of view of the interpretation, and then it’s so intellectual.  Things that are too intellectual have not so much luck in the melodrama.  After all, the Verdi melodramas maybe have more value than those works that are less popular.  You’ll always find Rigoletto and Traviata and Trovatore very popular, and then you think about Macbeth.  Already it’s a little bit less well known.  Verdi was so much unhappy with the result of Don Carlo, but it really deserves one of the best efforts to create the musical drama rather than the melodrama.

BD:    Should Don Carlo be done in the original French (as Don Carlos)? 

NR-L:    Oh, this I cannot tell you because I never heard it in French.  I’m so used to the Italian, I think of Don Carlo only as an Italian opera.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Let me ask you about another great role of yours
— the Devil.

rossi-lemeniNR-L:    Oh!  [Laughs]  I adore the Devil!  I don’t worship the Devil, but I do have to perform it on stage. [Has a hearty laugh]

BD:    Does it give you a good feeling to show how evil the Devil is?

NR-L:    Yes, yes, it gives me a feeling of really being able to express myself in the most powerful way and in the most charismatic way, from the point of view of the colors I can give to the voice, the movements on the stage, and the ideas that are always so rich and inspiring about character.  It is really endlessly big and without any lid.

BD:    Is portraying the Devil almost a morality play?

NR-L:    Not portraying it in Gounod’s Faust.  That is more in the idea of commedia, of an opera giocosa in a way
apart from the scene of the church.  But when I speak about Mephistophélès, I’m always rather inclined to think of Boito’s Mefistophele.

BD:    Is that a better work?

NR-L:    It’s not a better work from the musical point of view but from the point of view of the intellectual approach to this cosmic idea of Mephisto, and of course closer to the greatest procession.  I think Boito’s was much, much more in the argument about the subject.  So I like very much the Boito Mefistophele because he really was so concerned about the image of this supreme power in the theological way.  When Mefistophele says,
I am the one who does the evil, serving the good, this is the great mysterious conception which is also the theological conception of those who think that evil must be present in our lives just as the good needs to be present.

BD:    How much of the Devil is there in Don Giovanni?

NR-L:    Oh, I don’t think there is the Devil in Don Giovanni.  No, I’m against this idea of presenting Don Giovanni in a kind of Mephistophelic way.  He’s not at all Mephistophelic; he’s simply careless.  He’s careless and brave, so he doesn’t care if he was meet an angel or the Devil himself.  For Don Giovanni they are two powers that maybe he will meet sometime at the end of his life, but he’s not scared of them in this life. 

BD:    Have you done some Wagner?

NR-L:    Only at the beginning of my career.  I sang Hermann the Landgrave in Tannhäuser and the King in Lohengrin.  It was a very positive experience because I had wonderful reviews.  But it wasn’t my area, really.  I like very much the role of Wotan, and I sang the Farewell many times, but in concerts only.  I never sang the entire role.  I’m always enchanted by the image of a role that I could sing, so I was, of course, very much attracted to the idea of performing Wotan.  But I don’t think I was the right voice for Wagner’s music.  I did what I did with pleasure and with interest, and I found that sometimes Wagner’s recitative is even more interesting than an aria in the Italian melodrama.  But at the same time, in a long run, Wagner’s roles really must be sung by those who are devoted to that special kind of singing.  I always say to my students that it is one thing to be a Wagnerian singer because you have the right voice, and then you train yourself for this.  But if you are only a Wagnerian singer, you will never be able to sing all the rest of the repertoire.  If you sing the entire repertoire with the right technique, which means the bel canto technique, you can also sing Wagner well if you have the right voice. 

BD:    Do you find that your students today have the right temperament to be great opera singers?

NR-L:    Very few.  For instance, I have a baritone who is black, and he has an extraordinary voice and an extraordinary instinct for Verdi’s phrasing.  He has it himself, and I developed it in him, and I demand from him this approach always.  He could really represent something very interesting and very new.  I have a very good bass who’s an American, and he also has great power and a beautiful voice.  He is one who will sing Thomas Becket, and I also have a lot of hope for him.  There are a few girls that are studying with my wife who are some very talented.  So there are a few that you can pick up here and there.  Then you can find good students that do well and you will think of them always, and if they are not doing careers, they will teach well probably.

BD:    You mentioned some men that are singing with you and some women that are singing with your wife.  Does it take a man to teach a man’s voice, and does it take a woman to teach a woman’s voice?

NR-L:    Not necessarily, no, no.  I also teach some girls, and my wife works with some men.  She prefers to teach tenors rather because she sang so much with tenors, and so she understands the tenors’ problems very well!  She can help them well.  I also understand the women’s problems.  I am lucky to have my wife close to me because what I can say to the women is always something they get out of the experience of my wife and what she tells me.  I have to be concerned about feminine voices, but the technique is always the same for any voice.  You have to add to the basic technique; you have to have your intuition for each voice as an individual voice because something can be easy for somebody and not easy for somebody else, and vice-versa.

BD:    So it’s really a human technique?

NR-L:    Oh, yes.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    We’ve not touched on one other aspect of your career, and that is the comic parts.  Did you enjoy playing comic roles?

rossi-lemeniNR-L:    Oh, yes, I enjoyed to play them.  I also hated them because really my nature is rather a dramatic and tragic one, but I always thought that you must show your ability really in doing the comic roles... although I enjoyed comic roles maybe in more a personal way.  I was really having fun on stage.  I thought always to be spontaneous and very inspired at the right moment.  I’ve done roles even like Don Basilio or Lunardo in The Four Ruffians [I Quatro Rusteghi] by Wolf-Ferrari.  Selim the Turk in The Turk in Italy by Rossini, for instance, was also one of the roles that I liked very much, but also because it was also an elegant role.  It was a buffo role but elegant role.  For the really, really buffo parts, I did them with the pleasure of doing something different, but not with the fulfillment of my desires!  [Laugh]

BD:    How do you keep a comic role from becoming slapstick?

NR-L:    It depends on your good taste!

BD:    Does that good taste still hold through for all roles?  I assume you have to bring good taste to everything.

NR-L:    Oh, I think so, yes.  This is very important.  Good taste means a sense of measure, to feel when something is overdone or not done enough.  To have a sense of measure is very important.  You are born with it, or you’re not born with it and you must develop it and have good people that can observe you and give you the right advice.

BD:    Do you feel that singers are born with voices but they have to develop their talent and techniques?

NR-L:    Oh, yes.  Sometimes it’s easy for them if they are born to be singers or born to be actors.  But if it is difficult, it doesn’t mean they cannot learn it.

BD:    When you were singing on stage did you ever have a piece of scenery fall on your head, or did you fall through a trap door, or anything like that?

NR-L:    [Laughs]  Not really, but always something can happen on stage.  I will just tell you about one time.  In Ernani, Ernani comes on stage.  All of a sudden opens the secret door and he sees his lady in company with two seducers!  So he’s furious.  Well, everything was arranged at La Scala, and the rehearsal went very well.  I had to go out from this secret door behind the tapestry.  I don’t know how it happened, but in the performance, when I opened the tapestry, this secret door, I found a chair in front of it.

BD:    A piece of scenery?

NR-L:    Not a piece of scenery, but an actual piece of furniture!  So it was embarrassing in the sense that it could really steal from me the effect of my entering from off-stage, but I resolved it very quickly because I was in the mood of that character.  This is so important to charge yourself in the wings, and be in the mood of the character.  You have to go on stage and be what you want to represent.  So it was very logical for me to kick this chair away.  So I kicked the chair away and they thought this was the right way to do it.  So then I did it in every other performance!  [Laughs]

BD:    So you kept it in?

NR-L:    Yes, I kept it in because it was a big effect!  Things like this can happen...  Maybe a crown can get stuck in a tapestry above you, and then you don’t know how to be able to go without leaving the crown hanging on the set.  So you find the gesture at the right moment, to do something and nobody notices!  Then there are these little jokes that your colleagues can do.  For instance, in Bohème it happens all the time... or at least in my time!  When I was very young, I performed Bohème with [Ferruccio] Tagliavini and [Enzo] Mascherini, all these crazy people.  So I would find my top hat full of water, for instance!  After that I would be careful by feeling the weight of the top hat, and not to put it on my head if it was too heavy!  [Both have a huge laugh]  Or, for instance when they saying good-bye, they should give you their hand but you find in your hand a leg!  [More laughter]  These little things that happen if you’re not present during what should be a tragedy on stage!

BD:    They are all being practical jokers!

NR-L:    Yes!

BD:    How do the different houses affect your vocal production?  What are the differences between La Scala or Chicago and the Met?

NR-L:    Sometimes you find the opera house in which you’re happy because you feel your voice.  You feel your voice going from you, projected, but then coming back to you, so you have a kind of a control on your sound.  These are the best opera houses.  Then in some opera houses are like death for your voice.  You feel that you’re singing well, and you know it, but you don’t know how much of this resonance is really getting across by the end.  I can say that in La Scala the voice is always very good, also in Rome, in Palermo, in and in Naples.   One of the theaters that I liked the most was the Colón in Buenos Aires.  It is the greatest theatre in the world.

BD:    Everybody seems to love that one.

NR-L:    Yes, and it was beautiful.  You have your voice projecting to the end of the hall, and then coming back to you.  You have the perfect control of the sound.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Are you very happy with the way your career has progressed so far?

NR-L:    Well, not always, not always.  I made some mistakes.  For instance, the wildest mistake was to renounce to go back to the Metropolitan after my first year.  This was only because I had such a wonderful offer in La Scala that I had to choose between La Scala and the Metropolitan.  I chose La Scala because I felt happier in such a theater that gave me so much.  I wasn’t so happy in New York because I felt a little bit lonely.  The ambiance in the Metropolitan was a kind of cold.

BD:    You mean the feeling backstage?


NR-L:    Yes.  So I said,
“Why should I be unhappy?  I could be so happy in Milan where I sing all my roles and everybody is always so warm to me.  So my second contract with the Metropolitan I sent back saying I had to do something in La Scala.  And it was a very good contract because it was Don Carlo and The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville.  But I decided to do it, and it was a mistake because then Metropolitan had Mr. Bing, and he told me, “I can send away a singer, but never will a singer just close the door to me!  So he was right because he never wanted me back.  Then another mistake was the first time that they proposed that I sing Don Giovanni.  It was in La Scala with Karajan conducting, so it was a very important moment.  But at the time I was still in my first years.  My experience was not completed, and I was singing already my big roles like Boris Godunov, and Mephistophélès in Faust, and Don Carlo.  I had started to learn Don Giovanni and I didn’t find myself at ease.  I speak about this very often to my students, how to be conscious about what you can do well or not.  You must not always be thinking of the advantage of a situation but also of your artistic conscience.  I didn’t find myself at my ease in Don Giovanni when I started to study it, and so I renounced that contract.

BD:    But then of course you found yourself at ease later on?

NR-L:    Then later on, yes.  Later on I discovered the secret that was in Don Giovanni.  The secret for singing Don Giovanni was not to use all the power of your voice; on the contrary, to find this free spirit kind of approach to the colors, of the joy and the easiness and lightness of your voice.   It took me some time to understand all this.

rossi-lemeniBD:    Is it best to understate the role?

NR-L:    Well, a little bit, also.  But at first it didn’t harm my career at La Scala because they wanted me for all the other roles.  But it really gave me some difficulties with Karajan for the future because Karajan said, You had this opportunity with me and you renounced it.  Well, to hell with you!  [Both laugh] 

BD:    But you had such a wonderful career!

NR-L:    Oh, well of course I did things that nobody else did apart from fantastic results in what I was singing everywhere in my normal repertoire.  But especially in the modern repertoire, it was extraordinary what I could create, what I could find in new operas.  It was the climate for me always everywhere, so I sang everywhere in North and South America and in Europe, everywhere.  I remember especially the performance at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow because I was announced there as a famous singer from La Scala, so everybody was expecting to hear an Italian singer.  But when I started, from the first phrase I sang in Russian
which is my second language, or maybe the first, I don’t know — and it was such a surprise.  Really I could feel that all the theater was taking a long breath after my first words in Russian, and I had an extraordinary greeting there after the opera.  They called me to the proscenium forty-eight times.  They wouldn’t leave the theater.  It was an extraordinary experience.  What was interesting was that the Russian people who came to me said to me, “You are singing in Pushkin’s Russian!

BD:    That was an extraordinary compliment!

NR-L:    Oh, certainly.  I was so happy about this.  On another occasion, just jumping from one place to another, when I sang Boris Godunov in Mexico, it was the first time that they performed Boris Godunov there.  They told me that a local critic wrote that the history of music in Mexico must be divided in two periods
before Boris Godunov and after Boris Godunov with Rossi-Lemeni!  When I finished my first performance, the orchestra stood up and they played a salute, a kind of hymn, and they do not do that for anybody.  So it was such a very big satisfaction.

BD:    I’m so glad that you’re continuing with your teaching so that you bring all of this to the young people.

NR-L:    I hope so.  I do my best, and I’m very happy at this university.  It is a great university, and they really have so much to offer.  What is amazing is this opera season that they can perform here with the very great things. 

BD:    Let me just thank you so very, very much for all of your reminiscences, and for your career!

It’s a pleasure.  Thank you for being so interesting.  I’m glad to talk about this, and I hope to hear from you again.  If you decide to come here, do let me know because if there is a difficulty for you to stay, I can offer you hospitality.


© 1985 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded on the telephone on January 19, 1985.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1990, 1995 and 2000.  This transcription was made in 2016, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.