Adieu Giorgio Tozzi
What can I tell you about Giorgio Tozzi that you don’t already know? If you are an opera buff, the name alone means “golden age,” so what could I possibly say about him that has not been said, written or spoken somewhere?
Maestro (that is what I called him since the day I met him) was one of the sweetest men I ever met. I had the honor of being in his presence for the first time in September 1993, when as a first year graduate student at IU I had been cast as Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor; he happened to be the director. Me, being young, immature and not well informed, had no idea who Giorgio Tozzi was. That’s when I went into a little reading spree and realized what a lucky little bastard I was. I was in the presence of one of the most gifted American Bassos of his generation.
From then on, I was starstruck and to the day I left IU, I never stopped being starstruck by him. Maestro was incredibly supportive, there was not one general audition that he didn’t come to me to talk to me and provide me with feedback and words of encouragement. Even in my darkest moments, I could count on Maestro to brighten up my day and make me feel I counted. Even though I never spent one day as his student, he never stopped being my mentor, because he never stopped being like a guardian angel, ready with a word of encouragement whether needed or not.
As special as this man was, the greatest moment I spent in his presence, was not in private, but where he belonged. IU was doing a production of Fidler on the Roof and somehow coaxed him out of retirement to sing the role of Tevye. The popularity of the show pretty much guaranteed sold out performances and when it came to it, I could not get a ticket, so the only way I could see the show was as an usher. Sitting on the stairs of orchestra section, I experienced the art of Giorgio Tozzi, the man in his element and the element within this man. I still had tears in my eyes when I went to greet him in the green room after the performance. Now that will be my favorite memory of him, as Tevye, as he extends his hand to the fiddler at the end of the show and slowly walks off followed by him.
Now the Maestro is dead. Not only has opera lost one of its luminaries, we have lost a friend, a mentor, a guardian angel, a smile, a joke, a hug; shit, we’ve lost maestro. Our lives are a little less sunny and our singing a bit sadder; we have lost Maestro.
Luckily for us, Giorgio Tozzi and his legacy live beyond his recording or South Pacific. Thankfully, RCA had his artistry at their disposition and they used him in several sets where his aristocratic sound gave life to more than one father, soldier, king or confidante. Those recordings are easily accessible and downloading them at iTunes or Amazon is a piece of cake.
What is not a piece of cake to find are some of the recordings he made for MORC, including his Boris and his extended highlights of Nozze di Figaro. Thanks to the tenacity and love of collector extraordinaire Mike Richter, those were preserved in his CD-Rom dedicated to the MORC and for those who would like to experience Tozzi in his absolute prime, here he is first as Boris and then as Figaro. Thanks to Mike as well, we can experience Tozzi as Figaro’s nemesis in a performance of Il Barbiere di Siviglia from Teatro Colon in 1969.
I think it would be all to easy to past here several of his performances available on YouTube, but instead of that, I am going to use someone else’s voice and music. I am going to let Leonora in La Forza del destino be the one to send you off, dear Maestro, as you start your journey to eternity:
La vergine degli angeli ti copra del suo manto
E te protegga vigile Di dio l’angelo santo
May the Queen Angels cover you with her mantle,
and vigilantly protect you the holy angel of God.
Thank you Maestro Tozzi. We love you and we will miss you.