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Biography

Ettore Bastianini (September 24, 1922–January 25, 1967) was an Italian opera singer who began his professional career as a bass, then earned worldwide acclaim as a baritone, particularly in Verdi roles, before dying of throat cancer at the age of forty-four.

Born in Siena, he began his public singing career as a boy soprano with that city’s Coro della Metropolitana, performing at such events as the annual Palio. His teacher was Gaetano Vanni. After serving in the Italian Air Force toward the end of World War II, Bastianini began his professional career. On January 28, 1945, he made his debut as a soloist in a concert at the Teatro Rex in Siena, singing the bass arias "Vecchia zimarra" from Puccini’s La bohème and "La Calunnia" from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia. In November of that year, he made his operatic debut as Colline in La bohème at Ravenna.

On April 24, 1948, Bastianini made his La Scala debut as Teiresias in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex. For the next three years he sang in a variety of bass roles throughout Italy, as well as in Cairo, Alexandria, and Caracas. In April of 1951, at Turin’s Teatro Alfieri, he sang his last performance as a bass, in the same role with which he had begun his operatic career–Colline. Believing that his voice was suited to the baritone repertoire, and encouraged by his teacher, Luciano Bettarini, Bastianini left the stage for seven months to work on his technique.

He made his debut as a baritone on January 17, 1952, in Siena, as Germont in Verdi’s La traviata. His performance was not well received, and he left the stage again for a period of intense vocal exercise to secure the top of his voice. Upon his return, he performed as Rigoletto in Siena and as Amonasro in Pescara and scored a particular triumph in his return to the role of Germont in Bologna.

Bastianini made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Germont on December 5, 1953, opposite Licia Albanese and Richard Tucker. On May 10, 1954, he made his debut as a baritone at La Scala, as Eugene Onegin opposite Renata Tebaldi.

On May 28, 1955, Bastianini appeared opposite Maria Callas and Giuseppe di Stefano in La Scala’s legendary production of La traviata, designed by Luchino Visconti and conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini.

Later, his singing career was severely affected by throat cancer (according to some critics, his voice became drier and lacked of body). He didn't tell anyone but his family and some very close friends. Despite his illness, he went on singing, and was eventually booed in Met after a performance of "Tosca" (singing Scarpia). His last operatic appearance was in Verdi's "Don Carlo" (as Posa) , in the Met. on 11 December 1965. He died on 25 January, 1967 and was buried in Siena. There is a street named after his name.

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