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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 December, 2004, 10:43 GMT
Opera singer Renata Tebaldi dies
Renata Tebaldi
Tebaldi made her debut in 1944
Italian opera singer Renata Tebaldi, who was a great rival to Maria Callas, has died aged 82.

Tebaldi died on Sunday at her home in San Marino after a period of illness, her doctor said.

Born in Pesaro, she made her debut in 1944 but her career took off after performing at a concert to mark the re-opening of La Scala, Milan, in 1946.

She sang at the great opera houses of the world but retired in the 1970s due to problems with her vocal chords.

The only daughter of a violin teacher, she entered the Parma Conservatory at the age of 15.

She made her professional debut as Elena in Mefistofele, Rovigo, in 1944.

Italian voices

Renata Tebaldi
Tebaldi was best known for her role as Desdemona
She was chosen by conductor Arturo Toscanini to sing at the re-opening celebration concert at La Scala, which had been shut during World War II, perfoming the soprano part in Giuseppe Verdi's Te Deum.

Toscanini said she had the "voice of an angel".

Paying tribute, Luciano Pavarotti, said she was also "an angelic person".

"Farewell, Renata, your memory and your voice will be etched on my heart forever," he said.

La Scala music director Riccardo Muti praised Tebaldi as "one of the greatest performers with one of the most extraordinary voices in the field of opera."

At Venice's La Fenice theater, the audience observed a minute of silence in her memory.


Tebaldi joined the La Scala company in 1946 and stayed with them until 1954.

She said one of her favourite roles was Desdemona in Otello because it was ideal for her personality.

La Scala, Milan
Tebaldi's career took off after a concert at La Scala
"I started singing when I was a young girl but my family wanted me to study piano but my overwhelming need to express myself with my voice made me choose the art of singing," she once told her fans.

She was considered to have one of the most beautiful Italian voices of the last century.

She made many recordings, most notably as Aida, Desdemona, Mimi, Tosca, Maddalena, and most notably as Leonora in a live recording of La forza del destino from Naples in 1958.

At the height of her career she was always seen as a great rival to Maria Callas, and the opera world was split into two camps.

In 1950, Callas' competitive attitude toward Tebaldi had already begun.

When Tebaldi did not quite succeed in her first La Traviata at the Milan theatre, Callas called her a "poor thing".

"I started my career at 22 and finished it at 54. Thirty-two years of success, satisfaction and sacrifices. Singing was my life's scope to the point that I could never have a family," she wrote in a preface to her official website.

She gave her final performance on the opera stage in 1973, and her last concert took place in 1976.

Tebaldi was a Knight Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic and had received a Commander, Order of Arts and Letters from France.

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