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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cesare Siepi (1923-2010)

The great Italian bass Cesare Siepi has passed away. He was 87.

Posessed with a cavernous voice and a magnetic stage presence, Mr. Siepi was well known for his portrayals of the Devil in Mefistofele and Faust, as well as key bass roles in Mozart's comic operas. He sang over 400 performances at the Met.

His best-remembered Mozart roles include Don Giovanni. Mr. Siepi appeared in that role at the Metropolitan Opera and recorded the opera twice. The first, on EMI with Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting, is a notable reading of the score in fine mono sound. The latter, made in a Vienna studio with Josef Krips on the podium, is one of the best Don Giovannis in the catalogue.

Other notable recordings featuring Mr. Siepi include a fine version of Mefistofele with Renata Tebaldi and Mario del Monaco, and a recently-reissued recital disc on Decca. His repertory ran the gamut of great bass roles, including the title role in Boris Godunov, King Philip in Don Carlo, and Padre Guardiano in La Forza del Destino. A memorable recording of the latter opera, also featuring Ms. Tebaldi and Mr. del Monaco, is currently available.

Mr. Siepi died at a hospital in Atlanta, according to the Washington Post. The cause was respiratory failure brought on by a stroke.
Cesare Siepi as Don Giovanni. Photo © Metropolitan Opera Archives

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