Jacob's Ladder: People...You Are The Reason I Am...

Renata Tebaldi   

"I know that my voice has entered into the hearts of many people and has caused beautiful reactions. Some, hearing me sing, have become more religious; some who were ill felt joy; friends, while in hospital, played my tapes whenever they felt ill; they all said that my voice gave them the strength needed to stand the pain. Therefore, how can I not be thankful for this great gift?" - Renata Tebaldi (1922-2004)

Opera singer Renata Tebaldi passed away on Sunday, December 19, 2004.

Italian opera singer Renata Tebaldi has died aged 82. She was born in Pesaro , the same town as Rossini, on Italy 's Adriatic coast. She was mainly brought up in Parma by her mother and only went back to Pesaro to study. Her father, a cellist, left the family home when Renata was an infant and returned only briefly. However, contact between father and daughter was re-established very late in his life. Her mother remained a major influence, and companion, until her death in 1957.

Tebaldi's first success was at the Pesaro Conservatory with an aria from Catalani's La Wally , an opera she was later to make famous. Her stage debut was in 1944 but her career only 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. 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, performing the soprano part in Giuseppe Verdi's Te Deum. Toscanini said she had the "voice of an angel".

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. "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 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.

"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, at La Scala in 1976.

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