Italo Tajo

25.04.1915 - 28.03.1993


Italo Tajo (April 25, 1915 – March 28, 1993) was an Italian operatic bass, particularly associated with Mozart and Rossini roles.

Tajo was born in Pinerolo, Piedmont, and studied violin and voice at the Music Conservatory of Turin with Nilde Stichi-Bertozzi. He made his stage debut in 1935, as Fafner (Das Rheingold), under Fritz Busch. At Busch's invitation, he followed him to Glyndebourne, where he became a member of the chorus, also appearing in comprimario roles.

In 1939, he was back in Italy, where he became a member of the Rome Opera, in 1942 taking part in the Italian premiere of Berg's Wozzeck. In 1940, he joined the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, where he sang regularly until 1956. He appeared with the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in 1942, as Leporello in Don Giovanni, a role he would sing numerous times during his career.

The war over, his career quickly took an international turn, with debuts in Paris, London, Edinburgh and Buenos Aires. In 1946, he made his debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and 1948 saw his debut at both the San Francisco Opera and Metropolitan Opera in New York (Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville, with Giuseppe Valdengo); his roles there included Figaro, Leporello, Don Basilio, Dulcamara, Don Pasquale, Gianni Schicchi, etc.

Although he made a specialty of comic roles, he sang a fair number of serious roles, notably Verdi's Attila and Banco, and Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. He also created Samuel in Darius Milhaud's David, as well as roles in operas by Berio, Lualdi, Malipiero and Nono. In 1953 he appeared at the Teatro Comunale Florence as Count Rostov and Field-Marshal Kutuzov in the near-complete Italian-language première of Prokofiev's War and Peace.

In 1957, he took over from Ezio Pinza the role of Emile de Becque in the musical South Pacific on Broadway, later also appearing in Kiss Me, Kate.

In 1966, he began teaching at the University of Cincinnati, where he was largely responsible for the establishment of an opera workshop. He continued singing until well into his seventies, mostly in character roles such as Geronte, Benoit, Alcindoro, and the Sacristan. His last stage appearance was in 1991.

Tajo made relatively few recordings, the most famous being the 1950 RCA Rigoletto, with Leonard Warren, Erna Berger and Jan Peerce, conducted by Renato Cellini. He also recorded The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni for Cetra. He can also be heard in live broadcasts of Macbeth, opposite Maria Callas, conducted by Victor de Sabata; and the Florence War and Peace.

He appears as Don Pasquale in Donizetti's opera of the same name, in a film (May 21, 1955) with the orchestra and choir of the RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana), released as a Hardy Classic Video (DVD).

In the late 1940s, he appeared in film versions of The Barber of Seville, L'elisir d'amore, and Lucia di Lammermoor.

He died in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the age of 78. 

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