Ettore Bastianini was born on the 24th of September 1922 in Siena in the district ("contrada") called Pantera (the Panther), and he died in Sirmione on Lake Garda on the 25th of January 1967. He was son of an unknown father and his mother was all he had of any importance in this world. He voice was naturally very beautiful and he started right after world war two a short carrer as a bass. He wasn't going anywhere really, but one day he was convinced by his teacher Maestro Luciano Bettarini to try to study for six months as a baritone. It was 1951 and he was 29. He was very poor though, and he couldn't afford to pay for the lessons, but his teacher said to him that he would have paid him later when he would have been rich and famous, and that's exactly what happened!
He was so poor that he had to shave himself with the same razor for a whole week, because he couldn't even afford to buy new razors! It didn't take long to get to his debut as a baritone in his Siena on January 1952 and then, that same year, on December at the Teatro Comunale in Florence in "The queen of spades" by Tciaikovskij. In 1953 he sang in Turin in "Andrea Chenier" and then, on December of that same year, he was already at the Metropolitan Theatre of New York in "Traviata" where he received an ovation after his aria!!! His voice was so beautiful that was compared to bronze and velvet because it was powerful but soft at the same time.
He was on his way then to a great carrer, going from triumph to triumph, and in 1955 he was at La Scala in Milan in the legendary Visconti production of "Traviata" with Maria Callas and Giulini as conductor. He would sing then, in his short but very intense carrer (just over 10 years), for the Teatro alla Scala in 20 different operas as the principal baritone. He became then the principal baritone of the most important theatres of the world: La Scala, Vienna Staatsoper and New York apart from frequent performances in all the others including London, Salzburg, Chicago...
Then, just when in 1962, he thought he had found finally the woman of his life, a young girl called Manuela, the terrible condamn to death in Chicago: cancer in the throath! He never said anything to anyone and he kept for himself the horrible secret. His dear mother had died in that same period and he was alone. He said to his girlfriend that he couldn't go on with her anymore without telling her why. He kept going with his carrer but he had to undergo the terrible radiations because he had refused to have an operation that, if it might have made him live until old age, he would have taken away, on the other hand, his main reason to live: the artistic expression of singing.
Of course his voice wasn't the same anymore but nobody knew why, and eventually the inevitable happened: he got booed at La Scala in "Rigoletto" as his voice wasn't responding anymore to the orders of his will. A sad decline followed and the only happy moment was the victory of his district "The Panther" in the horse race of Siena "Il Palio" while he was President and Captain. In the pictures in this page you can see Ettore in triumph after the victory and with the winning horse. He bought the horse afterwards and he called him "Ettore", of course.Then sorrow and pain came back and the great theatres one after another finished the contracts with him. Destiny wanted that the last scene he sang in 1965 in the three greatest theatres of Vienna, Milan and New York was the death scene of Marquis of Posa in "Don Carlo" by Verdi, the noble role he had sung so well in the past...
Public, critics, his colleagues and everybody in the opera world wondered about this misterious decline of a singer just over 40 years old who had been so good before, and it was with surprise and sorrow that the news of his illness was received, when he was already about to die. He died in Sirmione on the 25th of January 1967 at only 44 and it was for pure coincidence that the girl he had loved, Manuela, the one he had wanted to leave 5 years before, the one he had never seen anymore since, the one who even had married in the meantime, was the only one there with him when he gave his last breath. Two days later all the town of Siena was there for his funeral. He received the honours of Captain of the "Contrada della Pantera" and it was the procedure of a funeral of State. When the funeral passed close to one of the openings on Piazza del Campo, the coffin was turned toward the Tower of Mangia for a last goodbye as the bell of the Palazzo Comunale stroked death tolls.
The memory of his Art has never died though. It goes
on alive all over the world among the REAL music lovers, the people who study
it , who sing it, who listen to it, who goes to the theatre hoping desperately
to find something decent among the too many CARDBOARD
VOICES around, especially male singers. It is really SAD that the wonderful
art of opera singing is drowning into oblivion and one of the reasons is definetely
the fact that there are too many singers with NO BALLS, if you get my drift...and
if anybody among you is offended by my opinion, that's simply the proof that
I am right! Ettore Bastianini will always live in our memory.