Felice Varesi


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(b Calais, 1813; d Milan, 13 March 1889). Italian baritone. He made his début in 1834 at Varese as Cardenio in Gaetano Donizetti's Il furioso all'isola di San Domingo, then for six years sang throughout Italy, mainly in operas by Donizetti. He first appeared at La Scala in 1841 as Publio in Saverio Mercadante's La vestale, then sang in Luigi Ricci's Le nozze di Figaro, the first performance of Federico Ricci's Corrado d'Altamura, Giovanni Pacini's Saffo and the first performance of Alessandro Nini's Odalisa (1842). He sang Sir Riccardo Forth in I puritani at the Teatro Apollo, Rome, in 1842, having sung Sir Giorgio in the same opera five years earlier at Faenza. A frequent visitor to the Kärntnertortheater, Vienna, he created Antonio in Linda di Chamounix (1842) there, and also appeared in Donizetti's Alina, regina di Golconda (1843), Roberto Devereux (1844) and Maria Padilla (1847). His first Verdi roles were Carlo in Ernani at Padua (1844) and the Doge in I due Foscari at Bergamo (1845). He created the title role of Macbeth at Florence in 1847, then sang Francesco in I masnadieri (1849) and Alphonse in La favorite (1850) at the S Carlo, Naples, and Malatesta in Don Pasquale at the Argentina, Rome (1850). He took part in two Verdi premières at La Fenice, Venice, singing Rigoletto (1851) and Giorgio Germont (1853). He appeared in Madrid (1856–7) and made his London début in 1864 at Her Majesty's Theatre as Rigoletto. Varesi was a prototype of the modern dramatic baritone who evolved from the operas of Donizetti and of early and middle-period Verdi. Although he made a powerful Macbeth, Rigoletto was undoubtedly his finest role; his singing of ‘Si vendetta’ always aroused enormous enthusiasm and was invariably encored; he neither understood nor liked the part of Germont. His daughter was the singer Elena Boccabadati-Varesi.

From The Grove Book of Opera Singers in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Opera.

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