Cesare Siepi


by Alice Lechner
May 14, 2020


Cesare Siepi was born in Milan on February 10th 1923. He was an Italian opera singer, considered one of the finest basses of the post-war period. A deep, warm timbre, a full, resonant, wide-ranging lower register, characterised his voice. Although renowned as a Verdian bass, his tall, striking presence and the elegance of phrasing made him a natural for the role of Don Giovanni. Siepi’s repertoire encompassed Italian and German opera. His voice was described as a basso cantante, a „singing bass“ with a higher range than other basses.

Born in Milan, he began singing as a member of a madrigal group at 14 and made his concert debut at 17. He often claimed to have been largely self-taught, having attended the music conservatory in his home city for a short time.

He made his stage debut as early as 1941 as Sparafucile in Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi at Schio, near Vicenza. After that, he fled to Switzerland in 1943 to avoid being conscripted by the Nazi occupying forces.

After the end of the war, his career immediately took off. Siepi resumed his career, singing Silva in Verdi’s Ernani at La Fenice in Venice. In 1946 he sang Zaccaria in Verdi’s Nabucco at the re-opening of La Scala, where he continued to sing for many years.

In 1947, Siepi sang in the first performance of Pizzetti’s L’oro and, the following year, took part in the 30-year memorial celebrations of the death of Arrigo Boito, singing the title role of the composer’s Mefistofele and Simon Mago in Nerone, conducted by Toscanini. In the same year, his international career took off. So, in 1947 he sang at the Liceu in Barcelona in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, but his reputation was established in 1950 when Sir Rudolf Bing brought him to the Metropolitan Opera in New York to open the 1950 season as King Philip II in Don Carlos. He remained principal bass at the Metropolitan Opera until 1974, adding roles such as Boris Godunov and Gurnemanz (Parsifal by Richard Wagner).

In 1953, Siepi debuted at the Salzburg Festival with a legendary production of Don Giovanni conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler, staged by Herbert Graf, and designed by Clemens Holzmeister. He made a huge impact in the opera title role, which perhaps became his best-known role. 

In 1962 Siepi sang Don Giovanni and Philip II at Covent Garden. His Don Giovanni was elegant and attractive as well as sinister and, occasionally, frightening, while as Philip, he expressed the authority of the King and the man’s loneliness in equal measure.

He was a frequent guest at the Vienna State Opera. In 43 performances, he sang Don Giovanni more often than any other singer in modern times (except Eberhard Wachter).

In 1967, Siepi was Don Giovanni in a controversially received production staged by Otto Schenk and designed by Luciano Damiani that showed Mozart’s masterpiece in the light of the commedia dell’arte, emphasizing the comic and ironic elements of this opera.

In Vienna, he also sang Basilio (Il Barbiere di Siviglia by G.Rossini), Colline (La Bohème me by G.Puccini), Fiesc (Simon Boccanegra by G.Verdi), Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro by W.A.Mozart), Padre Guardiano (La forza del destino by G.Verdi in 1947 in a new production conducted by Riccardo Muti), Gurnemanz (Parsifal by R.Wagner), Mephistopheles (Faust by C.Gound), Filippo II (Don Carlos by G.Verdi) and Ramphis (Aida by G.Verdi). His final performance in Vienna was in Norma (in the role of Oroveso) at the Austria Centre Vienna in 1994.

He was a particularly fine recital artist, especially in Community Concerts under Columbia Artist Management, and a sensitive interpreter of German Lieder. Siepi sang in 1986 at a recital at UCLA, where he performed pieces by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and others.

“He sings easily and tastefully with a voice that has become extinct. He is a true basso“, wrote Bernheimer in a review.

Siepi enjoyed a long career and performed regularly until the 1980s, including lead roles in the ill-fated Broadway musicals Bravo Giovanni! and Carmelina

Siepi’s formal farewell to the operatic stage occurred at the Teatro Carani in Sassuolo on April 21st, 1989.

He died in Atlanta, Georgia on July 5th, 2010.


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Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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