The bond between Renata Tebaldi and Parma started off rather early.
Although born in Pesaro on 1 February 1922, the future famous soprano spent her entire childhood in Langhirano, Parma.
At the age of 17, she began studying and singing at the Arrigo Boito Conservatory in Parma.
A path that, despite being her mother against a future on the stage for her, allowed her to be already performing on Regio Theatre’s stage in 1945.
It was the beginning of a love story between the sapphire-eyed soprano and the velvet voice, and the Parmesan music lovers, who will always call her, simply, Renata.
"Voice of an angel": this is how Arturo Toscanini defined it in 1946, after having conducted her in Verdi's "Te Deum" for the reopening concert of La Scala in Milan, putting his seal on the career of one of the most famous opera voices in the world.
Some time later, the arrival in Italian theatres and in particular at La Scala, of another famous singer, Maria Callas, gave rise to a rivalry which Renata decided to escape from, agreeing to work in the United States. The overseas public immediately followed her in large numbers, so much so that she was affectionately called "Miss Sold Out".
Her poodle, New II, also became very popular. He was used to accompany her vocalizations with whines (obviously in tune), which Renata performed to warm her voice up before going on stage.
Renata conquered America, who rewarded her with a star on the Hollywood "Walk of Fame".
Her last performance at the Regio Theatre in Parma was in 1962. She sang La Bohème, directed by Arturo Basile, one of her troublesome loves.
The third act, when the soprano sings the agony of abandonment, definitively conquered the audience of Parma. The personal stories of the artist emerged in the song, touching the hearts of the entire theatre.
After a year of resting time, Tebaldi returned to the stage right at the Met.
Not only did her ancient rival Maria Callas send her a telegram of encouragement but, at the end of the show, she went behind the scenes to greet her.
A gesture that marked the definitive reconciliation between the two divas.
Her farewell to the stage was a triumph too. It took place in 1976 at La Scala, with an unforgettable charity concert in support of the earthquake victims of Friuli.
A woman of great class, during her life she collected photos, jewels, clothes, memories of an extraordinary career: they are now housed in the "Renata Tebaldi" Museum, at the Villa Pallavicino Stables, Busseto. The hometown of Giuseppe Verdi, who she loved so much.
Music, opera, passions that have deep roots in our territory. If you want to know more, find out about our itineraries MUSICAL WALKS IN THE CITY or VERDIAN ITINERARIES
Conceived, according to his own words, between adventures of his father, a Garibaldian soldier, Arturo Alessandro Toscanini was born on March 25, 1867. His prodigious memory and extraordinary musical ear earned him admission to the Royal School of Music (the current Arrigo Boito Conservatory) in Parma.
Serious, tireless in studying, he reacts to the iron discipline of the Conservatory with memorable jokes such as "the mockery of the moustache" when together with some of his classmates he cuts off the moustache of the hated tutor who is peacefully sleeping in the common room.
Toscanini grew up musically in Parma where, for obvious geographical reasons, Verdi music was mainly played.
On the Christmas night of 1883, Parma hosted the first Italian performance of Wagner's Lohengrin. For the student Toscanini, who attended the show from the orchestra as a cellist, it was love at first sight, or rather, first ear. The novelty and originality of this new music made Arturo take an unshakable decision: he would never compose again. The spectators at the Teatro Regio in Parma were divided into two opposing factions: for and against Wagner. In any case Toscanini's musical career will be deeply marked by both composers.
Verdi's Aida is his first orchestral direction, an occasional debut. He went on tour to Brazil as a cellist when he was only 19 years old and had to replace the conductor who was challenged by the orchestra members who did not think he was good enough. He took the podium in Rio De Janeiro and conducted by heart. It was a triumph.
The return home means a return to the role of cellist and to Verdi, for whom he plays at the premiere of Otello at La Scala. The rigor in execution, that the Maestro demanded under Toscanini's eyes, will become one of his characteristic feature as a conductor. A rigor obtained in a very energetic way. It is said that, when his American orchestra made mistakes, Toscanini would start screaming in English to switch to Italian and then end up, furiously, in Parma dialect.
He interrupts his collaboration with the Wagner Festival of Bayreuth, despite being the only non-German musician invited, for political reasons. To the telegram of Hitler that in 1933 exhorts him to remain he answers: 'With you, never'.
He began his carreer with Verdi and ended it with Wagner. On April 4, 1954 Toscanini falters on the podium while conducting the New York NBC orchestra, he covers his eyes with one hand, he continues but is unable to complete the Prelude of Tannhauser.
After 68 years of an extraordinary career, the time had come to rest.
For total immersion in Verdi’s places, we can walk in the Master’s steps starting with his birthplace at Roncole and the nearby Church of Saint Michael the Archangel where Verdi was baptised, continuing towards the Verdi Theatre, inaugurated on August 15, 1868, in the Pallavicino Busseto Castle, and the splendid Villa Sant’Agata which preserves intact the rooms containing the Master’s furniture and souvenirs.
For true music enthusiasts, the trip begins in Parma with a Musical Promenade that lets you explore the musical history of the city by choosing these steps: Regio Theatre, Farnese Theatre, Opera Museum, and Arturo Toscanini’s birthplace.
Other significant places, which can be included in a two-day itinerary in Busseto, are:
The Verdi Museum in Villa Pallavicino
The Convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli