With a voice described variously as "oaken," "solid," and "sonorous," Bonaldo Giaiotti spent a quarter century as a reliable artist at the Metropolitan Opera. Elsewhere, too, his firm, handsome basso cantante was deployed most often in static roles: high priests, fathers, and characters whose function is as much ceremonial as dramatic. His voice recorded well and he was often engaged for important studio assignments. He survived a misdiagnosis regarding the condition of his vocal chords that might have impaired or even ended his career to reformulate his voice production and continue as a reassuring presence on numerous stages in Europe and America. As late as 1996, his King Phillip II for the New Jersey Opera won critical commendation for style and finely crafted singing, despite an instrument inevitably showing the effects of four decades before the public.
Giaiotti's family held no professional musicians, but Bonaldo, like his father, had a fine voice and sang in church until he was 12. Eight years later, his vocal gift came to the attention of a local choral director who began to train his voice. After two years of studies, he went to Milan, where he worked with Alfredo Starno before making his debut at Milan's Teatro Nuovo in 1957 in La bohème and Manon. The impact of his strong, firm voice assured him increasingly important assignments in theaters throughout Italy over the next several years and, in 1959, he made his American debut at Cincinnati performing Rossini's Don Basilio.
Giaiotti's Metropolitan Opera debut in the relatively minor role of the High Priest in Verdi's Nabucco on October 24, 1960, soon led to more important assignments in that theater. Faust, Turandot, Ernani, Luisa Miller, Don Carlos, La forza del Destino, and Lohengrin were among those works in which the bass achieved his greatest successes. Among these, his Timur in Turandot was heard most often. By 1963, however, a faulty technique that tended to constrict his throat began to cause vocal fatigue, threatening a crisis just as his reputation was growing. Only with the advice of several colleagues and throat specialists and much experimentation was Giaiotti able to construct for himself a foundation for free and consistent singing, one that carried him forward through a long career, into the 1990s. He died in June 2018 in Milan.
Giaiotti enjoyed considerable success in Vienna where, over a number of seasons, he appeared in Aida, Don Carlos, Il barbieri di Siviglia, and Faust. His first appearance at La Scala came as bass soloist in Verdi's Manzoni Requiem under Claudio Abbado. A 1986 La Scala production of La sonnambula directed by Gavazzeni won Giaiotti numerous plaudits. Earlier, he had been called upon to open the 1963 season at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in a production of Verdi's I masnadieri, returning for Nabucco and Rossini's Mosé in 1977. In 1973, the bass participated in the reopening of the Teatro Regio in Turin, singing Procida in Verdi's I vespri Siciliani. Palermo, Verona, Buenos Aires, and Tokyo were other venues that heard Giaiotti during the years of his prime.
A number of Giaiotti's core roles were recorded in the studio, while others were captured in live performance. Among the former are Padre Guardiano, Count Walter in Luisa Miller, and the Father in Mascagni's Iris. His Timur was featured in the Nilsson/Corelli Turandot recorded by EMI.