• 1923 — 1998
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Though not possessing the vocal opulence associated with other star baritones of his era, Renato Capecchi was no vocal underachiever, and his feel for the Italian language and searching musical intellect made him one of the most valued singers of his time. His recorded performance of Verdi's Rigoletto, which, while missing the sheer vocal thrill of those by Leonard Warren or Sherrill Milnes, nonetheless stands with the best for its mastery of the role's subtleties and dramatic truth. Likewise, as Rossini's Figaro, he captured both the quicksilver and pragmatic sides of that buoyant character. Capecchi's repertory was huge, encompassing hundreds of roles; as the years passed, he increasingly concentrated on the buffo parts, and eventually undertook directorial assignments, allowing him to share his theatrical fluency with other singers.
Following studies in Lausanne and Milan (where he trained with Ubaldo Carozzi), Capecchi debuted as Amonasro (Verdi's Aida) at Reggio Emilia in 1949. The very next year, he began an association with La Scala and, shortly thereafter, he was engaged by the Metropolitan Opera, making his debut in New York on November 24, 1951, as the elder Germont in La traviata. He remained on the roster there until 1954, and returned in 1975 as both singer and stage director. Meanwhile, he made his way on the concert stage, singing, for example, Lorenzo Perosi's La passione di Christo with the Wiener Singakademie at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (October 1, 1953).
Capecchi sang numerous contemporary operas, including the premieres of Malipiero's La donna è mobile and Ghedini's Billy Budd and Lord Inferno. As late as 1988, he created the part of the Maestro di Cappella in Sylvano Bussotti's L'ispirazione at the premiere in Florence. He also participated in the Italian premieres of two twentieth-century Russian operas: Prokofiev's War and Peace (performed in 1953, the year of the composer's death), and Shostakovich's The Nose (1964) -- one of those prickly, satirical works that caused the composer so much political grief.
Melitone in La forza del destino, an interpretation preserved in its early form on EMI's 1954 recording with Maria Callas and Richard Tucker, served as Capecchi's debut role at Covent Garden in 1962; in the same year he sang Mozart's Figaro at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Capecchi's Dulcamara, Gianni Schicchi, and Bartolo became equally expert, and his Falstaff was a genuine hit at the Glyndebourne Festival in both 1977 and 1980.
Teaching was accorded a growing place among Capecchi's activities long before his stage performances diminished. Numerous conservatories and studios throughout America and Europe engaged him for master classes and seminars, and he enjoyed success in producing programs for television. Among his most memorable recorded performances are his aforementioned Melitone, his Iago to Mario del Monaco's Moor (Verdi's Otello), his Gianni Schicchi, and his Manfredo in Montemezzi's L'amore dei tre re.