Extracts from Rigoletto, Gianni Schicchi and Tosca, all three filmed by the BBC at the height of Tito Gobbi's operatic career, at a time when he was in demand internationally and in particular at Covent Garden.
This programme was released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of his birth in October 2013. Many viewers will be familiar with the programmes as they were originally broadcast in 1966 as part of the Great Characters in Opera TV series produced by Patricia Foy for the BBC, comprising 7 hour-long programmes. Gobbi's portrayal of the three roles featured on this programme leaves the viewer in no doubt as to why he was so popular on screen (he had appeared in approximately 25 films by the time of his death in 1984).
Gobbi performed the role of Rigoletto on stage more than 400 times during his career – he showed a deep understanding of the role and of all parts he sang, immersing himself totally in the characters and the history and traditions of the period, going so far as to sketch postures and movements as he imagined the soul of each individual.
'I wanted to understand what the character was feeling, how he laughed and how he wept, his feelings as a jester, and also as a man and a father. I thought a great deal about every single action and phrase because I needed to know him completely to "become" him. Each time I sang this role I lived and suffered his tremendous tragedy.' (Tito Gobbi on his role as Rigoletto)
Gobbi spent 30 years refining his interpretation and understanding of Gianni Schicchi. He first performed in this opera as Betto di Signa in 1939 and went on to sing the title role, working tirelessly and with typical dedication to improve his understanding of the character over the years. He eventually directed the opera in Munich in 1982.
Gobbi famously sang the role of Scarpia in the 1964 production of Tosca directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Callas sang the title role, with Act II shown on British television to great acclaim (the archive is also available on medici.tv). Gobbi was closely associated with the role of Scarpia, not least because he performed the opera some 900 times, singing Scarpia for the first time in 1939.
This programme provides an exceptional account of a remarkable singer and actor's portrayal of three Major operatic roles that featured highly throughout his distinguished career.