Tancredi Pasero


Born: January 11, 1893 Died: February 17, 1983
One of Italy's three great basses of the period between WWI and WWII, Tancredi Pasero possessed a noble basso cantante bearing a greater resemblance to Ezio Pinza's grand instrument than to the brazen, massive sound of Nazzareno de Angelis. Slightly softer in timbre than Pinza's granitic voice, Pasero's basso was at the service of a distinguished musical mind and a regal presence. Singing into his sixties, Pasero showed little evidence of his incessant smoking (he had an assistant awaiting him in the wings with a lit cigarette at most performances). Several complete recordings were made capturing his most famous roles with the leading singers of the day and have continued to be available to new generations of listeners.

A student of Arturo Pessina, Pasero made his debut in 1917 at Turin's Politeama Chiarella. His role was the King in Verdi's Aida. In 1924, he appeared for the first time at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (where he continued to sing for the next six seasons) and at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. His La Scala debut came in 1926, when his Filippo II introduced him to an audience he would address almost without interruption until 1951.

Pasero's Metropolitan Opera debut took place on November 1, 1929, as Alvise in La gioconda. Described as "well-schooled," he moved into roles earlier sung by Polish bass Adamo Didur, roles encompassing Ferrando in Il trovatore, Don Pedro in L'Africaine, Padre Guardiano, Colline, and Oroveso. Despite comparisons with Pinza during his four seasons at the Metropolitan, Pasero's Guardiano was found "sturdy," though his Leporello opposite Pinza's Don Giovanni was described as "lumbering." Undoubtedly, the presence of Pinza, who was rising to star status, prevented Pasero from achieving the recognition he might otherwise have been accorded. He remained in New York for just four seasons. London first heard Pasero in 1931 when his June 1 Guardiano demonstrated to the Covent Garden audience an "impressive voice." Good notices notwithstanding, Pasero sang only that single role in a single season in London. Aside from an appearance in Paris during the 1935 season, Pasero concentrated his work in his native country, becoming regarded as Italy's primo basso.

Pasero's singing was sufficiently well-documented in his recordings to allow a thorough appreciation of his art. A sense of dignity and restraint informs such roles as Padre Guardiano, committed to disc in 1941 with a still unsurpassed cast, including Maria Caniglia, Galliano Masini, Ebe Stignani, and Carlo Tagliabue under Gino Marinuzzi's galvanizing direction. Likewise, his authoritative Oroveso, recorded four years earlier with Gina Cigna, Francesco Merli, and Stignani, offers a lesson in legato singing. In the 1943 recording of Un ballo in maschera with Caniglia and Gigli, Pasero brings the short but important role of Samuel into sharp focus. Although Pasero's Ramfis is well-represented on his 1946 recording of Aida with Caniglia, Gigli, and Stignani, everyone else was disturbingly off-form: splendid voices all, but caught during a bad patch. Pasero's voice was wide enough in compass to do justice to deep bass roles such as Sarastro and to bass baritone parts such as Escamillo. In the later years of his career, he gained a positive reputation for his Boris Godunov, often appearing with such rising basses as Boris Christoff and Nicola Rossi-Lemeni filling the roles of Pimen and Varlaam.