Giorgio Tozzi made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Alvise in La Gioconda in 1955, where he sang leading bass roles for twenty-one seasons (38 roles in 34 operas): the Verdi canon from Nabucco to Don Carlo (Philip) and Aïda; Mozart's Don Giovanni and Nozze di Figaro; Rossini's Barbiere (Basilio); Wagner's Dutchman, Parsifal, and Meistersinger (Pogner and Hans Sachs). From the sixty roles in his repertoire, other favorite portrayels were of Méphistophélès, Boris Godunov, Raimondo, and King Marke. He also created the role of the Doctor in Barber's Vanessa, also starring Eleanor Steber and Nicolai Gedda.
He was born in Chicago, January 8, 1923, and, following the war years, studied voice in Chicago and Milan. He made his La Scala debut in 1953 in Catalani's La Wally, and during his career, performed major bass roles in many opera houses, including Palermo, Florence, Genoa, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Salzburg, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas and Boston. Andrew Farkas notes "I saw Mr.Tozzi in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and at the Met as Daland, Sachs, Basilio, Marke, Méphistophélès, Sparafucile, Old Convict, King Philip, and (Count Walter in Luisa) Miller. He was a very great stage artist and a fine singer. His King Marke was noble and moving, his Daland deeply human and humerous, and his bumbling Basilio extraordinarily funny."
Mr. Tozzi received three Grammy awards for his recorded performances in Nozze di Figaro, 1959, Turandot, 1960, and Aïda, 1962. His masterful portrayel of Hans Sachs is preserved in Joachim Hess's 1971 film of the Hamburg Staatsoper production of Meistersinger. Mr. Tozzi also enjoyed performing in musical theatre, starring in regional productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Man of La Mancha, and Fanny. He also starred opposite Mary Martin in a revival of South Pacific in San Francisco, and supplied the soundtrack voice of Emile DeBecque in the movie version of that show. In 1979, he received a Tony nomination for his performance in the title role of the revival production of The Most Happy Fella.
During his career at the Metropolitan, he also taught voice at the Juilliard School of Music. In 1991, he became a professor of voice at the Indiana School of Music at Bloomington, and retired in 2006 as distinguished professor emeritus of voice, where he held an endowed chair. He died in Bloomington on May 30, 2011.
Björling fans have treasured Mr. Tozzi's contributions to Jussi's complete recordings, from La
Bohème to Turandot, as well as the great Reiner-led recording of Verdi's Requiem, with both men (as well as Leontyne Price and Rosalind Elias) in top vocal form. He was a close personal friend to Jussi, and brought a broad perspective to the JB Society. Giorgio and his wife, Monte, attended the 2001 JB Conference in St. Peter, Minnesota, where he participated in a panel discussion. He was also recognized by the Society with a special presentation on his career.