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Gianna Pederzini

“Gianna Pederzini had personality and charisma and was a great artist. Her voice was beautiful: round and dark. When I sang Carmen with her, in 1953, she was no longer young, but she still had an exceptional figure. She had strong eyes, green, the color of steel. She was a beautiful woman—beautiful face, beautiful nose, the most beautiful legs in opera. She knew how to be beautiful and to impose her beauty in the theater. She was a real woman. I was lost in her arms.”—Franco Corelli, discreetly, in the presence of his wife, on the radio program “Opera Fanatic,” July 20, 1991

“Pederzini [was] one of the best mezzos of my whole experience. Hers was not perhaps one of the greatest vocal organs, but she used it splendidly and had a beautiful vocal intensity on stage which made her performances riveting—a sort of shiver would run through the house and the whole audience would go tense.”—Tito Gobbi, My Life

Pederzini’s private life excited considerable attention. Breaking up with her husband she became the mistress of a fascist bigshot, the notoriously brutal Roberto Farinacci, before whom all Italy trembled. On July 28, 1945, he was shot to death by partisans and, according to newspaper accounts, so was she. For a time she continued her career in Argentina, to huge acclaim. In Italy she took up with a professor who wanted to marry her but couldn’t because she was still married. He married another and raised a family but continued with Pederzini.

Mussolini had spied on Farinacci. When transcripts of his conversations with Pederzini were published, in 1979, they became a topic of TV talk shows. Here is an extract from a 1932 call, quoted from Harvey Sachs’s Music in Fascist Italy:

RF: Must I throw myself at your feet to see you again?

GP: Yes.

RF: If I do that, I’ll make myself even more ridiculous. . . . So only if I prostrate myself will you do it. . . .

GP: The fact is that we get along on one point only: the one created by Mother Nature. There it’s divine, perfect. But there is no other area.

RF: And I thought I’d found a soul, not just a body! But I’ll make you pay for this. I’m the one who’s suffering today, but tomorrow . . .

GP: Phoning you was a mistake.

RF: You humiliate me every time you talk to me, you slap me, and you don’t justify yourself for what you’ve done to me.

GP: I don’t have to justify anything.

RF: What? You’ve led me by the nose countless times! Everybody knows it now. And this torments me, it distresses me. My God, how you make me suffer! No one would dare to do to me what you’ve done to me.

GP: I haven’t done anything to you.

RF: Drop dead, you miserable wretch.

Gianna Pederzini (1900-1988) was celebrated not only for her singing but also for her acting and for her allure.

A student of Fernando De Lucia, Pederzini was noted for Carmen (she was buried in her fourth-act costume), Mignon, Amneris, Santuzza, Rosa (Arlesiana), Charlotte, Fedora, Madame Flora (The Medium), also for the trouser roles Cherubino and Octavian. Although she said she was “born for verismo,” she was renowned for the leads in Italiana, Barbiere and Cenerentola and created roles in Dialogues des Carmélites and Pizzetti’s Vanna Lupa, among a number of others. She sang in many radio broadcasts and made a considerable quantity of records. Her career, which lasted from 1923-1960, was based at the Rome Opera and extended to Milan, London, Berlin and Buenos Aires. —Stefan Zucker

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