De Italiaanse operazanger Gianfranco Cecchele viert vandaag zijn tachtigste verjaardag.

Gianfranco Cecchele was born in Padua. Even as a child he showed a precocious interest in opera and operatic singing. His interest was steadfast and by 1963, when he was 25 years old, he decided to give it a try, and took some voice lessons. His teachers were impressed with his vocal potential and in the same year he won a singing contest organized by the Teatro Nuovo in Milan. His debut followed quickly at the Teatro Bellini in Catania, in a relatively obscure work, a one-act pastoral poem by Giuseppe Mulè entitled La Zolfara. However, possessed of a heroic voice, he quickly (within the same year, actually) moved on to La Scala to sing no less than the leading role in Wagner’s Rienzi! Next— and this is all in 1964 —on to Rome and Aida. Clearly, this young tenor with a stentorian voice was making a quick and powerful impression on audiences and critics alike. In rapid succession he accumulated a repertoire that included, in addition to Rienzi and Rhadames, Don Carlo, Turridu, Don Alvaro and Calaf. In the following year he appeared at the Paris Opera, with Maria Callas, in Norma. It is hard to imagine a more rapid rise in a very demanding repertoire, and that of course was a double-edged sword. He was, after all, only in his 20’s! His reputation spread throughout Europe and he gave 241 performances between 1964 and 1969. Of course, the inevitable happened, and toward the end of the period, around ’67 and ’68, he seriously strained his voice, causing vocal inflammation. Too many big roles too quickly. He had to quit singing entirely at that point, at least for a while, to undergo a long and painful recuperation from swollen and seriously strained vocal musculature. He temporarily dropped off the map, so to speak, and not much was heard of him. After a few years, however, he was re-establishing himself, and adding some less demanding roles to his repertoire and singing less often, having learned the lesson that many tenors do. Op die manier bracht John Boeren van Lyrica hem op 26 oktober 1991 naar het Gentse ICC voor een concertante versie van de Cavalleria Rusticana. Gianfranco Cecchele was daarin een typisch ouderwetse showing-off Turiddu begeleid door het Symfonisch Jeugdorkest Londerzeel o.l.v. Peter Himpe. Hij ging zelfs zozeer in zijn show op dat hij zelfs een knieval deed voor Santuzza – of viel hij toch gewoon van het trapje?

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