Operatic bass Giorgio Tozzi dies in Indiana at 88

June 4, 2011 - 12:58 AM

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Award-winning opera singer Giorgio Tozzi has died in Bloomington, Ind. He was 88.

Tozzi died on Monday, Linda Holmstrom of Day Funeral Home said Friday. His son, Eric Tozzi, told The New York Times that his father died of a heart attack.

Born in Chicago in 1923, Tozzi grew up to become one of opera's most recognized bass voices. He won four Grammy awards.

"He was a renaissance man," said a friend, Roger Havranek, emeritus voice professor at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. "He knew everything from art to politics. He was very common — he did not have the ego of all the 'stars.'"

Havranek said he last saw Tozzi a week ago while the singer was in the hospital battling pneumonia before being transferred to a rehabilitation center.

Tozzi sang with New York's Metropolitan Opera from 1954 to 1974, featuring in 399 performances of 37 roles, including Boris in "Boris Godunov;" Ramfis in "Aida;" Figaro in "The Marriage of Figaro;" Don Basilio in "Barber of Seville;" Philip II in "Don Carlo;" and Hans Sachs in "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg."

He also performed with La Scala in Milan; Teatro Reale in Rome; Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires; the National Theater in Munich; and the San Francisco Opera.

He starred on stage in musicals including "South Pacific," ''Fiddler on the Roof," and "Man of La Mancha," and appeared on a variety of television shows in the 1970s and 1980s. According to the Internet Movie Database, Tozzi's voice was dubbed in the role of Emile de Becque in the 1958 film version of "South Pacific."

Tozzi appeared as a soloist with the orchestras of New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, San Francisco, London and several European ensembles.

Tozzi retired from Indiana University in 2006 after teaching voice there for 15 years.

A World War II U.S. Army veteran, Tozzi is survived by his wife, a son and daughter, and three grandchildren.

The funeral service is scheduled for Saturday at the Day Funeral Home in Bloomington, with a burial to follow in Clear Creek Cemetery.