Valletti, Cesare

Italian tenor, 1921 - 2000

Biographical notes:

Born in Rome as son of a physician, he studied with the legendary Tito Schipa and made his debut in Bari as Alfredo in La Traviata in 1947. He gradually built up his lyric repertory and appeared in smaller opera houses throughout Italy. He deputed as Fenton at La Scala in 1950. In the same year he was invited to sing in Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia opposite Maria Callas and Mariano Stabile. He triumphed as Elvino in Bellini’s La Sonnambula opposite Maria Callas (1955). conducted by Leonard Bernstein. His U.S. debut took place in San Francisco (1953) where he sang his first Werther. In 1958 he partnered Maria Callas again in a stunning performance of La Traviata at Covent Garden. Don Ottavio, Ernesto, Alfredo, Ferrando, des Grieux, Nemorino, Lindoro and Don Ottavio were considered to be his finest achievements and he sang them in all the world’s leading opera houses. He was a regular guest at the Festivals of Glyndebourne, Aix-en-Provence, Verona and at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino where he sang in a variety of operas such as La Donna del Lago, Idomeneo and La Gazza Ladra. Valletti’s career at the Met lasted until 1960 (he had sung 79 appearances and another 35 with the company elsewhere within two seasons!), when General manager Rudolf Bing removed him from the cast of a new production of L’Elisir d’Amore.  Offers by the Met inviting him to reappear were turned down. Valletti was admired at the Salzburg Festival where he sang not only Don Ottavio but gave also fine song recitals (also in German and French). He gave up his career in 1968, his last role was Nerone in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea at the Caramoor Festival. After retirement, he was invited by his father-in-law to join the family business and he eventually became one of its directors.  Valletti was married to a granddaughter of Ildebrando Pizzetti, Italian composer of a variety of operas (the best-known is Assassino nella Cattedrale). Cesare Valletti died of a heart attack while under treatment for liver cancer.


As Nemorino (courtesy of Charles B. Mintzer)


As Don Ottavio (courtesy of Charles B. Mintzer)



Bellini - La Sonnambula (Bernstein 1955 live/Callas, Modesti)


Berlioz - L’Enfance du Christ (Münch 1956/Kopleff, Souzay, Tozzi)


Cimarosa - Il Matrimonio segreto (Wolf-Ferrari 1950/Noni, Simionato, Bruscantini, Ornella)

Fonit Cetra

Donizetti - Don Pasquale (Rossi 1952 RAI/Bruscantini, Noni, Borriello)


Donizetti - L’Elisir d’Amore (Gavazzeni 1952/Noni, Poli, Bruscantini, Rizzoli)

Fonit Cetra

Donizetti - La Fille du Régiment (1950 RAI/Corsi, Bruscantini, Pagliughi)

Fonit Cetra

Donizetti - Linda di Chamounix (Serafin 1956/Stella, Barbieri, Valletti, de Palma, Taddei, Capecchi, Modesti)


Mascagni - L’Amico Fritz (Gui 1953 RAI/Carteri, Tagliabue, Corsi)


Massenet - Werther (Cellini 1956 live/Rankin, Cosenza)


Mozart- La Betulia liberata KV 118 (Rossi 1954 live/Pirazzini, Christoff, Schwarzkopf)

Nuova Era

Mozart - Don Giovanni (Rudolf 1953/Taddei, Tajo, Curtis Verna, Gavazzi)

Fonit Cetra

Mozart - Don Giovanni (Leinsdorf 1960/Siepi, Corena, L. Price, Ratti)


Puccini - La Bohème (Santini 1952/Carteri, Taddei, Siepi, Latinucci)


Puccini - Madame Butterfly (Leinsdorf 1957/Moffo, Elias, Cesari)


Rossini - Il Barbiere di Siviglia (de Sabata 1952 live/Bechi, Gatta, Luise, Rossi-Lemeni)

Nuova Era

Rossini - Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Leinsdorf/1958/Merrill, Peters, Corena, Tozzi)


Rossini - La Cenerentola (Rossi RAI 1954/Simionato, DalamangasMeletti, Susca, Rovero, Truccato)

Fonit Cetra

Rossini - L’Italiana in Algeri (Giulini 1954/Simionato, Petri, Cortis, Sciutti, Masini)


Verdi - Falstaff (de Sabata 1951 live/Stabile, Silveri, Tabaldi, Noni, Elmo)

Nuova Era

Verdi - La Traviata (de Fabritiis 1951 live/Callas, Taddei)


Wolf-Ferrari - I Quattro Rusteghi (Votto 1954 live/Rossi-Lemeni, Elmo, Carteri, Ligabue)

Fonit Cetra

Incontri memorabili Vol. 12 (+ Renata Tebaldi and Fedora Barbieri)

Fonit Cetra

Incontri memorabili Vol. 30 (+ Mara Coleva)

Fonit Cetra

Met - 100 Singers



As Ferrando


Maria Callas and Cesare Valletti in  “La Sonnambula” at La Scala, 1955


Although Valletti was a student of Tito Schipa (from whom he undoubtedly learnt some of the graces of production and interpretation), he was in some aspects a counterpart to his coach. Unlike Schipa who chose “Italian Café” music in his later recording sessions, Valletti’s recordings included not only opera but also sensitive and “worthy” songs of German, French and Italian composers.

Valletti’s was a light but flexible tenor voice of Italianate lyricism and a rare beauty of tone. His timbre was not as “sweet” as that of Tito Schipa, Ferruccio Tagliavini or Beniamino Gigli, but he was the most accomplished technician of them all. He was one of the first tenors to insist on the reinstatement of Almaviva’s Rondo Cessa di più resistere at the end of The Barber of Seville, the Rossinian tenors of our days take this extremely difficult aria as a matter of course...

I like this artist in live recordings in which he sounds less “studied” than in the studio recordings. Bellini’s La Sonnambula, conducted by Bernstein, is a great moment of opera. All singers, the conductor and the orchestra are entirely committed to Bellini’s work. Callas and Valletti manage to give us a full portrait of Amina and Elvino by their superb singing (and not by personal or vocal arrogance).

Valletti’s beautiful song recordings have unfortunately not yet been relased on CD.

 O amore, o bella luce del core (Title role in L’Amico Fritz / Mascagni / Gui 1953 live / Bongiovanni)


Roberta Peters (Rosina) and Cesare Valletti (Lindoro) in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”



My warmest thanks to Charles B. Mintzer