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Giuseppe Di Stefano (1921 - 2008)

Born into a poor family at Motta Sant’Anastasia near Catania in Sicily, Giuseppe Di Stefano entered a seminary in 1934. After three years, a fellow student encouraged him to take singing lessons and he subsequently became a pupil of Luigi Montesanto and Mariano Stabile, who emphasized the importance of clear diction. In 1938 Di Stefano won a singing competition in Florence but his career was interrupted briefly by the outbreak of war in 1939. He was conscripted into the Italian army, but being seen as of greater value as a singer than a soldier, he was discharged and earned a precarious living as a singer of popular songs in Milan, performing under the name of Nino Florio. Following the German defeat in Italy, Di Stefano escaped to Switzerland, where he was briefly interned before being taken up as a tenor by Radio Lausanne. Here his repertoire extended from popular songs to complete operas.

After the end of the war, Di Stefano returned to Italy and made his official stage debut in 1946 at Reggio Emilia as Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon. In 1947 he took the same role at La Scala, Milan, where he enjoyed immediate success. His American debut came in 1948 as the Duke in Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York and was quickly followed by appearances in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.



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