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Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi, leading Verdi interpreter, dies at age 90

Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi is pictured in Cannes, France on Jan. 19, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Lionel Cironneau

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Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi is pictured in Cannes, France on Jan. 19, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Lionel Cironneau

MILAN - Italian tenor Carlo Bergonzi, considered one of the most authoritative interpreters of Verdi's operas, has died at the age of 90.

The Italian Auxologic Institute in Milan on Monday confirmed Bergonzi's death on Friday. No cause was given.

Born in the province of Parma not far from Verdi's hometown, Bergonzi started his studies at age 16 as a baritone, only to discover later that his musical gifts lay in the tenor range. Bergonzi served in World War II in an anti-aircraft artillery unit, and was interned in a German forced labour camp for three years.

Bergonzi's international career took off after his 1956 debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he sang the role of Radames in Verdi's Aida. His Met career spanned 32 years and 22 roles.

The Met recalled in a tribute that Bergonzi "was particularly praised for the beauty and warmth of his singing and for his elegant attention to style and phrasing."

He also sang nine seasons at La Scala in Milan and 21 seasons at the Arena open-air summer theatre in Verona.

Bergonzi ended his artistic career in 1995, devoting himself to teaching singing. For his 90th birthday on July 12, the town of Giuseppe Verdi's birth dedicated a concert by the Italian Philharmonic Orchestra to Bergonzi.

He is survived by his wife Adele and the couple's two sons, Maurizio, born on the same day Bergonzi made his debut as a tenor, and Marco.

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