Dino Borgioli (1891-1960) was an Italian lyric tenor who enjoyed an international career during the period between the two world wars. Born in Florence, he discovered his voice at an early age but initially had no intention of becoming a singer. Borgioli’s parents decided that he should pursue a career as a lawyer. Honoring their wishes, the young man dutifully enrolled in law school. However, Borgioli had always garnered a great deal of attention for his singing and decided to abandon the courtroom for a career on the opera stage. He left school and, quite literally, ran away from home to pursue vocal studies with celebrated teacher Eugenio Giacchetti. Giacchetti, who managed to reconcile his pupil with his worried parents, took charge of the young man’s training and guided him toward a successful singing career. Following an intense period of study, Borgioli made his operatic debut as Arturo in I Puritani at Milan’s Teatro Corso in 1914. Owing to the success of this debut, Borgioli was sought by other theaters, including Milan’s Teatro dal Verme, the Costanzi in Rome and the San Carlo in Naples, before arriving at La Scala in 1918. The role for his La Scala debut was Ernesto in Don Pasquale. The conductor was Arturo Toscanini, who nurtured the young singer, giving him encouragement and advice.
Borgioli’s international career was soon in full swing, with appearances in Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, Monte Carlo, Paris, Brussels, Zurich, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles and Chicago. He performed with Nellie Melba’s opera tour of Australia in 1924 and was a particular favorite in London, where he made his Covent Garden debut in 1925 as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor. His North American debut came about in 1932 when he sang Cavaradossi to Claudia Muzio’s Tosca at the opening of San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House. This much heralded event was also broadcast over the airwaves to the homes of delighted opera fans. Borgioli couldn’t manage to gain a foothold with New York audiences, though, and his one and only season at the Metropolitan was over in less than a month. His debut as Rodolfo in La Bohème on New Year’s Eve, 1934, failed to impress critics. Borgioli sang exactly three performances of three roles…des Grieux in Manon, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni and the aforementioned Rodolfo…before bidding farewell to the Met in a January 27, 1935 concert. Cutting his losses, Borgioli returned to Europe where he made a favorable impression in Salzburg (having already debuted there in 1931). Here, he sang Ottavio and Fenton in Falstaff under the baton of his old colleague Toscanini. Borgioli was also invited to Glyndebourne in 1937, where he spent the next two seasons. He settled in London in 1939 and when war broke out in Europe, he decided to abandon the operatic stage. Borgioli did, however, continue to perform in concert and oratorio for the next decade and proved to be quite an effective recitalist. The veteran tenor also established himself as a teacher of the first rank and spent the next two decades coaching young singers. Borgioli also was appointed vocal director of the New Opera Company of London in 1949. During the 1950s, he returned to his native Florence where he died in 1960 at the age of 69.
Dino Borgioli remains a sadly underrated artist. Although he possessed a somewhat light grained instrument, he was a consummate musical artist, eloquent interpreter and a very fine actor. His repertoire encompassed a variety of roles including Elvino in La Sonnambula, Nemorino in L’Elisir d’Amore, Fernando in La Favorita, Ramiro in La Cenerentola, Dmitri in Boris Godunov, Alfredo in La Traviata, The Duke in Rigoletto, and the title roles in L’Amico Fritz and Faust. Borgioli’s recorded legacy is impressive, with dozens of discs (including complete recordings of Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Rigoletto) made for Columbia between 1922 and 1935. In this recording, Borgioli sings "Adieu, Mignon, courage" (or "Addio, Mignon, fa core" in its Italian translation) from Thomas' Mignon. This was recorded n Milan for Columbia in 1923.