János B. Nagy (1940-2007) was a gifted Hungarian tenor who was popular on European stages during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Born in the village of Pocsaj in Hungary’s Derecskei district, Nagy studied at Budapest’s Bela Bartok Secondary School in the early 1960s. In 1963, he joined the ranks of the Honvéd Male Choir, where he appeared as a soloist for the next few years. From 1967 until 1971, he was a member of the State Folk Ensemble. Upon leaving the group, Nagy joined the ensemble of the Hungarian State Opera, where he was cast in a trio of comprimario roles…the Messenger in Aïda, First Soldier in L’Incoronazione di Poppea and the Italian Singer in Der Rosenkavalier. However, the company’s management, perhaps seeing star potential in the fledgling tenor, postponed his appearance in these smaller parts in favor of Don José in Bizet’s Carmen. Following his debut, other parts came in quick succession…Narraboth in Salome, Cassio in Otello, Macduff in Macbeth and the Duke in Rigoletto.
Nagy’s big spinto tenor seemed to favor Verdi roles such as Oronte in I Lombardi, Manrico in Il Trovatore, Radames in Aïda, Riccardo in Un Ballo in Maschera, Don Alvaro in La Forza del Destino and the title roles in Ernani, Don Carlo and Otello. In all, Nagy’s repertoire contained just over thirty roles from such operas as Tosca, Manon Lescaut, Turandot, Il Tabarro, Norma, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Adriana Lecouvreur, Andrea Chénier, La Gioconda, L’Elisir d’Amore, Fidelio and Die Fledermaus. Although the Hungarian State Opera would remain the tenor’s artistic home for many years, he was also a welcome guest on the stages of Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Zürich, Vienna, Boston, and particularly Deutsch Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf. Nagy’s stage career spanned more than thirty years, during which time he received numerous awards and honors, including the Franz Liszt Prize, the Mihaly Szekely Plaque, the Optimus Award, the Hungarian Government’s Artist of Merit Award, and the prestigious Kossuth Prize. Failing health curtailed the tenor’s appearances during the final years of his life. Following a lengthy illness, János B. Nagy passed away in Budapest on December 22, 2007 at the age of 67.
Nagy’s was a full spinto tenor with a surprisingly Italianate timbre. Although his interpretations were not always subtle, he was a remarkably dependable artist who was a valued member of the Hungarian State Opera for many years. Apart from a satisfying association with Düsseldorf’s Deutsch Oper am Rhein during the 1980s, Nagy’s appearances outside his homeland were all too infrequent. Even though he recorded prolifically (including complete recordings of Boito’s Mefistofele, Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto and Verdi’s Attila and Simon Boccanegra) his recordings were not widely distributed. Perhaps it is for these reasons that Nagy was not as well known outside of Hungary as he probably deserved to be. Here, Nagy sings the cabaletta "Odio solo, ed odio atroce" from Verdi's I Due Foscari. Nagy is joined briefly by tenor Attila Fülöp. This recording was made in Budapest for the Hungaroton label in 1984. Ádám Medveczky conducts the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra.