ITALIAN tenor Carlo Bergonzi, in town for his farewell appearance as Nemorino in the Baltimore Opera Company's production of Donizetti's "L'Elisir d'Amore," recently regaled visitors with stories of the great divas he has worked with.
Of Maria Callas: "Of course she was a great interpreter and to sing with her was a very emotional experience. By that I don't mean just being on the same stage with Callas -- after all, I had my own part to think of during a performance -- but her artistry, her total dedication to the work. That was extraordinary.
"She was a very gracious colleague. For example, at the 'Lucia di Lammermoor' we sang at the Met, she had 30 curtain calls after singing her final mad scene. Her husband wanted to leave after that ovation, but she said, 'No, I want to stand in the wings and hear Carlo sing the last act, because nobody sings it like him.' "
On Leontyne Price: "A very dear colleague and a great Verdi soprano -- maybe the last great Verdi soprano. I sang everywhere with her, always Verdi."
Mr. Bergonzi also has serenaded such grand dames of the stage as Joan Sutherland, Birgit Nilsson, Renata Scotto and Anna Moffo.
"And I got along with all of them," he insisted through his translator. "There was never any problem, only things made up in the press."
At this Mrs. Bergonzi, sitting nearby, shot her husband a penetrating glance. The legendary tenor paused a moment, then launched into an animated conversation with her in Italian that lasted several minutes. Then he explained:
"Well, there was a singer we didn't get along with so well," he conceded. "But she wasn't one of the great ones."
Mr. Bergonzi's translator diplomatically refrained from naming the offending diva.