Gianni Raimondi studied singing at the Bologna Conservatory with the tenors Antonio Melandri and Gennaro Barra-Caracciolo, and then with Ettore Campogalliani in Mantua. He made his operatic stage debut in 1947 as the Duke / Rigoletto in Budrio, a small town near Bologna, and the following year sang in Bologna itself, as Ernesto / Don Pasquale at the Teatro Communale.
His only appearances in the United Kingdom came in 1953 with an Italian company at the Stoll Theatre, London as Rodolfo / La Bohème and the Duke, which he also sang shortly afterwards at the Paris Opera.
Raimondi had first appeared in Florence at the Maggio Musicale in 1952 as Rinaldo / Armida (Rossini) and returned in 1954 to take part in the premiere of Valentino Bucchi’s Il contrabbasso at the Teatro della Pergola. Having sung opposite Maria Callas for the first time in the Florence Armida staging, he collaborated with her again in his 1956 debut at La Scala, Milan when he sang Alfredo / La traviata in Visconti’s famous production conducted by Giulini. The following year he appeared with Callas again at La Scala as Riccardo / Anna Bolena, with Gianandrea Gavazzeni conducting.
La Scala became a continual focus for Raimondi’s work. Later operas in which he appeared there included two significant Rossini revivals: of Mosè in Egitto (1958) and Semiramide (1962) (opposite Joan Sutherland and Giulietta Simionato), as well as Tosca (1960), in which his interpretation of Cavaradossi was warmly praised. He toured with La Scala frequently, singing Cavaradossi with the company in Moscow as late as 1974.
Raimondi first sang at the Verona Arena in 1957, returning in 1961, 1964 and 1971; and in 1957 also he made his debut with the Vienna State Opera. Here he sang regularly until his retirement, as Alfredo, the Duke, Cavaradossi, Pinkerton / Madama Butterfly and Riccardo / Un ballo in maschera. His North American debut took place with the San Francisco Opera during the 1957−1958 season and he first sang at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires in 1959.
Raimondi replaced Giuseppe di Stefano as Rodolfo in the famous 1963 Zeffirelli / Karajan production of La Bohème at Vienna, which was subsequently filmed in 1965, also the year of his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. This was as Rodolfo, opposite Mirella Freni, and in the same season he sang Edgardo / Lucia di Lammermoor and Pinkerton. He followed these with the title role in Gounod’s Faust in the 1966−1967 season and Cavaradossi in the 1967−1968 and 1968−1969 seasons, as well as numerous performances of La Bohème; his final appearance with the Met was as the Duke in May 1969.
Between 1969 and 1977 Raimondi sang frequently with the Hamburg State Opera. By now he had added slightly heavier roles to his repertoire: although Arnold / Guillaume Tell (Turin and Buenos Aires, 1966) proved not to be suitable, he was successful as Enzo / La Gioconda (Rio de Janeiro, 1969), as Arrigo / I vespri siciliani (1970) and Gabriele Adorno / Simon Boccanegra (1971) at La Scala, and as Riccardo and Pollione / Norma (1974) at Turin.
Raimondi retired from singing in 1977; and after a short foray as a furrier, later gave singing lessons in Budrio. He possessed an attractive and well-schooled voice, warm and even, which he used with style and elegance, always phrasing most sympathetically.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).