Cesare Bardelli was an Italian baritone who enjoyed a long international career. He was born in Genoa, but as he was brought up in Pisa, he considered himself a child of that city and its region. Cesare was the youngest of three sons. His father, a railroad stationmaster, was a frustrated singer, who sang semi-professionally. When the boy developed a fine treble voice, Sr. Bardelli wasted no time before enrolling him with leading voice teachers, which, in Pisa, included Barsanti and Pizzi, and dreamed of Cesare having an operatic career.
When Cesare's voice broke and he emerged with a good baritone voice, he was sent to Milan to study with Carlo Tagliabue, a famous operatic baritone.
Bardelli's professional debut performance was as Amonasro in Verdi's Aida in the Italian opera house of Alessandria. He was immediately engaged to sing in Cairo as Scarpia. The prestige of this appointment for only the second professional operatic production of his career can be judged by the star-power of his co-stars: Maria Caniglia -- one of the great Toscas -- and Beniamino Gigli, a credible nominee for the crown as the greatest tenor after Caruso. Despite committing the faux pas of dropping a prop audibly during Tosca's great aria "Vissi d'arte" (earning a "fulminating" glare from Caniglia) he went on to sing the role over 950 times opposite such great Toscas as Kirsten, Steber, Milanov, Albanese, Tebaldi, Nilsson, Caballe, Leontyne Price, Olivero, and Kabaivanska.
The next year, 1938, Bardelli completed his vocal studies at the Liceo in Milan and won the prize in the Castello Sforzesco competition over 300 other contestants. Very soon after this point, the outbreak of World War II interrupted his career. He was drafted into the Italian Army where he served in three campaigns. With Italy's departure from the War, Bardelli resumed singing with a three-year contract in Trieste (1944-1946). He added such operas as Lucia di Lammermoor, Barber of Seville, Tristan, Salome, Traviata, and Rigoletto to his repertory (which would ultimately encompass 43 roles). On the famous occasion in 1946 when Renata Tebaldi made her debut in Andrea Chenier, opposite Mario del Monaco, Bardelli was the baritone.
He made his first American appearance in Detroit in 1947, debuting in New York at the New York City Opera in 1952. In America, he polished his technique with studies under the great teacher Daniele Serra, his exclusive coach thereafter. Bardelli's first Met appearance was in 1957 as Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana. He was invited to sing in the Washington, D.C. Summer Festival concert honoring the late President Kennedy, in the widow's presence. In 1966, he sang both in the first production of the New Metropolitan Opera House (April 11, 1966, as Rance in Puccini's La Fanciulla del West), and five days later in the Gala Farewell Concert at the historic Old Met. In 1968, he was specially requested to sing at the festivities of the 100th anniversary of the opera house in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
He became a noted voice teacher -- the movie and television star Paul Sorvino is among his pupils -- and retired from the stage in 1979. Bardelli believed that music-making, particularly operatic production, was a matter for live performance only. He was the only ranking baritone of his generation or since who refused ever to make a studio recording, and turned down offers from Hollywood (he was a handsome man) he refused, answering, "I have chosen my professional career as an opera singer, thank you."
Bardelli's hobby was cooking and he was proud of being the creator of "Ravioli alla Bardelli," which is found in the New York Times Cookbook.