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The Carabiniere. Until she died last winter, Renata Tebaldi's mother accompanied her on all her tours, acted so effectively as a backstage buffer for her daughter that fellow singers affectionately nicknamed her "The Carabiniere." She handled Renata's mail (weeding out the occasional poison-pen letters from over-zealous Callas fans), took care of her clothes and costumes, stationed herself in the wings to minister to Renata with a Thermos jug of warm tea and an emergency flask of brandy when she came offstage. She was quick to resent any affronts to her daughter. Backstage lore has it that she once berated a tenor for holding the high B-flat in the love duet at the end of the second act of Andrea Chenier an instant longer than Renata did. Before every performance she used to join Renata in her dressing room for a few moments of prayer.
Recently, Tebaldi has allowed herself a few of the luxuries expected of a full-fledged diva. She has remodeled a ten-room apartment in Milan and crammed it with antiques she picked up all over the world. She travels now with a maid, a secretary and 30 pieces of luggage, into which she crams 70 pairs of shoes, 50 dresses and five mink coats. She indulges herself in jewelrynecklaces, fat rings, pearl and diamond earringsand she plans to buy a big American car.
Neither success nor the passage of time has reconciled Tebaldi to her father, whom she resents almost as fiercely as she adored her mother, for having deserted his family. He has written Renata hundreds of letters but has never received a reply. Several years ago, when Renata was scheduled to sing in Reggio Emilia, where her father now lives, he wrote her how much he looked forward to seeing her again. Renata cabled the manager of the local theater that she would walk out if her father were in the house.
"It Must Be So." With summer festivals extending opera into a year-round enterprise, and with operatic recordings gushing forth in unprecedented profusion, the life of a globetrotting soprano has taken on a frenetic quality that would have astounded the great voices of a more leisurely age. Tebaldi will sing 22 performances at the Met this season (Tosca, Cio-Cio-San, Mimi, Desdemona and Manon Lescaut), will then take a swing about the country on a recital tour, move on to Havana, Rome, Naples, then make her Paris Opera debut, go on to the Vienna Opera. July will be given over mostly to new recordings in Rome. Tebaldi's pace would probably be even more furious if it were not for the fact that she finds it "a sufferance to get into a plane," and consequently travels almost exclusively by train and boat.
Not even her staunchest supporters would claim that Tebaldi is a great or even a highly gifted actress. A tall (5 ft. 10 in.), ample woman with a handsome, highbrowed face, she generally moves through her roles with a kind of stolid and unvarying grace that sometimes reduces opera's garish-hued passions to a decorator's cool blues and whites.