Homage to Michelangelo Verso

Memorial Card

Homage in memory of my father, the Tenor Michelangelo Verso
born 18-03-1920 in Palermo and deceased 18-09-2006.
To me he was an unforgettable man and personage, but I believe also
for many others who have had the opportunity to know him personally.

I have taken a sentimental commitment to write an homage in memory of my father, but there would be so many things to tell that I really wouldn’t know where to begin and where to end... I can say that he was unique, exceptional, with a great personality and a very rich soul. In a certain way I have always felt I was protected and privileged by being his son and by staying at his side.

My father has had the opportunity to sing in many different countries and cities, in so many theaters and performances as well as in Radio & TV programs, traveling almost half the world, always because of his vocal merits and his art of the belcanto. When he sang abroad, he always represented with much honor and success his Sicily and Italy. Whenever he sang operatic repertoire, classical Neapolitan songs or Sicilian folksongs, he received everywhere excellent reviews, often very praiseful. He loved very much his country and especially Sicily! He never forgot his native land and his roots.

Because of so many experiences and vicissitudes of life, simply by staying at his side there was always something to pick up or to learn from him. He was a man who knew how to behave himself in the best possible way with everyone and how to adapt himself to whatever circumstance.

I have always been very proud of having such a father, not only for his singing (that I certainly admired very much and for which I have become his most important fan and critic), but also for his rare modesty and humbleness, his  generosity, for his availability towards others, for his great sensibility and his boundless love he had for me; he always praised me everywhere and because of my natural shyness, he often made me a little embarrassed.
We had an unique relationship; we were not only simply father and son, we were also like brothers and at the same time friends that would never part, in brief; we shared almost everything, in good and in bad. We were very attached and always worried if one of us was feeling not too well. 

He lived with great passion and love for the art of belcanto
When his beautiful and unique voice began to lack, his life ended
You will remain always in our memories and in our hearts

These are exactly the words that I felt to put on his tombstone
inside our family grave.

His goal of life was first of all to sing and to transmit emotions to those who listened to him, that was his joy and the greatest passion which always accompanied him. By the way, I remember a review after his interpretation of the ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’, they wrote that they at last had listened to ‘a very fiery Turriddu’ !

Each time he sang, it was as if his soul illuminated and reflected, and just by singing with his soul he knew how to transfer and take the audience “as a hostage”. He never spared himself and gave all he had. I must say that,  by all means, he was born a singer, he had it in his blood! Certain qualities you possess already when you are little or when you are very young and he, regarding singing and being an artist in the deep of his soul, had them all.

My father began to sing in church when he was about seven years old.
Then when he was about fifteen years, M° (Maestro) Giacchino Carmelo, who was a teacher at the Conservatory of Music of Palermo, invited him to participate as a soloist in the choir “Il Coro della Conca d’Oro” (The choir of the Golden Shell), at those times one of the best polyphonic choirs and Sicilian folk groups, where he began to sing the most beautiful classical Sicilian songs of that era. Already then he did many tours with this choir (also abroad) obtaining lots of success everywhere.
At seventeen years old, his passion to fly made him participate in a National Competition for gliding pilots (pilots of sailplanes) which he won.
So it happened that he had to follow the course in Bovolone, where he obtained, as one of the youngest in Italy, his flying-certificate.

In 1941 he won a scholarship to become
an actor-singer at the ‘Centro Sperimentale per Cinematografia di Roma’ (Cinecittà) but unfortunately, because of the war that was going on, he wasn’t able to finish those studies… At Cinecittà, he personally met several famous artists and actors including: Amedeo Nazzari (with whom he acted in a short scene of a movie), Luisa Ferida, Osvaldo Valenti, Rossano Brazzi, Carla del Poggio, the Prince Antonio de Curtis (in art Totò), Achille Togliani and Miriam di San Servolo (the sister of Claretta Petacci). The next year he was a finalist in a singing contest at EIAR (former RAI) singing live on air in the Radio program “Trenta minuti nel mondo” (Thirty minutes in the world) where listeners could express their votes by sending postcards.

In 1949 the famous tenor Beniamino Gigli chose him, as one of the most beautiful emergent tenor voices of that time, to sing at the ‘Teatro Massimo’ of Palermo in a lyric concert as a benefit performance for the Citizen Committee ‘Salviamoli’ (let’s save them), offered and organized by Gigli himself. My father had thus the honor to ‘open’ the concert with the romanza ‘Vieni’ by Denza and to sing, the last but one piece that was in the program, ‘Che gelida manina’ from La Bohème. Also Gigli took part in the concert by singing three arias. The reviews were very good;  about my father they wrote that he was a lyric tenor of great promise.

In 1950, after he won an International Contest for opera singers, he was  awarded a scholarship for perfection at the ‘Accademia Musicale Chigiana’ in Siena where he studied with the Soprano Ines Alfano Tellini and M° Giorgio Favaretto. At the end of the course he was chosen to sing, as the tenor, in the Basilica San Francesco of Siena, together with a symphonic orchestra and choir directed by M° Andrea Morosini, in the memorial concert of the fiftieth year after the death of  Giuseppe Verdi, obtaining excellent success in front of an audience of about three thousand spectators and enthusiastic reviews afterwards. At the concert was also present the maecenas, founder and honorary president of the Academy, Count Guido Chigi Saracini who personally complimented my father after the concert was over.

Then followed the first historical recordings on 78 rpm records: ‘Vitti ‘na crozza’ on Cetra records in 1951 (which suddenly became a worldwide success), ‘E vui durmiti ancora’ (my father was the first singer who recorded these two songs on records) and many other classical Sicilian and Neapolitan songs on Fonit records recorded in 1952 (Torna, Passione, Addio a Napoli, etc..). In that year my father was invited by M° Furio Rendine to participate at the Festival of the Neapolitan Song, ‘La Piedigrotta’, (the tour lasted about two months) where he sang, accompanied by orchestra Anepeta, ’’E Campane Napulitane’ (These Neapolitan Bells), the song that was awarded and recorded also on Fonit records. The local press (Il Mattino di Napoli) at that time praised him as ‘The new Caruso’ and commented ‘At last a voice with the capital V’ for having sung without microphone! Also in that same year he was invited by MSI to record the hymn, ‘Sorgi Sicilia’ (Sicily stand up!), on VIS records. 

In 1953 he was engaged to sing in the United States of America where, in 1954 at the ‘Metropolitan Opera House of Pittsburgh’, he interpretred the main role of the ‘Count of Almaviva’ in the Opera ‘The Barber of Seville’. The trip to America was offered to him, in accordance with the contract, on board of the beautiful and legendary liner ‘Andrea Doria’ where, during the voyage, he was invited to sing lyric concerts accompanied by the orchestra on board directed by Maestro Bandel. 

In the following years he did many concerts, tours, performances and programs for Radio and TV, first in the U.S.A. (for SBC, NBC, Ed Sullivan and Perry Como shows, etc.) and then in South-America. In that period he personally met many Vips like: Jane Russell and Robert Mitchum. In Cuba he was together with Edith Piaf in a musical program for Television (Canal4) and with Maurice Chevalier and Nat King Cole in the famous Nightclub ‘Tropicana’.

Immediately after that I was born in 1959 (we were at that time in Ecuador), my father and my mother decided to continue to work, traveling and taking me with them. My little bed was at that time simply the drawer of a wardrobe in a hotel or a hammock that my mother attached between two walls of the room. For my parents it was a pretty difficult life in that period… but it was full of artistic satisfactions. 

In the U.S. from 1955 till 1959, my father recorded 78 and 33 rpm records for  Columbia Records and 45 rpm records for Onix and Granja. At his re-entrance from the U.S., from 1962 till 1964, Italian 45 rpm records followed, recorded for Phonotype, Zephir, Fonola and Primary. In 1962 he won twice the 12th Sicilian Songfestival of Castellammare del Golfo with the songs ‘Carritteri ‘nnammurato’ (Sicilian cart driver in love) (awarded first prize) and ‘Saridda’ (awarded second prize) which were recorded immediately on records afterwards. 

The voice of my father was a voice of prime quality, flexible, sweetish, brilliant, of natural beauty and velvety but at the same time ringing and powerful, not artificial, spontaneously cutting and with a bright emission and clear diction. His voice and his art of the belcanto have given him always many satisfactions; I think that all his recordings and above all the hundreds of reviews can witness this.

His voice was a gift from God. He already perceived that at an early age and he therefore was not much in favor of being guided by singing-teachers who could impose vocal emission techniques not suitable or not natural for him and that could have maybe damaged his voice. Also because of his character which was a bit rebellious, my father always personally decided which teacher to follow or which singing technique to apply; first of all he preferred to listen several times to records of his favorite singers (who he considered his models) like Gigili, Caruso, Fleta, Jan Kiepura, Tito Schipa etc. and then to give audiences, receive advice and possibly follow lessons from teachers whom he praised and who he thought were suitable for his voice.

He received singing lessons and advice from the following singing teachers:

-  Maestro and Tenor Salvatore Pollicino of Palermo, with whom he had been
   studying since the age of 18 for several years to prepare himself for leading
   tenor roles in various lyric operas;
-  Maestro Alfredo Polverosi at the EIAR (RAI), with whom he studied 
   perfection of phonetics in order to sing in Radio programs, after having won
   an important singing contest,
-  Maestro Tenore Raffaele Punzo of Naples, who had been the personal
   secretary of Enrico Caruso and who himself owed a metallic and very
   powerful voice as well;
-  Maestro and Tenor Giovanni Martinelli;
-  the famous and legendary Maestro Enrico Rosati, who at that time lived in
   New York and who had been the singing teacher of Beniamino Gigli and
   Mario Lanza (who was his last pupil) !

All these extraordinary teachers certainly gave precious advice to my father but he received also advice and important indications from Beniamino Gigli, who kept an eye on him and who continued corresponding with him. Needless to say, Beniamino Gigli was his idol! I won’t continue to tell the various studies of my father, who during his whole life tried to learn more about the art of belcanto and often said: “The art of singing is infinite, you will never stop learning” but I can add more, that towards the end of his career, he also gave singing lessons to young candidate opera singers who wanted advice or judgments from him. The first thing that he said to his pupils was: “First of all, study and understand very well the text that you actually are singing, enter into the part and discover which feeling each word or phrase must have. When you are dealing with a sad or melancholic phrase you must express exactly this feeling, when there is joy, express cheer and so on. You must use the colors, just like an art painter does with his palette of colors. Use the voice as if it is a brush and when you sing a romance or aria, try to paint with your voice a painting  full of colors and with as so many shades as possible”. And this is exactly what my father always tried to apply to his own singing and I think this was one of the reasons for his success. He always attached much importance to the correct interpretation and clear diction of the text and said: “Listen how Gigli, Jan Kiepura, Miguel Fleta, Di Stefano and Mario Lanza interpreted !”. For these tenors he had a particular admiration and when he met Giuseppe di Stefano (a Sicilian too) for the first time in Mexico in 1957, they immediately became friends for life! Through him, in 1973, he had the honor to personally meet the divine Maria Callas and to be invited to her residence in Paris.
About Mario Lanza he said that no tenor ever has been able to sing and to interpret in such an excellent way like he did. “If a tenor had to imitate Lanza with the same energy and power he performed, then he would end up killing himself or damaging his voice! My father was very much impressed by Lanza when in New York he saw the movie “The Great Caruso” for the first time and confided me that he was a bit depressed afterwards in wanting to continue his career as a tenor.

It seems incredible, but my father has sung and recorded operatic repertoire till the age of 82 years !!! (as evidence there is the CD: ‘Romanze Vol.4’ recorded in 2002). Although he didn’t have the diaphragmatic power and respiratory capacity anymore like when he was young, his voice had remained intact and for this reason he wanted to continue to record. To have known how to maintain such a good voice till that age proves his great passion, his love and desire to continue to sing opera.... always.

He further had that way of knowing exactly how to communicate with people, so  gallant, charismatic and pleasing that all people who met him remained enchanted and fascinated by his way of being (that alas nowadays seems to belong to another world or era because it’s not common use anymore...) He used to express himself with much conviction, passion, cheer or other state of mind that those who were listening rejoiced and wanted to hear more and more... In brief, also by simply telling short personal stories or anecdotes he always knew how to entertain a large group of persons or friends. And I think that that is one of the most important qualities that an artist must have first of all, i.e. to know how to communicate and to transmit emotions and feelings from the depth of his soul... Also this is an inborn quality as well that hardly can be learned… it’s part of your own character. Then, as I told before, there was in him that great sensibility for which he could easily empathize with the problems of others. He was easily touched, upon hearing of difficult situations, and in those moments his eyes filled with tears... His fragility and vulnerability often caused him embarrassment, especially in front of people with whom he didn’t have much confidence, but I think that this is the most beautiful thing a man can express... In any case this great sensibility of his, that I consider a quality which has certainly allowed him the privilege of entering as best as possible into the various operatic roles and in all the romances and classical songs that he has interpreted as a lyric singer, allowing him to transmit always the most profound emotions and feelings to the audience.  

My dearest Dad, you don’t know the great void that you left me...
I sense that along with you, an important era went away… You taught me so many things... I will never forget them ! Fortunately there are the recordings of your voice and of your singing that give me some consolation and ensure that you will always remain alive for me, for all the people who have admired you, esteemed and loved you, and for all those who in the future will still have the possibility to listen to and to appreciate your voice for the first time.
I also have loved and still love you and I always will love you very, very much  till eternity… I will carry you in my heart wherever I go ! 

Citing the beautiful words that a great female admirer of my father wrote to me shortly after his death and that apply exactly to me as well:


”A part of me is gone with him,
but a part of him will always remain with me !”

Farewell my dearest Dad, I miss you very much,
I hope one day I can be reunited with you !

With my greatest love and devotion,

Your son Michelangelo Jr.


Father and son together - Palermo (Monreale) 2001

Michelangelo Verso and his son Michelangelo Jr. happily together - Monreale 2001


Below a list in chronological order of the most important dates
and cities in the career of Michelangelo Verso

- Arena delle Palme - Lucia di Lammermoor, 13 March 1948
Palermo - Arena delle Palme – The Barber of Seville, 17 June 1948
Palermo - Teatro Politeama Garibaldi - Lucia di Lammermoor, Opera season 1949
Palermo - Teatro Massimo – in concert with Beniamino Gigli, 2 December 1949
Palermo - Teatro Massimo - Rigoletto, Opera season 1950

- Basilica of San Francesco - concert in honor of Giuseppe Verdi, 3 September 1950
Bagheria - Teatro Odeon - Cavalleria Rusticana, 1952
Trapani - Geisha, 1952
Naples and many other cities of Italy touring with the “Festival della Piedigrotta”, 1952
Rome - Radio (RAI) - programs “Rosso e Nero”, imitations of Caruso, Gigli, Schipa, Bechi, etc. 1952
Munich and Zurich - joint concerts for the American Forces (AFN) with Edoardo Bianco, 1953
Monreale - Teatro Imperia - in concert with Soprano Maria Caniglia, 7 April 1953
Andrea Doria –
several concerts, the first was held on 15 July 1953
New York - Concerts, Radio, Television, Theaters etc., 1953-1954
Pittsburgh - Metropolitan Opera House - The Barber of Se ville with Baritone Cesare Bardelli, 53/54
Milwaukee-Providence - Several lyric concerts
Mexico - Teatro ‘Bellas Artes’ - Concert with Baritone Carlo Morelli, 21 September 1955
Havana (Cuba) - Radio, TV, concerts, shows, 1955
Mexico – TV film “Invitacion a Italia” (Invitation in Italy) with Soprano Gloria Aguiar, 1 June 1956
Mexico - Participation in the movie “Locos Peligrosos” (with Tin-Tan), 4 April 1957
Mexico – Many programs for Radio and TV, shows etc., till 1958
Guayaquil-Quito (Ecuador) - Concerts, Radio and TV, 1959
Lima (Peru) - Concerts, Radio and TV, 1959
Santiago de Cile - Concerts, Radio and TV, 1959
Calì (Colombia) - Teatro Municipal of Calì - Concerts, 1959
Bogotà (Colombia) - Concerts, Radio and TV, 1959
Mendoza-San Juan-Bahia Blanca-Buenos Aires (Argentina) - Concerts, Radio and TV, 1960
Comodoro Rivadavia-Tierra de Fuego (Argentina) - Concerts, Radio and TV, 1960
Montevideo (Uruguay) - Concerts, Radio and TV, 1960
Rio de Janeiro-Porto Alegre-Sao Paulo (Brazil) - Concerts, Radio and TV, 1961
Madrid-Barcelona (Spain) – Programs for Radio and TV, 1961
Germany - Concerts for the NATO, 1962
Italy - performances and shows in many cities (on Tour),  1961-1963
Castellamare del Golfo – 12th Sicilian Song Contest – winner with two songs, 4/5 August 1962
Yugoslavia - Shows (on Tour), 1964
Bulgaria - Shows (on Tour), 1964/65
Istanbul-Antalya (Turkey) - Shows (on Tour) and Radio programs, 1965
Athens-Thessaloniki (Greece) - Shows (on Tour), 1965
Larnaca e Nicosia (Cyprus) - Shows, 1965
Czechoslovakia - Shows (on Tour), 1966-1968
Frankfurt (Germany) - Shows, 1968
Amsterdam and many other cities of the Netherlands - Concerts, Radio, TV, shows, etc. - 1966-1987
Rotterdam - Doelen theater – Benefit concert for the earthquake victims of Friuli, 1 June 1976
Recanati (Italy) - Participation in a concert held in honor of Beniamino Gigli, 20 March 1984

- Lyric concert “Homage to Europe”, presence of the Consul of Italy, 25 March 1987
Palermo - Participation in charity concerts and programs for TV for UNICEF, 1988-1996
Palermo - Concert in honor of Tenor Salvatore Pollicino, 10 June 1989
Rome - Awarded with a Golden Plate ‘Homage to Beniamino Gigli’, 1990
Palermo - Teatro Ranchibile - Concert in honor of Beniamino Gigli, 19 February 1994
Filignano - Nominated as honorary member of the fanclub ‘The Friends of Mario Lanza’, 1998

- Hotel Addaura - Concert for the 6th National Congress ANSAI, 30 January 1999
- Recorded various compact cassettes and CDs, 1988-2002
Palermo - Awarded for his career with a Silver Plate given by the municipality of Palermo, 28 April 2003

- Homage of M. Verso to Gigli with the projection of the movie “Solo per te”, 30 August 2004  

A list of Vips of that era for whom Michelangelo Verso has sung

  • President of the U.S.A. Richard Nixon
  • Mayor of New York Impilliteri
  • President of Mexico R. Cortinez
  • Ex-President of Mexico Don Miguel Aleman
  • President of Cuba Battista
  • Cardinal of New York Spellman
  • Cardinal of China Paul Yupin
  • Cardinal of Ecuador Opilio Rossi
  • Cardinal of Palermo Ernesto Ruffini
  • Cardinal of Monreale Carpinio



Articles that appeared after his decease:


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last updated on 06/08/2015