, one of the principal partners of Maria Callas
in the 1950s, and acknowledged as one of the most beautiful and pure of operatic voices.
Born at Motta Santa Anastasia near Catania in Sicily on the 24th July 1921, he studied in Milan. At first he had been singing in choirs, then popular songs under the name Nino Florio, then to entertain troops, then in Lausanne for Radio Suisse Romande and other Swiss cities.
Finally after the war he returned to his studies in Milan, and made his opera debut on 20th April 1946 at Reggio Emilia, singing Des Grieux in Massenet's Manon. His La Scala debut was the same part on the 15th March the following year.
He gained international fame with his Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto in New York on 25th February 1948. The partnership with Callas began in São Paulo in 1951, when they and Tito Gobbi appeared together in La Traviata. Di Stefano and Callas sang together in 1952 at Mexico City and finally back in Milan, in La Gioconda.
Among his other most frequent roles were Faust and Rodolfo. From the mid 1950s he took on heavier roles, such as Calaf and Radames, but from the early 1960s his health and voice both began to suffer. He did not appear at Covent Garden until 1961, singing Cavaradossi in Tosca, though his British debut had been at the 1957 Edinburgh Festival in L'elisir d'amore. In 1963 he had to cancel his Covent Garden La Bohème, and was replaced by a young Luciano Pavarotti. His last regular operatic performance was in 1973, and apart from a 1992 appearance as the aged Emperor Altoum (Turandot) he confined himself in later years to recitals.
On 30th November 2004, on holiday in Kenya, he and his wife were brutally attacked by robbers. Di Stefano suffered severe head injuries and has been hovering between life and death in a Mombasa hospital for the last week. As he is 83, I fear I will have to update this again soon.
Sounds from listening to his classic recordings with Callas, as I type
Basic facts from Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera
additional info from http://www.grandi-tenori.com/tenors/distefano/distefano.php