The Italian tenor Salvatore Licitra was born in Bern in 1968 and worked for Italian Vogue before training as a singer in Parma, where he made his debut in Un ballo in maschera in 1998 following further study with Carlo Bergonzi in Busseto; the following year he appeared at La Scala for the first time, as Alvaro in La forza del destino.
In 2002 he came to international recognition following a dramatic last-minute step-in for Luciano Pavarotti as Cavaradossi at the Metropolitan Opera, receiving lengthy ovations after each of his arias. Other key roles included Turiddu and Canio in ‘Cav & Pag’, the title-roles in Andrea Chénier, Ernani and Don Carlo, Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West, and Calaf in Turandot. His discography includes Cavaradossi opposite Maria Guleghina (who also sang Tosca for his unscheduled Met debut) on Riccardo Muti’s 2000 recording of Tosca, a ‘lion-hearted’ (BBC Music Magazine) Manrico on the same conductor’s Trovatore later that year, and several solo albums on Sony, with whom he signed an exclusive contrast shortly after making those live recordings with Muti.
Licitra died aged just 43 following a motor scooter accident; The Telegraph’s obituary described him as ‘a contender for the title of the world’s next great tenor’. He had given what was to be his final performance, as Cavaradossi, just three weeks earlier.