Very sad news indeed, although not unexpected. I think it was our own IGI who told me a while ago that he had heard that Bergonzi was very frail and ill, too ill to collaborate on a forthcoming biography.
There were three tenors, and there was Bergonzi - in my view incomparably the finest tenor of the second part of the twentieth century. I saw Bergonzi a handful of times in the theatre - recitals, and a memorable Lucia di Lammermoor at the ROH opposite Sutherland when both were easily old enough to claim their GLC bus-passes (in about 1985, I think). Bergonzi still had plenty of voice left, and of course the incomparable style and musicianship were still on display. In fact, I think perhaps the emphasis on that style - his inimitable sense of vocal line - sometimes obscured the fact of the sheer beauty of the voice. Yes, he was in many respects a dreadful actor, and he did end his career with that ill-advised foray into Otello - but it is Bergonzi's incomparable rendition of Verdi above all that he will be remembered for.
I did meet him once - after one of those ROH Lucias; a modest, gracious, quiet man with none of the airs you might expect from a great singer. I appeared to have quite a lot more Italian that he had English, and that was the language we used. It was of necessity a brief conversation.
There is a the famous story of how he stood in at short notice for an indisposed Pavarotti at James Levine's 25th anniversary gala at the Met in 1996. The aria from Luisa Miller was one of his showpieces - calculated to show off his exquisite sense of Verdian line. Yes, the voice is a bit rusty and takes time to wam up, and yes, he nearly misses his first entry in the cavatina, but by the time he gets to the second verse he has warmed up, and Bergonzi, at an age when most tenors have long retired, gives a masterclass in Verdi singing - in line, and diction, and phrasing.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NQniGmtiy4
And here he is at is his peak, in 1970https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hsyUMMEtkk
One of the truly great singers. RIP.