BERNARDI, GIACOMO (3 Jan. 1888-12 Aug. 1966) brought some of the greatest names in music to Cleveland in his career as impresario of more than 1,000 concerts. Born Jacob Moses Schwartzman in Bendery, Bessarabia, he immigrated to the U.S. in 1906 and soon found employment in a Cleveland clothing factory. His ambition was to become a singer, however, and he left on the recommendation of no less than Enrico Caruso to study voice in New York. He returned to Cleveland in 1913 as a featured singer in Robin Hood at the EUCLID AVENUE OPERA HOUSE, but his career was soon aborted by an unsuccessful sinus operation. He turned to booking concerts under his adopted name of G. Bernardi in 1919, taking over a function formerly performed by ADELLA PRENTISS HUGHES, founder of the CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA. When the Depression cramped the concert business, Bernardi concocted a patent sinus medicine with the aid of Cleveland pharmacist Henry Sherwood and marketed it under the name Benaris. Having been divorced from Bessie S. Bernardi c. 1925, Bernardi married Harriet Dragon in 1940 and resumed the promotion of concerts under the title of Cleveland Concert Assn. and later Cleveland Opera Assn. The list of performers appearing under his aegis, usually in PUBLIC AUDITORIUM or Music Hall, included Sergei Rachmaninoff, Jascha Heifetz, the Bolshoi Ballet, Artur Rubinstein, Marian Anderson, and the New York Philharmonic. Reflecting changing public tastes, he also began booking more popular acts in the 1960s. He was survived by his wife Harriet and 3 children: Victoria Schultz, Gloria, and Franklin. They continued the concert agency for several years, becoming inactive around 1971.


Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

Finding aid for the Cleveland Opera Association Records. WRHS.

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