Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers

Apr 28, 2012

Benvenuto Franci (Baritone) (Pienza 1891 – Roma 1985)


As a youngster, he was fascinated by the musical instruments of the town band: large and small instruments, woodwinds and brass - he played them all but preferred the euphonium. He studied the viola and performed in a trio with the band-master on the violin and the town barber on the cello.  As he grew up, people noticed that he not only had great talent with musical instruments but that he also sang with an easy and sonorous voice. 
In 1910 his parents decided to send him to study voice in Rome at the Academy of Santa Cecilia where he attended the famous school of the great Maestro Antonio Cotogni.  Fellow students, Beniamino Gigli and Giacomo Lauri Volpi, shared with him all their anxieties, hopes and fears.
In 1917, he brazenly requested an audition with Emma Carelli, who was then running the Teatro Costanzi. After hearing the baritone, Carelli said: "A beautiful voice, a great voice. I would like to discipline and release it. This season the new opera Lodoletta by Mascagni will be performed. I will prepare you myself and will put you on the stage.”
The day after Christmas of 1917 he debuted in Rome to great acclaim. This success at the Costanzi immediately earned him a contract with the San Carlo in Naples, where, working with Maestro Franco Capuana, he expanded his repertoire: Un Ballo in Maschera, Aida, Rigoletto, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, La Gioconda, Andrea Chenier, Cavalleria, Pagliacci, La Bohème, La  Traviata, Don Pasquale, all operas that he would continue to sing throughout his career.
His great success opened the doors to La Scala. Toscanini wanted him for Aida, Tristan, Carmen, Traviata, affirming his faith and esteem for Franci over a ten year period. He premiered a number of important works: Boito’s posthumous work Nerone,  Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini and I Cavalieri di Ekebù, directed by the composer himself, Umberto Giordano's La Cena delle beffe, Il piccolo Marat  by Mascagni, and  Marinuzzi's Palla dé Mozzi, directed by the composer.
For twenty years he sang in the most important Italian and foreign theatres, all the while expanding his repertoire: I Puritani, Tosca, La Fanciulla del West, Guglielmo Tell, Gianni Schicchi, La forza del destino, Fidelio, Otello, Nabucco, Die Meistersinger, and Lohengrin (Franci is one of the few Italian singers to embrace the Wagnerian repertoire). In Bologna, on the occasion of the premiere of Il Tabarro, he met Puccini who advised him to study Gianni Schicchi, a role he subsequently performed many times. The list of theatres in which Benvenuto Franci performed is long and glorious including, among many, Rome, Naples and Milan, Bologna, Genoa, Verona, Torino, Parma, Palermo, Trieste, Florence, etc.
Abroad, he was regularly invited to perform at Covent Garden in London, at the Paris Opéra, in Madrid, Barcelona, Vienna, Berlin, and Lisbon.
In the summer of 1924 he set sail for South America with the Company of Ottavio Scotto and Claudia Muzio, and the director Marinuzzi. The sixteen performances he was scheduled to sing became forty.  He returned regularly to Brazil, Chile, and Argentina for ten years.
In 1956, he retired from the stage where he had performed for forty years. "At the end of the opera, Toscanini called me into his dressing room, hugged me and spoke to me in a way that filled me with emotion and joy. Never will I forget that hug – I consider it the ultimate prize of my career.”
(Benvenuto Franci)

Chronology of some appearances

1919  Teramo  Teatro Comunale Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1919 Pesaro  Teatro Rossini Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1919 Napoli  Teatro San Carlo Ballo in maschera (Renato)
1920 Lisbona Coliseo Recrejos Barbiere di Siviglia (Figaro)
1921 Genova  Polietama Genovese Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1922 San Severino Marche Teatro Feronia Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1922 Milano Teatro Dal Verme Ballo in maschera (Renato)
1923 Rimini Teatro Vittorio Emanuele Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1924 Milano Teatro La Scala Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1924 Verona Arena Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1925 London Covent Garden Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1925 Livorno  Politeama Barbiere di Siviglia (Figaro)
1926 Rio de Janeiro Teatro Lirico Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1926 Milano Teatro La Scala Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1927 Buenos Aires  Teatro Colon Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1927 Rio de Janeiro Teatro Municipal Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1927 San Paolo Teatro Municipal Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1928 Buenos Aires  Teatro Colon Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1928 Cremona Teatro Ponchielli Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1929 Roma Teatro dell'Opera Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1930 Ravenna Teatro Alighieri Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1931 Roma Teatro dell'Opera Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1931 Roma Teatro dell'Opera Ballo in maschera (Renato)
1931 Napoli Teatro San Carlo Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1931 Napoli Teatro San Carlo Ballo in maschera (Renato)
1932 Cento Teatro Comunale Borgatti Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1932 Verona Arena Ballo in maschera (Renato)
1934 Genova Teatro Carlo Felice Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1934 Verona Arena Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1935 Venezia  Teatro La Fenice Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1937 Roma  Eiar Andrea Chenier (Gerard)
1938 Noto Teatro del Littoriale Ballo in maschera (Renato)
1939 Genova Aperto della Foce Ballo in maschera (Renato)


Phonotype, Napoli 1920-04?
Traviata (Verdi): Di provenza il mare il suol C2320
Favorita (Donizetti): Vien Leonora
Don Pasquale (Donizetti): Bella siccome un angelo 
Pagliacci (Leoncavallo): Prologo, pt 1 2330
Pagliacci (Leoncavallo): Prologo, pt 2 2331
Don Carlo (Verdi): Per me giunto è il dì supremo C2333
Don Carlo (Verdi): O Carlo, ascolta C2338

Phonotype, Napoli 1920-04-11
Gioconda (Ponchielli): Enzo Grimaldo...O grido di quest'anima with Fernando De Lucia C2340
Gioconda (Ponchielli): O grido di quest'anima with Fernando De Lucia C2341

Columbia, Milano 1924?
Andrea Chénier (Giordano): Son sessant'anni D1521 B259
Andrea Chénier (Giordano): Un dì m'era di gioia D1521 B273
Rigoletto (Verdi): Si vendetta with Ena  Surinach D5108 B279

Columbia, Milano 1928?
Dinorah (Meyerbeer): Sei vendicata assai D 12456 B481

HMV, Milano 1927-10-21
Gioconda (Ponchielli): O monumento DB1117 2-052359

HMV, Milano 1927-10-23
Ernani (Verdi): Gran Dio...O dei verd'anni miei DB1138 2-052368

HMV, Milano 1927-11-14
Ernani (Verdi): O sommo Carlo with Jose Palet and d'Urbino-Poloni DB1138 2-054207

HMV, Milano 1928-02-15
Otello (Verdi): Credo DB1154 2-052372

HMV, Milano 1928-11-19
Otello (Verdi): Sì, pel ciel with Aureliano  Pertile DB1402 2-054272

HMV, Milano 1928-11-22
Forza del destino (Verdi): Urna fatale  DB1262 2-052403

HMV, Milano 1928-12-06
Tosca (Puccini): Va, Tosca DB1508 2-052404

HMV, Milano 1928-12-12
Forza del destino (Verdi): Invano, Alvaro...Le minaccie with Aureliano Pertile DB1219  2-054277
Forza del destino (Verdi): Le minaccie with Aureliano Pertile DB1219 2-054274

HMV, Milano 1929-06-22
Trovatore (Verdi): Mira d’acerbe lagrime with Maria Luisa Fanelli DB1509 32-605

HMV, Milano 1929-06-28
Aida (Verdi): Quest'assisa with Guglielmo Masini, Luisa Lucini and Vittorio Lois DB1320 32-603
Ballo in maschera (Verdi): Eri tu  DB 1320 32-604

HMV, Milano 1929-12-02
Guillaume Tell (Rossini): Resta immobile DB1393 32-1126
Africana (Meyerbeer): Averla tanto amata DB1393

HMV, Milano 1929-12-11
 Ballo in maschera (Verdi): Alla vita DA1093 30-2464

HMV, Milano 1930-03-20
Barbiere di Siviglia: All’idea di quel metallo with Bruno Landi DB1433 32-1444
Barbiere di Siviglia: Dunque all’opra with Bruno Landi DB1433 32-1443

HMV, Milano 1930-07?? (Kelly: 1930- -07)
Africana (Meyerbeer): Adamastor, re dell’acque DB 1509 3214-05

HMV, Milano 1930-11?
Guillaume Tell (Rossini): Ah, Mathilde with Aureliano Pertile DB1480 32-1955

HMV, Milano 1927/1930
Trovatore (Verdi): Per me ora fatale with Guglielmo Masini DB1262 CF2539-2
Favorita (Donizetti): In questo suol with Gianna Pederzini  DB1748

Columbia, Milano 1930?
Ballo in maschera (Verdi): Alla vita RQ 12633  WB3861
Aida (Verdi): Quest'assisa RQ 12633 WB3868

Columbia, Milano 1932?
Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini): Dunque io son, pt 1 pt 2 with Bianca Gherardi LB9 WB4605
Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini): pt 2 with Bianca Gherardi LB9 WB4606
Carmen (Bizet): Con voi ber! with Aurora Buades, Ebe Ticozzi, Irma Mion and Bruno Carmassi DX8055
Carmen (Bizet): Part 2 with Aurora Buades, Ebe Ticozzi, Irma Mion and Bruno Carmassi DX8055 WBX1220

Franci Benvenuto by Stampanoni

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