Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers

Apr 20, 2012

Giacomo Lauri-Volpi (Tenor) (Rome 1892 - Valencia 1979)

He was an Italian tenor with a lyric-dramatic voice of exceptional range and technical facility. He performed throughout Europe and the Americas in a top-class career that spanned 40 years.
Born in Lanuvio, Italy, he was orphaned at the age of 11. After completing his secondary education at the seminary at Albano and graduating from the University of Rome La Sapienza, he began vocal studies under the great 19th-century baritone Antonio Cotogni at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome.
His nascent singing career was put on hold, however, by the outbreak of World War I in 1914, during which he served with the Italian armed forces. The war over, he made a successful operatic debut as Arturo in Bellini’s I Puritani in Viterbo, Italy, on September 2, 1919—performing under the name Giacomo Rubini, after Bellini’s favorite tenor, Giovanni Battista Rubini. Four months later, on January 3, 1920, he scored another success, at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, this time performing under his own name opposite Rosina Storchio and Ezio Pinza in Massenet's Manon.
Lauri-Volpi was widely acclaimed for his performances at Italy's most celebrated opera house, La Scala, Milan, between the two world wars. A highlight of his Milan seasons occurred in 1929 when he was chosen to sing Arnoldo in La Scala’s centenary production of Rossini’s Guglielmo Tell.
He was also a leading tenor at the New York Metropolitan Opera from 1923 to 1933, appearing there in a total of 232 performances. During this 10-year period he sang opposite Maria Jeritza in the American premiere of Puccini’s Turandot and opposite Rosa Ponselle in the Met premiere of Verdi’s Luisa Miller. His Met career was terminated prematurely after a dispute with the opera house's management. They wanted him to take a pay cut to help tide the theatre through the economic privations being caused by the Great Depression, but he refused to co-operate and left New York for Italy.
Lauri-Volpi's most notable appearances outside Italy also included two seasons at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden—in 1925 and 1936. By the latter date, he had broadened his repertoire, progressing from lyric roles to more taxing dramatic parts. His voice began to show consequent signs of wear in the 1940s, losing homogeneity. His thrilling top notes remained remarkably intact, however, right through until the 1950s.
During the Second World War, Lauri-Volpi was based in Italy and was particularly admired by the country's dictator, Benito Mussolini. His last public performance in a full opera came in 1959, as Manrico, in a production of Verdi’s Il Trovatore staged at Rome.
Lauri-Volpi recorded a number of opera arias and duets for European and American gramophone companies during the height of his fame. His voice was a brilliant instrument at its zenith: bright, flexible and ringing in tone. He had astonishingly easy and penetrating high notes and possessed a shimmering vibrato which made his voice instantly recognisable both on disc and in the theatre.
He sang roles as diverse as Arturo (in Bellini's I Puritani) and Otello (in Verdi's Otello). In the process, he cemented his position as one of the supreme opera singers of the 20th century, even though he faced stiff competition from a remarkable crop of rival Mediterranean tenors during his prime in the 1925-1940 period. (They included Beniamino Gigli, Giovanni Martinelli, Aureliano Pertile, Francesco Merli, Galliano Masini, Tito Schipa, Antonio Cortis and Renato Zanelli—as well as the young Alessandro Ziliani and Giovanni Malipiero.)
Lauri-Volpi was a cultured, intelligent man with a fiery temperament and firm opinions. He retired to Spain after World War Two and died in Burjasot, near Valencia, at the age of 86.

Chronology of some appearances

1920 Roma  Teatro Costanzi Barbiere di Siviglia (Almaviva)
1920 Rio de Janeiro  Teatro Municipal Barbiere di Siviglia (Almaviva)
1920 Buenos Ayres  Teatro Coliseo Barbiere di Siviglia (Almaviva)
1921 Madrid  Teatro Reale Barbiere di Siviglia (Almaviva)
1922 Madrid  Teatro Reale  Barbiere di Siviglia (Almaviva)
1922 Madrid  Teatro Reale Favorita (Fernando)
1922 Buenos Ayres  Teatro Colon Barbiere di Siviglia (Almaviva)
1922 Buenos Ayres  Teatro Colon Boheme (Rodolfo)
1922 Rosario di Santa Fe Teatro Colon Boheme (Rodolfo)
1922 Rio de Janeiro  Teatro Municipal Cavalleria Rusticana (Turiddu)
1922  Montecarlo  Palais Garnier Madama Butterfly (Pinkerton)
1923 New York  Teatro Metropolitan Barbiere di Siviglia (Almaviva)
1924 New York  Teatro Metropolitan Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1924 Bologna  Teatro Comunale Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1924 Venezia  Teatro Malibran Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1925 Londra  Covent Garden  Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1925 Treviso  Teatro Sociale  Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1926 New York  Teatro Metropolitan  Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1926 New York  Teatro Metropolitan  Gioconda (Enzo)
1926 Buenos Ayres  Teatro Colon Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1926 Rio de Janeiro  Teatro Lirico Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1926 Philadelphia  Academy of Music  Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1927 Buenos Ayres  Teatro Colon Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1927 Rio de Janeiro  Teatro Municipal Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1927 San Paolo  Teatro Municipal Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1928 Buenos Ayres  Teatro Colon Carmen (Don Jose)
1929 New York  Teatro Metropolitan Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1932 New York  Teatro Metropolitan Andrea Chenier (Chenier)
1935 Firenze Teatro Comunale Ballo in Maschera (Riccardo)



Disco Nacional, Buenos Aires 1920
Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini):  Se il mio nome 82104 87a
Pescatori di Perle (Bizet): Mi par d'udir ancora  84033 90a
Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini):  Ecco ridente in cielo 84034 91a
Mignon (Thomas): Ah, non credevi tu   84035 92a
Ideale (Tosti) 84036 94a

Fonotipia, Milano 1922-12-11
Boheme (Puccini): Che gelida manina  74906 XXPh5306
Rigoletto (Verdi): La donna e mobile 152022 Pho5307
Tosca (Puccini): E lucevan le stelle 152023 Pho5308
Manon (Massenet): Chiudo gli occhi 152016 Pho5309

Fonotipia, Milano 1922-12-12
Manon (Massenet): Ah! dispar vision 74905 XXPh5310
Africana (Meyerbeer): O Paradiso 152013 Pho5311
Puritani (Bellini): A te, o cara 152014 Pho5312
Mefistofele (Boito): Giunto sul passo estremo 152015 Pho5313

Fonotipia, Milano 1922-12-13
Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti): Tu che a Dio 74909 XXPh5314
Favorita (Donizetti): Spirto gentil 74910 XXPh5315

Fonotipia, Milano 1922-12-14
Arlesiana (Cilea): E la solita storia 74911 XXPh5316
Core'ngrato (Cardillo) 152021 Pho5317
Mattinata (Leoncavallo) 74912 XXPh5318

Fonotipia, Milano 1922-12-15
Ideale (Tosti)  152017 Pho5319
Favorita (Donizetti): Una vergine, un angiol di Dio 152018 Pho5320
Elisir d'amore (Donizetti): Una furtiva lagrima 74913 XXPh5321

Fonotipia, Milano 1922-12-16
Mignon (Thomas): Addio Mignon 152019 Pho5322
Werther (Massenet): Ah! non mi ridestar 152020 Pho5323

Fonotipia, Milano 1922-12-18
Tosca (Puccini): Recondita armonia 152010 Pho5324
Rigoletto (Verdi): Questa o quella 152011 Pho5326

Giacomo Lauri-Volpi by Stampanoni