Forgotten Opera Singers
Jan 20, 2020
He first studied dentistry. After he became aware of his beautiful voice, however, he decided to pursue a career in singing and was trained by Theo Lierhammer in Vienna and Anna Bahr-Mildenburg in Munich. After his first success at the Breslau Opera House, he came to the Bavarian State Opera (1930). For more than twenty years he remained their celebrated first tenor for the heroic and especially for the Wagner operas. As early as 1930, he participated in the premiere of Julius Weismann's "Gespenstersonate". At the Vienna State Opera he was heard in his major roles in the 1933-1934 seasons. From 1937 to 1942 and again in the 1947-1948, 1951-1953 seasons he appeared also at the Vienna Volksoper. Since 1935 there has been a guest performance at the State Opera in Dresden. Guest performances have taken him to other theaters in Germany and abroad. In 1933 he made guest appearances at the Frankfurt am Main Opera House, in 1935 at the Grand Opéra in Paris (as Tristan), in 1936 at the Sopot Festival (as Parsifal), in 1942 at the Berlin State Opera (as Herod in "Salome" by R. Strauss). In 1936 he performed with the Ensemble of the Dresden Opera at the Covent Garden Opera in London as Tristan. In 1947 he was heard at the Grand Théâtre in Geneva; In 1949 he sang in R. Wagner’s "Rheingold" in a performance of the Ring Cycle in the Austrian radio. He also appeared as a concert singer. After completing his career, he worked again as a dentist.
He began studying law at the University of Prague, which he graduated and received a Dr. jur. doctorate. He trained his voice by Ms. Ch. Morfová in Prague and later continued his education in Milan. In 1926 he made his debut at the Bratislava Opera House (Pressburg) as Alfredo in ‘’La Traviata’’ and then from 1927 to 1955 he was one of the leading members of this opera house, where he appeared on stage in more than a hundred roles. His guest appearances at the National Opera Bucharest, at the Volksoper Vienna and at the Prague National Opera, were very successful. In addition to his work on the opera stage, he developed a second career as a concert singer, whose repertoire included Beethoven's 9th symphony, ‘’La Damnation de Faust’’ by H. Berlioz, Stabat mater and the requiem by A. Dvorák. In 1957 he undertook a glamorous concert tour through China. From the 1950s until 1973 he worked as a teacher at the Music Academy in Bratislava. His operatic repertoire included Duke in ‘’Rigoletto’’, Riccardo in ‘’Ballo in maschera’’, Rodolfo in ‘’La Bohème’’, Cavaradossi in ‘’Tosca’’, Don Ottavio in ‘’Don Giovanni’’, Pinkerton in ‘’Madama Butterfly’’, Schuiski in ‘’Boris Godunov’’, Don Jose in ’’Carmen’’, Hans in B. Smetana's ‘’The Bartered Bride’’, Luke in ‘’Tajemstvì’’ and Podhajsky in ‘’Dve vdovy’’.
He was born in Milan on April 21, 1923, the eldest of three brothers of Giovanni Franzini and Teodolinda Mapelli. He studied painting with Aldo Carpi at the Accademia di Brera and in 1948 he moved to Paris where, he attend the old Matisse. In 1951 he returned to Italy to participate in an opera competition for new voices and won it. His official debut in the world of opera took place in 1951 at the Teatro Nuovo in Milan in Felice Lattuada’s opera "The precious ridiculous" by and continued his theatrical activities until 1974. He worked with the symphonic orchestras of Rai and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, singing as a soloist under the direction of Mario Rossi, Vittorio Gui, Alfredo Simonetto, Lovro Von Matačić, Riccardo Chailly and others. In 1966 he recorded for the Decca the ballet "Pulcinella" by Igor Stravinsky, with the Orchester de la Suisse Romande conducted by Ernest Ansermet. In 1972 he underwent a criminal trial for slapping the concert master during the rehearsals of Strawinsky's opera "Mavra" at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. He also was a well known painter, who used the pseudonym Saturnino. Struck by a heart attack he died on January 27, 2003 at the Bassini hospital in Cinisello Balsamo.
He studied singing in Prague (1932), Milan (1933) and Vienna (1936). Since 1932 he was soloist of the Slovak National Theater in Bratislava. Here he sang the whole repertoire of heroic tenor over the course of a decade-long career. In Bratislava he participated in several world premieres of the operas by Eugen Suchon and Ján Cikker, including ‘’Krútňava’’ by E. Suchon (1949), "Juro Jánošík" (1954) and "Beg Bajazid" (1957) by Cikker. He became very popular for his appearance in classical operettas, especially in the role of Prince Sou Chong in Lehár's "Land des Lächelns". He also worked as a dramaturge and librettist and wrote a very readable, two-volume "History of Slovak Opera". Also his work as an opera director and as a teacher in the Slovakian capital Bratislava should not be forgotten.
He was one of the first Mexican opera singers, who made records in USA. In the 1890’s he appeared in Italy, Australia and USA. In 1898 he became a member of the Car Rosa Opera Company, with whom he toured in Australia. The same year he immigrated to USA. Here he performed as Count di Luna in ‘’Trovatore’’ (Los Angeles Theater, 1898). In 1899 he sang at the Hopkins Art Institute and at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. The next year he appeared with Lombardi Opera Company. At the Fischer’s Concert House, opposite Thomas Shepard, he participated in concert (1900). He made records for Zonophone, Victor and Edison. In 1902, for a short time, he changed to tenor and made opera arias and songs for Edison, but the next year returned to his standard baritone repertoire.