Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers

Sep 22, 2022

Nicolae Leonard (Tenor) (Galați December 13, 1886 - Câmpulung December 24, 1928)


Nicknamed "The Prince of Operetta", Nicolae Leonard or Nae Leonard, the son of the locomotive driver from Galati Constantin Nae and the Viennese woman Carolina Schäffer, was born on December 13, 1886 in Bădălani, Galaţi. Shortly afterwards his mother died (March, 1887). His father remarried and moved to Buzău, where he was a employee of the private railway Buzău-Nehoiaş. In December 1893 he appeared at the school celebration and sang the song Soldan Viteazul by Vasile Alecsandri. The celebration took place at the Moldavia Theater. Later he finished primary school in 1897 and entered the high school "Al. Hâjdeu”. Here he learns French very easily, memorizes perfectly the texts and the music of opera and operetta. He also had a passion for the violin, starting to take lessons with the Buzau professor N. Athanasiu. In 1900, Elena, Nae Leonard's second mother, died of a chest disease. Together with his father, he arrives in Bucharest, living in Leonard's grandmother's house. Constantin Nae gives his son to a pension, the famous Otescu Institute. At the age of 16, he manages to join Nicu Poenaru's band. It was in 1903, in Focsani. In 1904 Al . P. Marinescu cast him in the role of an old man, in Fetiţă dulce. A full-fledged singer and actor, he proves supreme maturity. Leonard has nothing to wait for; just the triumph!. Due to the extremely demanding program and due to a pneumonia, in 1910, the tenor Nicolae Leonard is on the verge of death. At one point, the news spread that the "operetta prince" - adored by all audiences, not just women - had died. The country is in mourning, but soon finds out that the information was wrong. And poor Leonard is besieged, literally, by the letters of the fans. In 1916 he appeared with great success in the title role in J. Massenet’s opera "Werther". His wife left for Moldova, with the beginning of the First World War, the tenor remaining in Bucharest, where he will meet the one, who would become his third wife, Dora Stauermann. On January 19, 1920, the Union of Dramatic and Lyrical Artists was created. The hall of the "Lyric Theater" is taken by order of the City Hall, and the company led by Maximilian and Leonard is finally established in Timisoara, where it will have some success, but unfortunately the hall will be burned by flames. The band Grigoriu Lyrical Company will tour in Arad and Oradea. The first season of the lyrical company set up by Constantin Grigoriu ends in September 1904. For a year, the band that Grigoriu had formed leaves the cultural landscape of the Capital. In the summer of 1905, the Grigoriu company recovered, but new people came, including the young tenor Nicolae Leonard. The band is hugely successful with Winterberg's "Happy Heirs." For a long time, Otetelişanu Garden remains the summer headquarters of the Grigoriu Company. Almost a decade after the company's founding, Grigoriu fell ill and relinquished leadership to Maximilian and Leonard. Shortly afterwards, in 1913, he died. However, the band does not break up and continues to play on the stage in Otetelişanu during the summer, touring in winter or playing at the Lyric Theater. In 1922, the band moved back to Bucharest, but due to the decline of the operetta, it would not be a resounding success, and Maximlian withdrew completely from the band, joining the Bulandra couple. Leonard fell ill in 1924, when he received two offers of engagement from France and left for Paris, where he was hired after an audition. In 1925 he made his debut in Lyon, in "Baiadera", representing a great success. He returns to the country, but fails to relaunch the operetta on the lands of Bucharest, being recalled to France, where he will start the tour in Marseille. Sick, with chills and temperature, Leonard will play as if he had nothing, with a resounding success. Following is a series of 40 highly successful shows held in Marseille, with crowded halls. He sang in Paris (1926), at "Mogador". Returns to Bucharest, where he stages the operetta "Countess Maritza", but will have only 10 shows with dubious success. His health is deteriorating. In 1928 he played at the "Alhambra" in the operetta "Fritz". He gives 50 shows in a row, and due to his health, he finds it harder and harder to cope, he has coughing fits right on the stage, and at the last show he collapses on the stage and the show is suspended. He was hospitalized in a sanatorium and not long after was transported to Câmpulung-Muscel, where his father now lived. On December 24, 1928, he passed away, in his father's house, while listening to the gramophone, the plate on which was printed an aria from "Countess Maritza", performed by him.

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