Thursday, October 30, 2003

# Posted 10:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

A LAST FINAL BOW FOR FRANCO CORELLI, TENOR: One of the great tenors of the twentieth century, Franco Corelli, has passed away from us, perchance to sing with the angels.

Rachel and I were, somewhat poignantly, listening entirely by chance to Corelli's Songs and Arias disc at the precise moment he died. (This has made me somewhat cautious in use of my CD player...though were I a substantially less benevolent and well-meaning sort to all, I could note I've been listening quite a bit to the Dixie Chicks today, without demonstrable effect.)

Corelli's Metropolitan Opera debut formed one of the legendary nights to occur in that house, when both he and Leontyne Price both made their debut on the same night in Il Trovatore. The ovations at the end of the performance carried on for nearly an hour. In an anecdote which I recall, from the oral tradition of my own music coaches and relatives not too distant from his (and Rossini's) natal port town of Ancona on Italy's east coast, was that Corelli initially worked in the docks of his port town, following in his father's profession as a naval engineer. Friends noticed his singing on the docks, guided only by old 78's of Caruso, Gigli, and Lauri-Volpi, and encouraged him to study voice professionally. He received what seems in retrospect to have been quite bad instruction at the hands of Rita Pavoni in the Conservatory of Pesaro, and gained the distinction of being compared to a glass - "whenever he went up," Italian oral tradition records the contemporary assessment, "he broke." Returning to the ports, his friends convinced him once again to leave to pursue his vocal gifts, and receiving mildly better instruction from Arturo Melocchi (who was known, however, as a "throat-wrecker"), and a quite productive apprenticeship under Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, he deputed in 1951 as Don Jose in Carmen, singing with Maria Callas in 1953, deputing at La Scala with her in 1954, and taking Tosca to London in 1957. He retired in the year of my birth, 1976. If there be Neapolitan gondoliers in the heavens, he has surely taken his place there among them.
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