FRANCO CORELLI

(b. April 1921 in Ancona  d. October 2003 in Milan)



A glorious powerhouse of vocal armour versus human susceptibility!

 

 

 

Life

 

Franco Corelli was born in Ancona, an ancient harbour of Northern Italy within a region known as 'Regione Marche'. His father was a ship builder, so young Franco studied engineering to follow in his daddy's footsteps. But, he had one great passion, which was singing and just with and for friends. This passion made him enter the Conservatorio di Pesaro and study canto.

 

One day he went on a trip to Firenze with a friend who entered a competition for singers at The Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. His friend knew how well Franco could sing yet how shy he was, so he entered Franco' name without his knowledge in order to compete as well. Corelli stole the attention and was the winner. The Director of Rome Opera urged him to enter another competition at the experimental theatre of Spoleto and, again, Corelli won first prize as Don Jose in Carmen. In 1951 Franco made his debut there and we may well say that a star was born.

 

In 1954, he partook in a great performance of Spontini's La Vestale at Teatro La Scala, produced by Luchino Visconti, with Maria Callas, Ebe Stignani, Rossi Lemeni and conductor Antonino Votto. It was a colossal success. Later, Maria Callas talked, on the one hand, about Corelli's kindness and, on the other hand, how she hated Corelli because he was so handsome. In late 1957, he married a fellow singer, soprano Loretta Di Lelio. Despite repeated instances of stormy scenes in private and back stage of various theatres, their marriage survived and they enjoyed each other's company in future years.

 

In 1961, came his debut at The Met. He co-starred another newcomer, Leontyne Price, in Verdi's Il Trovatore. At the end of the year, he returned to Italy to celebrate the centenary of Italy's unity in the revival of Verdi's La Battaglia di Legnano with Antonietta Stella and to a great success. He was back to America, where he spent practically the rest of his career. At The Met and other great opera theatres, he sang Turiddu in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, Rodolfo in La Boheme with Gabriela Tucci, Bonaldo Giaiotti and under the baton of Fausto Cleva. At The Met, he also sang Andrea Chenier, Macbeth Lucia di Lammermoor, Tosca, La Gioconda, Don Carlo and Norma.

 

Corelli became notorious for stage fright and, even during his best of seasons, one would not exactly be sure if a given night would see Corelli or his understudy. He tried to overcome his very problem with various remedies but to no avail. Once a performance was nearing, anything could happen

 

He kept singing at The Met despite his problem but with mixed results. In 1973 he added to his repertory the role of Macduff in Verdi's Macbeth opposite Sherrill Milnes and Grace Bumbry, sung to great acclaim. In 1976, Corelli retired with his last performance of La Boheme at Torre del Lago Puccini. After a long and well deserved break, he toyed with the idea of coming back but he never did and became a voice teacher in Milan and New York. In October 2003, he died in a Milan's hospital from a stroke he had suffered earlier on. He was 82 and the last of the great ones. Definitely, he was the last and the greatest tenore di forza in the post war era, a powerful tenor with a thrilling dark timbre and a brilliant ringing top.

 


Corelli as Cavaradossi

(Tosca)

 

Corelli as Loris

(Fedora)


Tebaldi and Corelli

(Adriana lecouvreur)

 

The young Corelli and Callas

(Il Pirata)

 

 

Voice

Franco Corelli revealed that, 'With the laryngeal method you must know your vocal organ very well, what you can do and how far you can go. For example, I heard some who pushed their larynges down to the point that they sounded as if they had bronchitis. With this technique, you can make your vocal chords suffer'.

 

Franco Corelli had something very special in his voice: an infinite array of colours and dynamic shades. He sang in many well known opera houses all over Italy in Boris Godunov, War and Peace, I Pagliacci, again Carmen and Don Carlo, Gluck's Ifigenie in Aulide and with top stars, the likes of Carteri, Mancini, Callas, Barbieri, Jurinac, Simionato, Bastianini, Colzani, Capecchi, Tajo, Corena, Nicolai, and others.

 

Over the years, few other tenors were able to match or even come close to his interpretations, which had everything: Intelligence, spontaneity, vigour, sweetness, an impeccable technical standard and, once on the stage, sheer relaxation during a performance. He was able to emit an endless tonal arch and maintain beautiful lyrical colouring even in the most heroic phrases without taking an extra breath.

 

Franco Corelli used to say: 'I did not study much before my debut but I certainly did afterwards, refining the sound little by little, learning to control my breath and not to push my voice. My legato improved and my vibrato subsided'. He also talked about his career having taken a strange turn, starting with a heavy repertoire and continuing with a French lyric one.

 

He had a bit of what his predecessors possessed. He had the technical knowledge of Pertile, the sonorous sound of Caruso, the word embellishment of Martinelli, the brightness of Bjorling, the singing sul soffio of Lauri-Volpi, the note extinguishments of Fleta and the volume of Del Monaco. He was a founder of the 'International Franco Corelli Competition for young singers' held every June in Ancona and sat as President of the jury.

 

He is certainly and sorely missed by millions of opera lovers. He was a legend and still is. He will be remembered for his great Don Carlo, Radames, Manrico, Don Alvaro, Andrea Chenier, Cavaradossi, Calaf, Don Jose, Pollione, Enzo Grimaldo, Poliuto and Raoul.

Thank you Maestro, we will always remember you.

 

 

Audios files (removed)

 

1 - Cavalleria Rusticana - Mamma quel vino e` generoso - 1960 - Orchestre Sinfoniche di Milano della RAI, con Umberto Cattini.......3:59

2 - Ernani - Come rugiada al cespite - 1960 - Orchestre Sinfoniche di Milano della RAI, con Umberto Cattini.............................3:51

3 - Werther - Non mi ridestar - 1962 - Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI, con.Arturo Basile..........................................2:58

4 - Otello - Esultate - 1954 - Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI,

con Arturo Basile e coro.............................................................2:31

5 - Turandot - Non piangere Liu` e finale primo - 1966 - Orchestra e coro Opera di Roma, con Francesco Molinari-Pradelli....................4:41

 

(l.s. and j.f.)

 

 

 

Comment

 

I knew the great Franco Corelli in person and he was an exceptional human being. I have to confess that I admired him a little more than my teacher. I adore intelligent people and they do not have to be as handsome as Corelli. He was intelligent too. His 'Recitar' from Pagliacci, published in home, is really desperate singing and with everything it should have. It is a gem, like he was. When Mario Del Monaco died, it was very sad but when Franco Corelli died, I cried almost all day. Till now, I regret that I did not hop on to the next plane and go to his funeral to pay my deep last respect.

 

(l.s.)

 

 

Comment

Franco Corelli kept studying the art and technique of canto assiduously during his highly acclaimed career. As a result, he lightened and burnished a dark and massive voice splendidly. Gigli was his mentor and Lauri-Volpi his tutor. In Puccini's operas, Corelli was excellent in both Tosca and Fanciulla. In Turandot he was exceptional as the unknown Prince Calaf, spellbound by Princess Turandot's beauty. In 1926, Lauri-Volpi had created Calaf at The Met in New York and at The Colon Theatre in Buenos Aires. He had been its absolutely best interpreter up to the early 1940s. Then, two decades later, Corelli came along and interpreted Calaf to enraptured audiences. He was less mythical and luminous than the stylised and brilliant Lauri-Volpi. But, Corelli challenged with titanic vigour and melted with passional expression the fiery and frozen Princess, who ultimately fell in love.

(j.f.)

 



 

 

 

 

 

 


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