Lanuvio near Rome 1892 d. Burjasot near Valencia
Lauri-Volpi was born at Lanuvio near Rome on December
11, 1892, within a large family but remained orphan from a
tender age. In 1914, he studied law at La Sapienza university
of Rome and vocality at the Santa Cecilia conservatory under
a famous teacher, baritone Antonio Cotogni. In 1915 he enrolled
in the Italian army during WW I, distinguished himself in
battle and three years later was promoted captain. He was
conferred the War Cross, Italy's highest decoration for military
valour. In 1919, when still in the army, he made his stage
debut in I Puritani and Rigoletto at Viterbo.
1920, he sang at the Teatro Costanzi of Rome in Massenet's
Manon and it was a triumph. The news spread throughout Italy
with excitement. The new voice led him immediately to the
great opera houses of the world. In 1920, he was at Rio De
Janeiro and Buenos Aires (Barbiere, Manon and Rigoletto),
in 1921 in Madrid (Rigoletto, Bohème, Tosca, Puritani
and Favorita), in 1922 at La Scala (Rigoletto) then in Montecarlo
(Tosca, Bohème, Butterfly), Barcelona (Rigoletto, Manon,
Favorita) and Buenos Aires (Bohème, Tosca, Rigoletto
and Traviata). In barely two years after creating a sensation
in Manon, he was at The Met, the most rapid tenor's ascendancy
1922 to 1933, a period of great splendour, he sang in New
York at The Met (Butterfly, Chenier, Africana, Aida, Carmen,
Lucia, Norma, Faust, Gioconda and Pagliacci among others)
and several American cities. He created the role of Calaf
(Turandot) at The Met, co-starring the fiery soprano Maria
Jeritza in 1926. Indeed, Puccini had composed the vocal score
of Calaf, thinking of Lauri-Volpi. Between 1926 and 1928,
Calaf was Lauri-Volpi, who cherished the role especially from
1935 (Opera di Roma and Staatsoper of Vienna) to 1956 (Caracalla
di Roma). He shone in the roles of Il Duca di Mantova, Manrico,
Radames, Rodolfo (Bohème) and Cavaradossi.
sang Cavalleria, Pagliacci and Chenier fairly often but never
emerged in these verismo operas. He was a magnificent Arnoldo
(Guillaume Tell) in 1930 at La Scala, Opera di Roma, San Carlo
and Opéra de Paris. Alas, he needed a few months of
absolute rest to recover from the extenuating role. He successfully
challenged the prohibitive tessitura of Raoul (Les Huguenots)
in 1933 at the Arena di Verona and he gave renewed glamour
to the role of Rodolfo (Luisa Miller) in 1937 at the Maggio
Musicale Fiorentino. He was still in splendid form in 1942
at La Scala and San Carlo in the role of Otello. The sensitive
tenor deeply resented newspaper criticisms and sang the Moor
only seven times on the stage.
the decade 1945-1955, he toured Italy and Europe extensively.
On 7 February 1959, he appeared on the stage for the last
time singing Il Trovatore at the Teatro dell'Opera, Rome.
At the age of seventy three in 1965, he entertained an enthusiastic
public at a concert in Ariccia. At the age of eighty in 1973,
he participated in Barcelona to a concert of Spanish singers,
singing Nessun dorma (Turandot).
was highly educated, an avid reader and well versed in Latin,
mythology and philosophy. He wrote in depth on vocality and
singers of the Golden Age of Opera and beyond, kept and published
a diary of his artistic career and even a novel. His death
was that of the righteous. He passed in his sleep after a
day spent on singing and writing: 17 March 1979. He was eighty
seven years old.
the impression of being an extrovert man, due
to his intrepid
temerity and vocality on the stage. To the contrary,
he was an introvert man even if success and celebrity made
him an outright and attractive conversationalist. A man of
handsome appearance, impeccable dress sense, cultured speech
and refined manners, he was the last famous singer to have
direct contacts with kings, political leaders, dictators,
rich bankers and famous men of letters. Yet, he was not mundane.
He kept away from the operatic milieu except for two radiant
sopranos who attracted him.
had an amorous friendship with Claudia Muzio and a brief but
solid relationship with Grace Moore, the soprano cum Hollywood
movie star. More likely, they were the result of his in built
fantasies. They were signs of a dreamer. However, he was attached
to his wife, Spanish soprano Maria Ros, who was his mentor,
teacher, aficionado and probably the instigator of some ‘diva'
excesses in him. Despite being very religious and generous
to the poor, he was a man of tenacious rancor and forthright
bouts. Contradictorily, he demanded large emoluments but hated
major soloist in exceptional and heart felt thousands of stage
performances during the years from 1919 to 1959, Lauri-Volpi
was always supported by a miracle: his voice. The voice was
prodigious, naturally beautiful, versatile and not comparable
to that of any of his celebrated tenor contemporaries. He
coined it “the solitary voice” because it was bizarre, extraordinary
and unique. Also, it was tempered like steel and resistant
beyond the average artistic career retirement age.
was easily adaptable to roles of tenore di grazia (Barber
of Seville), tenore lirico (Bohème), drammatico (Pagliacci
and Luisa Miller) and eroico (Otello and Aida). In his prime,
the pronunciation was impeccable, the timbre sensuous, the
mezzavoce stupefying, the diminuendo a la Fleta and the extension
disorienting: it possessed three octaves of vibration, which
were impossible with other voices. It could easily be
picked up among one thousand of other tenor voices.
any tenor voice becomes a reinforced falsettone above
the high C,
Lauri-Volpi's voice displayed the same timbre and squillo
throughout. Richness of harmonics, vibrational intensity and
uniformity of colour were typically coherent from low register
sounds to upper register resonance even at a semitone above
the high C. "The solitary voice" gave rise to envy,
morbid jealousy and open hostility especially in the operatic
milieu, within the realm of conductors and male singers.
all the male singers, however. Tauber venerated the tenor,
Thill was a great friend, Fleta guested at his villa in Valencia,
Tibbett confided in him, Bechi listened to his advice, De
Luca was his buddy, Martinelli was a devoted colleague, Corelli
became a studious pupil under him, Martinelli and Corelli
were at the unveiling of the tenor's statue in the hall of
the old Met in 1965.
great bass Nazzareno De Angelis was mesmerised by the tenor's
performance in Il Trovatore on the night of 30 April 1933
at La Scala. He sent him a telegram which read, ”…my great
enthusiasm for your Manrico, which is matchless, puts together
drama, passion, fraseggio, belcanto and has quality Tamagno,
Masini, Marconi and Stagno. Best wishes for many more years.
Tosca – O
dolci baci sung by Giacomo Lauri-Volpi in 1928
6 Gli Ugonotti – Bianca
al par di neve sung by Giacomo Lauri-Volpi in 1929
7 Carmen –
fleur que tu m'avais jetée sung by Giacomo
Lauri-Volpi in 1930
8 Otello – Quando
duet sung by Caniglia and Lauri-Volpi in 1941
9 La forza del destino – Or
muoio tranquillo duet sung by Lauri-Volpi and Bechi in
10 Il Trovatore –
quella pira sung by Giacomo Lauri-Volpi in 1951
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Guest of Honour, tenor Salvatore Fisichella, makes an undivided
and heart-whole comment on the art of Lauri-Volpi and the
artistic rivalry between Lauri-Volpi and Gigli.
Lauri Volpi rappresenta il Tenore per eccellenza .La cristallinità
del suo timbro,la originalità di alcune sue interpretazioni
fanno di Lui un Artista singolare e per certi versi moderno
e fuori dagli stilemi cui erano soggetti i colleghi del suo
la sua concezione della vita teatrale e dell'Arte , entrò
in rivalità con Gigli ,che in fondo ammirava, cercando
di imitarne invano la bella mezzavoce,e alcune sfumature stilistiche
che Lauri Volpi non raggiunse mai. L'avversione che Lauri
Volpi ebbe per Gigli si poggiava per tutto quello che Gigli
raffigurava e per tutto quanto roteava attorno a lui. Gigli
era la forma schietta del tenore inglobata nella naturalezza
del suo canto;Lauri Volpi è già personaggio
dentro di sé e con il canto cerca di essere tenore
a tutti gli effetti:nella scena,nella vita,nella sua Arte
e,da buon letterato,con la sua penna.
carattere assai bizzarro che non si arrestava di fronte nessun
ostacolo e a nessuna contrapposta personalità che fosse
capitata davanti a sé.
non ho avuto modo di ascoltare di persona Lauri Volpi,ma chi
ha avuto modo farlo mi ha riferito che in teatro la voce del
tenore era di uno squillo e di una pienezza che non viene
testimoniata dai dischi che ci ha lasciato. Peccato!Sarebbe
stato assistere al miracolo di una voce Il Suo portamento
scenico era di una carismatica caratura che faceva dimenticare,ove
vi fosse,qualche lieve difetto.
le interpretazioni del Grande tenore io preferisco,a parte
il Trovatore,di cui forse è stato un Manrico insuperabile,Gli
Ugonotti e l'Otello di Verdi.
proposito dell'Otello debbo segnalare che durante la preparazione
Lauri Volpi si assentò dalle scene(!939-1941),per il
lungo e scrupoloso studio che Egli volle dedicare all'approfondimento
delle ragioni vocali stilistiche ed espressive di Otello in
previsione del suo esordio alla Scala (1941-42).
esordio,preceduto da vivissime polemiche,avvenne il 14 febbraio
1942,con esito indiscutibilmente lusinghiero sotto il profilo
vocale tanto da fare scrivere a Franco Abbiati nel Corriere
della Sera:<<Lauri Volpi ha cantato… con quella bellezza
e quella potenza e quella luminosità di suoni che fanno
della sua voce lo strumento più affascinante del registro
Lauri Volpi stands for the Tenor par excellence. The crystallinity
of his timbre, the originality of some interpretations make
him a singular artist, modern in certain ways and out of the
stylistic traits, on which colleagues of his time depended.
to his concepts of theatrical life and Art, he became a rival
of Gigli, whom he admired after all, trying in vain to imitate
the Gigli's beautiful mezzavoce and some stylistic sfumature
which Lauri Volpi never mastered. Lauri Volpi's aversion towards
Gigli leaned on all that Gigli represented and spun around
him. Gigli was the pure form of a tenor cocooned in vocal
naturalness. Lauri Volpi has personality already and by singing
he tries to be a tenor to all effects and purposes: on the
stage, in life, in his Art and, being a good writer, with
bizarre enough character, who did not falter in front of any
obstacle and any confronting person which happened to come
I never heard Lauri Volpi live but those who did have said
that on the stage the tenor's voice was of such squillo and
fullness that none of the recordings he left us bear testinony.
A pity! It would have been a case of witnessing the miracle
of a voice. His deportment on the stage had such charismatic
quality that some slight defect was forgiving, if there was
the Great tenor's interpretations, my favourites are The Huguenots
and Verdi's Otello apart from Il Trovatore, in which he was
perhaps an unsurpassed Manrico.
his Otello, I should mention that, during the preparation
work, Lauri Volpi absented himself from the stage (1939-1941)
for a long and scrupulous period of in depth study
to spend on the Otello's vocal, stylistic and expressiver
reasons, in anticipation of his debut at La Scala (1941-42)
by very noisy polemics, the debut took place on 14 February
1942 with an undisputably favourable outcome from a vocal
viewpoint so much so that the critic Franco Abbiati wrote
in the Corriere della Sera, “ Lauri Volpi sang... with such
beauty, power and luminosity of sounds that his voice is the
most fascinating instrument of the tenor register...”