GIUSEPPE DE LUCA  (b. Rome 1876  d. New York 1950 )  –

 

A legendary baritone !

 

De Luca in 1928

 

Giuseppe De Luca was one of the best and perhaps the greatest baritone of XX century. A friend and colleague of Enrico Caruso, he was the leading baritone at the Met for over 30 years.

 

Born in Rome on 25 December 1876, he showed interest in music from an early age. As a boy of only 8, he became a member of the Vatican choir. He already had a fine baritone voice at the age of 13. When 15 years old, he gained entrance to the Accademia di Santa Cecilia where he studied for almost five years under Wenceslao Persichini, one of the leading teachers of the time. His students included Mattia Battistini and Titta Ruffo.

 

After completing the Accademia course, Giuseppe De Luca debuted at Piacenza as Valentine (Faust) in 1897, then was heard at Milan (Teatro Lirico) and soon after in all major opera houses of Italy . He made his first recordings around 1905 and in 1907 he joined the Teatro alla Scala.

 

It is interesting to note that the baritone, who sang mainly Verdi, Donizetti, etc. and whose repertoire was Italian and French, sang the Wagnerian roles of Alberich (Das Rheingold), Wolfram (Tannhauser) and Beckmesser (Die Meistersinger) in his early years at La Scala.

 

After a successful stay at La Scala, he travelled across Europe (in 1907, 1910 and 1911 he visited Russia and Poland ) and became slowly but surely known as what he is called today: A legendary baritone.

 

In 1910 Giuseppe De Luca sang the role of Sancho Panza opposite Feodor Chaliapin at the world premiere of Massenet's Don Quichotte. An outstanding actor, he was acclaimed in character and buffo roles. He sang not only the whole Verdi's repertoire but was also a great Mozart singer (in Don Giovanni and Figaro).

 

He joined the Metropolitan Opera of New York in 1915 as Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia. From an early stage, it was clear that he had mastered a perfect belcanto technique, which later helped him sustain a long and fine career. He regularly appeared also in Spain , England, Russia, Austria and South America.

 

Giuseppe De Luca as Escamillo

 

At the Met, he sang many first time productions. For example, in December 1919, the production of L'Italiana in Algeri with Hackett, Besanzoni, Adamo Didur and De Luca as Lindoro. In December 1932, a remarkable production of Il Signor Bruschino (Rossini) with Fleischer, Tokatyan and Pinza. He was a favourite of Puccini, creating the very first Sharpless in Madama Butterfly and Gianni Schicchi. Toscanini once said '.... who, De Luca? .... absolutely the best baritone I ever heard....'

 

De Luca was also the first to perform in Adriana Lecouvreur (Cilea) and Siberia (Giordano). He was loved by contemporary composers, such as Respighi (first performance of La campana sommersa), Massenet, Mascagni Puccini and Leoncavallo. His repertoire included over 100 operas and he sang for 50 years from 1897 to 1947. He left behind a hugely fascinating testimony of his art and a wealth of recordings (52 operas, over 60 ballads and songs).

 

De Luca was a legendary performer, one of the greatest baritones of all times and a star of the Met. He was also a partner of Caruso, Gigli, Chaliapin, Lauri-Volpi, Elisabeth Rethberg, Rosina Storchio, Lina Cavalieri and many others. His last public appearance was at a concert, to celebrate his fifty years of singing, which was held at the Met, New York , in 1947. De Luca died in New York on 26 September 1950 .

 

In 1995, as a tribute to this great baritone, the Theatrical Museum of La Scala opened an exhibition called 'Giuseppe De Luca, the noble voice'. On display were letters, mementos, costumes, photographs, press cuttings, posters, theatre programmes and many autographed photos of De Luca from Massenet, Respighi, Pizzetti, Perosi, Puccini, Mascagni, Toscanini, with dedications to Enrico Caruso, Lina Cavalieri, Maria Barrientos, Lily Pons, Margherita Carosio and others.

(l.s.)

 

 

Comment  (ed.)

De Luca is in my favourite quintet of baritones in the following order of preference: Granforte, De Luca, Bechi, Bastianini and Zancanaro. I found it hard to select two appropriate audio files out of a few I hold to illustrate the immense art of De Luca. In agreement with Lynn and Michèle, I chose a duet from Rigoletto act II and a duet from Aida act III. In them, De Luca shows superb vocality, softness of the voice (Rigoletto) and measure of the expression (Amonasro). Notable is the beautiful recitativo concitato, which is tight and sculptured (Amonasro). My selection was also influenced by the calibre of two historic sopranos in the duets: Galli-Curci and Rethberg.

 

Audio files

Audio 1 Piangi fanciulla …–  the duet sung by Rigoletto (baritone Giuseppe De Luca) and Gilda (soprano Amelita Galli-Curci) – Rigoletto act II scene 6

Audio 2 Rivedrai le foreste imbalsamate ... –  the duet sung by Amonasro (baritone Giuseppe De Luca) and Aida (soprano Elisabeth Rethberg) – Aida act III the Nile scene

 

Link (ed.)

Giuseppe De Luca 's official Italian web site, managed by my very friend Roberto Scandurra, Esq., is www.giuseppedeluca.it

 

 

Reflections archive >>

 

 
 

 


reflections archive


Opera is a spectacular art form combining music, action and words, where the drama or comedy is enhanced by the words, sung in the original or other language. Instrumental works draw great attention and delight from the sound of the music alone but opera has a triple edge advantage: Music, action and words sung by the human voice, the supreme instrument.

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