DE LUCA (b.
Rome 1876 d. New York 1950 ) –
legendary baritone !
Luca in 1928
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.
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.
completing the Accademia course, Giuseppe De Luca debuted
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
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.
a successful stay at La Scala, he travelled across Europe
(in 1907, 1910 and
1911 he visited Russia
) and became slowly
but surely known as what he is called today: A legendary baritone.
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).
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 ,
and South America.
De Luca as Escamillo
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....'
Luca was also the first to perform in Adriana Lecouvreur (Cilea)
(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).
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
September 1950 .
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.
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
fanciulla …– the duet sung by Rigoletto
(baritone Giuseppe De Luca) and Gilda (soprano Amelita Galli-Curci)
act II scene 6
le foreste imbalsamate ... –
the duet sung by Amonasro (baritone Giuseppe De Luca) and
Aida (soprano Elisabeth Rethberg) – Aida
act III the Nile scene
Giuseppe De Luca
official Italian web site, managed by my very friend Roberto
Scandurra, Esq., is www.giuseppedeluca.it