(b. April 1921 in Ancona d. October 2003 in Milan)
glorious powerhouse of vocal armour versus human susceptibility!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
young Corelli and Callas
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'.
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,
Bastianini, Colzani, Capecchi, Tajo, Corena,
Nicolai, and others.
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.
Corelli used to say: 'I did not study much before my debut
but I certainly did afterwards, refining the sound 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.
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
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
you Maestro, we will always remember you.
Cavalleria Rusticana - Mamma quel vino e` generoso - 1960 - Orchestre Sinfoniche
di Milano della RAI, con Umberto Cattini.......3:59
Ernani - Come rugiada al cespite - 1960 - Orchestre Sinfoniche di Milano
della RAI, con Umberto Cattini.............................3:51
Werther - Non mi ridestar - 1962 - Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino
della RAI, con.Arturo Basile..........................................2:58
- Otello - Esultate
Sinfonica di Torino della RAI,
con Arturo Basile e coro.............................................................2:31
Turandot - Non piangere Liu` e finale primo - 1966 - Orchestra
e coro Opera di Roma, con
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
'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.
Corelli kept studying the art and technique of canto
his highly acclaimed career. As
a result, he lightened and burnished a dark and massive voice
was his mentor and Lauri-Volpi his tutor. In Puccini's operas,
Corelli was excellent
in both Tosca and Fanciulla.
In Turandot he
unknown Prince Calaf, spellbound by Princess Turandot's beauty.
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
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.