B1844. FRANCO CORELLI – A Revolution in Singing, Fifty-Four tenors spanning 200 years, Vol. I. Stefan Zucker. New York, Bel Canto Society, 2015. 384pp. Index; Bibliography; Exhaustive Chronology; Printed on top-quality paper and features more than 350 rare lithographs and photographs, the majority provided by the Met Archives; DJ. - 9781891456008
“A critical look at the evolution of operatic tenor singing, from the 19th century to the present. With formidable passion and knowledge from their own experiences as singers and lovers of the genre, Corelli and Zucker pick up on notes the average opera fan most likely does not. Sprinkled throughout are wonderful archival photographs of the tenors dressed in their stage costumes. A reader not well-versed in the technical aspects of opera singing and history might find the book a bit challenging, though die-hard opera fans and scholars will absorb it easily. Zucker and Corelli make appreciating the artistry easy, to the point where readers might seek out the actual recordings. Strictly for opera aficionados, a detailed, passionate analysis of what makes tenor singing and its practitioners unique.”
- Kirkus Reviews, Best Books of 2015
“Without doubt, and in spite of his unconventional style in expressing his views, Stefan Zucker possesses a vast knowledge of opera, its traditions, and in particular the change that took place over the years of the tenor’s role in history of classical vocal music, and of course in particular the realm of opera.
In this first volume of a series of three, Zucker comments fairly briefly on the importance of voices, style and technique pertaining to earlier tenors such as Donzelli, Duprez and Nourrit, with the darkening of vocal tone (the voix sombrée), which enabled these singers to adopt a more dramatic stance in their roles. Zucker then proceeds to highlight the singing of de Reszké, Tamagno and De Lucia and their special talents. It is, however, when he writes of his many hours interviewing Franco Corelli, with Corelli’s own ideas about vocal technique, that this book becomes very enlightening indeed. In answer to questions … this great tenor reveals his initial insecurities, his adopting and then adapting a technique of lowering the larynx promoted by Arturo Melocchi and practised by Del Monaco. This did impart more power to the vocal tone but also limited the ability readily to modulate dynamics. Zucker, later in the book,discusses openly their merits and the rivalry between Del Monaco and Corelli that developed when the former artist’s position at the Metropolitan Opera suffered after Corelli started to sing there. However, it would appear that Corelli (unlike so many great singers) was interested in the voices, technique and style of many of his predecessors, both of the long and recent past, and is quoted as saying that in particular he ‘tried to combine Del Monaco’s fortissimo, the top notes of Lauri-Volpi (who became his mentor), Pertile’s passionate interpretations, Fleta’s diminuendo and Gigli’s caressing quality, while also attempting to emulate Schipa’s singing of Werther’. Following probing ‘no holds barred questions’ Corelli confesses his feelings about his singing, his wife’s influence, sex and romantic indiscretions, and these are followed by Zucker’s own comments about his theories (with photographic evidence) of the correct position of a tenor’s genitalia, which if badly supported by poor costumes can affect the tenor’s singing.
Open and covered tones, squillo and chiaroscuro effects and the passaggio are discussed. The inclusion, or exclusion, of the names of many other tenors who recorded, who, in his and Corelli’s opinion, exhibit these various traits in their vocal armoury, may cause some dissent among readers. Interviews with Corelli about Caruso, Pertile, Martinelli, Schipa, Gigli, Lauri-Volpi, Björling, Tagliavini, Del Monaco, Di Stefano and Domingo examine the vocal timbre and special communicative talents of each of these particularly well known artists.
Corelli evidently admired the florid techniques of both Jan Peerce and Richard Tucker, while some observations of other tenors’ talents might not always please the dedicated fan of any one particular singer, they are all worthy of consideration. There is a special chapter about portamento and vibrato and Zucker then compares in some detail the interpretations of the role of Radames as recorded by Martinelli, Gigli, Tucker, Del Monaco, Björling, di Stefano, Corelli, Bergonzi, Vickers, Domingo, Carreras and Pavarotti.
The book is published in hard-back and printed on fine quality paper and lavishly strewn with remarkably fine photographs, many of which I am sure will be new to readers. It makes fascinating reading to anyone interested in, or wanting to learn more about, singing as an ‘art-form’, and shows in several ways how difficult it is to be objective about a vocalist, and not let subjectivity rule. In the course of the many observations and discussions, they show, in a number of ways, both the physical and psychological pressures of being a singer (in particular a tenor). Interestingly enough in some follow-up comments to a particular paragraph, a few firmly held opinions are occasionally (obviously on reflection) amended by Zucker. While a number of these comments are contentious and state the need for further reference to the later volumes, the overall content is informative and fascinating. There is an index of various books and DVDs covering Zucker’s numerous interviews and TV programmes, and I eagerly wait for an opportunity to read volumes two and three in this series.”
- Alan Bilgora, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2015
"A compilation and combination of essays, and historical fact, this book is not a history of opera, an instructional manual on singing, or a biography, but a mix of all three. All of the arts are, of course, a product and a reflection of their period and culture, and it's fascinating to see how the style of singing has also changed. A thought-provoking read. Sure to be a hit with opera fans, as well as students and teachers of voice and classical composition."
- Virginia Johnson, LIBRARY JOURNAL
“Stefan Zucker's book, FRANCO CORELLI AND A REVOLUTION IN SINGING, Vol. 1, published by Bel Canto Society, is obligatory reading for opera fans. The pictures and lithographs alone would be worth the price of the book (which is not expensive). More important is the in-depth discussion of the great 20th Century tenors, which includes such artists as Gigli, Lauri-Volpi, Björling, Del Monaco and many others. Zucker's scholarship is tremendous, and even music lovers who are not conversant with the technical aspects of the musical language have a lot to learn here.
Zucker's interviews with Corelli serve as a sort of leitmotif throughout most of the book. However, as great an admirer as Zucker is of this great tenor, his critical acumen about Corelli and the other tenors he discusses does not fail. That Zucker is a real scholar and open to judgment different from his is supported by the publication of an appendix in which Dr. G.P. Nardoianni offers a spirited dissenting opinion about Zucker's critique of Lauri-Volpi.
FRANCO CORELLI AND A REVOLUTION IN SINGING is an extraordinarily informative book that combines elegance of style and in-depth analyses in a language that is accessible to most opera lovers. Highly recommended. I am looking forward to other books in this series.”
“Stefan Zucker's encyclopedic knowledge of singing and singers yields a deeply informative and engaging overview of the most influential tenors of the 19th and 20th centuries. This alone would be invaluable, but the author's long relationship with Franco Corelli (he broadcast many hours of fascinating interviews with the late tenor) allows him to share very specific insights into Corelli's professional and personal opinions of many of these famous tenors' strengths, weaknesses, and influence. Corelli's lifelong technical study of singing, and especially of his predecessors (Gigli, Lauri-Volpi, Del Monaco) provides hours of fascinating reading. For those who think of Corelli as the stereotypical empty-headed tenor, this book will come as quite a surprise. The book is beautifully produced on high quality stock, with many rare photographs. Mr. Zucker, himself a noted recitalist and founder of the non-profit Bel Canto Society, promises two more volumes. I can't wait to read them. I've read this one three times.”
- Shaun Greenleaf
“Turn to this book if you want to hear operatic singing spoken of with heartfelt emotion and lifelong understanding. Zucker makes clear at the outset that this isn’t a biography or book of anecdotes. It’s one man’s theory of how Italian tenor singing has evolved up to Pavarotti and Domingo. Corelli, who was interviewed on the radio for 43 hours by Zucker over the years, speaks in his own voice on many subjects. His comments appear at the end of chapters on specific singers (e.g., Schipa, Gigli, Del Monaco), 11 in all. His astonishing voice and glamorous presence onstage may have diminished some aspects of Corelli that emerge sharply here. He was an intelligent, sober commentator on singing and a serious student of the Italian tradition.”
- Huntley Dent, FANFARE