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
“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. This subject has been well covered, too, by John Potter in his excellent book THE TENOR and also by Henry Pleasants in his book THE GREAT SINGERS. Zucker then proceeds to highlight the singing of de Reszke, 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 from listeners to the programmes or in response to a comment by Zucker 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, techniques and styles 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’ 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.
The book is published in hardback 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)….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, 2018
“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.”
“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, 2015