OP2255. BARBIERE - Excerpts, recorded 1918, Phonotype, w.Fernando De Lucia, Francesco Novelli, Maria Resemba, Giorgio Schottler, Angelo di Tommaso, Stefano Valentino & Nina Sabatano; RIGOLETTO – Excerpts, recorded 1917, Phonotype, w.Fernando de Lucia, Antonio Armentano, Angela de Angelis, Vida Ferluga & Luis Muñoz. (Germany) Truesound Transfers 3101. Transfers by Christian Zwarg.
“Fernando De Lucia was one of the bridges between nineteenth and twentieth century styles, a link that is reflected, appropriately enough, in his career. He began his career as a lyric tenor, verging on tenore di grazia, but by the end of the century he was well established as a verismo tenor. He also taught some of the most prominent tenors of the first half of the twentieth century, including Ivan Petroff, Enzo de Muro Lomanto and Georges Thill. Like his contemporary Enrico Caruso (he sang at Caruso's funeral), he had an almost baritonal timbre and rather limited top, and particularly in his verismo rôles he was most often compared to Caruso.
He studied voice at the Naples Conservatory, where his teachers included Vincenzo Lombardi. His opera début was in the title rôle of Gounod's FAUST in 1885 at the Teatro San Carlo. In 1887, he made his London début at the Drury Lane Theatre, though his London triumphs were not to come until 1893 and his Covent Garden début as Canio in Leoncavallo's PAGLIACCI. This established him as a favorite at that house. 1893 also marked his Metropolitan Opera début, though he sang only one season there. His verismo rôles had taken a toll on his voice and by 1909, he had greatly reduced his stage appearances. He gave his last performance, in the title rôle of Mascagni's L'AMICO FRITZ, in 1917, though he continued to make recordings. Though many of these show some wear on his voice and much of the material was transposed down, even the late recordings show his profound sense of musical style in both the bel canto and verismo schools.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com
“Fernando De Lucia sang in many of the world’s greatest opera houses from his début at the San Carlo of Naples in 1885. Since 1909, however, his operatic activity had been limited to only a handful of performances (Rome and Paris in 1910, Naples in 1914, and Milan and Rome in 1916) when, in February 1917, he was persuaded to emerge from retirement to give some last performances, at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, of the title rôle of Fritz Kobus in Mascagni’s L’AMICO FRITZ, a part that he had created at the Teatro Costanzi (as it then was) of Rome, in 1891.
It was in 1917, shortly after Fernando de Lucia had been enticed from the virtual retirement of several years to make some farewell performances at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, that his old friend Raffaele Esposito, proprietor of the small Neapolitan recording house of Phonotype, offered him the opportunity of making records for his company. It would be a resumption of a recording career which had started in 1902, with the first of his 69 published titles made for G&T up until 1909, but to which the 30 published Fonotipias of 1911 had seemed to write finis. It would also be the most prolific period of that career, for over the period May 1917 – 1922 De Lucia recorded 301 titles for Phonotype: they embraced operas that he had never sung on the stage, religious pieces, a great variety of songs, both Neapolitan and otherwise, and much of his operatic repertoire (including ‘complete’ versions of RIGOLETTO and IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA).
Phonotypes had little circulation outside Naples, and they are rare even in that war-ravaged city. Most are known in only a handful of copies. Many collectors may never have seen one.”
- Dr. Michael Henstock, HISTORIC MASTERS
“During World War II, Italians were called upon to collect metals, particularly copper, for the war effort. Raffaele and Americo Esposito [of Phonotype] knew that their matrices were threatened. Secretly, largely at night, they built a concrete bunker under the garden behind the factory in Via Enrico de Marinis, and there many of the matrices…passed the war years. A few reappeared when peace was renewed, but most remained underground. Raffaele died in 1945, and Americo in 1956. Astonishingly, neither ever revealed to the family the secret of the garden. In 1961, during work to enlarge the factory, a workman’s pick struck the edge of the bunker. As Americo’s sons…watched, the vault was opened, and the matrices once again saw daylight.”
- Michael E. Henstock, FERNANDO DE LUCIA, p.335
“[Truesound] transfers have been an absolute revelation to me….Amazingly, Christian Zwarg has managed to unlock the sound of these recordings in such a way as to present [voices] such as I have never heard before. Here the sound has a sheen and glow which is quite beautiful. It is as if an old masterpiece painting has been cleaned and restored, allowing rays of brilliant light to emerge….”
- Davyd Booth, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2012