V1918. FLORENCIO CONSTANTINO: Ama (Tirindelli); Arias & Duets (w.Alice Nielsen) from Barbiere, Lucia, Rigoletto, L’Elisir d’Amore, Marta, La Gioconda, La Traviata, Mefistofele, Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Faust, Manon, La Favorita, Roméo, L’Africaina & La Boheme. (Austria) Preiser 89748, recorded 1907-08, incl. 4 Unpublished titles. - 717281897488
“Here is yet another in the Preiser treasury of little-known delights: Basque tenor Florencio Constantino (1869-1919). Here is a program of 18 arias, 4 duets, and a song recorded by Victor, 1907-08. After one quickly adjusts to the primitive, yet clear sound of the recordings one hears no unusual repertoire, but interpretations of familiar arias such as have not been heard in years, maybe even a century! There is lots of changed pitches, odd (to us) tempos, rubato, slancio, squillo, spinto, and other Italian intricacies. The voice is solid, with little vibrato, steady as a rock, and plenty of color. Most of all, there is personality—lots of it. What a treat it must have been to hear and see Constantino on stage.
Soprano Alice Nielsen (another long-forgotten singer) joins him for four duets (RIGOLETTO, LUCIA, TRAVIATA, FAUST). Constantino’s repertoire covers it all: Duke of Mantua, Nemorino, Enzo, Alfredo, Almaviva, Edgardo, Nadir, Vasco da Gama, Faust, Des Grieux (Massenet’s), Roméo, Rodolfo, Ferrando (LA FAVORITA), and Lionel. It is one delight after another. I am so very happy to have heard this long-neglected artist.”
- Charles H. Parsons, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July/Aug., 2012
“With lessons taken from Lamperti, Constantino’s technique is obviously based on those methods predominately taught in the 19th century and with what we now associate as the bel canto school, and his style has been compared with that of Alessandro Bonci. He could vocalise divisions and coloratura cadenzas with ease, and certainly is singing of the coloratura passages of ‘Ecco ridente’ and the final cadenza of ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ demonstrate this to perfection. He could also maintain a fine legato and at times make use of subtle rubato.”
- Alan Bilgora, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2011
“Florencio Constantino was five years older than Caruso and was one of the ‘old School’ of tenors. He sang effortlessly and his voice had an unmistakable character marked by a round, compact sound and a rapid, regular vibrato. He has never been granted a place among the great tenors, but certainly belongs there. Constantino had an important international career in the time of Caruso, Bonci, Anselmi, Ershov, Jadlowker, Sobinov and Zenatello. He was in great demand by record companies on both sides of the Atlantic and made more than 200 records which merit special attention. His is a voice of much grace, with a sweet mezza voce and a legato of impeccable quality. His style takes us back to pre-Caruso days. In my opinion he is at his best in lyrical music. His earliest recordings are very rare and include some Argentinean songs revealing his attractive voice of great beauty.
He was born Florencio Constantineau in Bilbao (Basque part of Spain) on 9 April, 1869 and finally emigrated to Argentina in 1889. While working as a ship’s engineer he discovered a voice of natural beauty and after a brief period of training with Leopoldo Stiatesi, a student of Lamperti , Constantino made his début in Bréton’s LA DOLORES at the Teatro Solis in Montevideo, repeating the rôle in Buenos Aires at the Teatro Odéon. After spending some years in South America, he returned to Europe in 1896 for further study and sang in Italy, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, mostly in provincial theatres. A turning point in his career was an engagement to the Teatro Real Madrid in 1899. There he enjoyed tremendous success opposite such famous singers like Hariclea Darclée and Ramón Blanchart. At Lisboa, he made his début as the Duke opposite Mario Sammarco in RIGOLETTO. Travelling from Spain to Poland he sang together with Luisa Tetrazzini, Salomea Kruszelnicka, Mattia Battistini, Josefina Huguet and Adamo Didur. At the turn of the century he was invited by the Tsar to St. Petersburg where he débuted as Enzo in LA GIOCONDA. In 1906, he created the French version of Puccini’s MANON LESCAUT (the first in France) at the Opéra Municipal at Niece. In North America, as leading tenor of Henry Russel’s San Carlo Opera Company, Constantino made his début as Don José in New Orleans. Within two months he appeared in eleven different operas. The company embarked on a huge continental tour. Boston was to be the most important town in Constantino’s career. Eventually this success led to the opening of a new opera house under the direction of Henry Russell. The company offered LA GIOCONDA with Constantino, Lillian Nordica and Luise Homer. In 1908, the artist joined Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera, whose company consisted of the best singers at the time. Despite his success he broke his contract which resulted in a long-winded case against him. Constantino was a disputatious personality and commanded high fees. The famous bass Giovanni Gravina lost his right eye as a result of being stabbed by Constantino during a swordplay. It cost Constantino another $50,00. From there his career went steadily downhill. He went off to South America, where he appeared at the Colón and other theatres in the heavier repertory. In 1918 he was sued for having ruined the Boston première of Moore’s LOUIS XIV by forgetting his words and drinking cognac between the acts. Shortly afterwards he went to Mexico City where he died in a hospital for the destitute, having been found lying in a street.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile