V2520. FRANCESCO TAMAGNO: Arias from Messaline, Hérodiade, Samson et Dalila, Il Profeta, Guglielmo Tell, Andrea Chénier, Il Trovatore & Otello; excerpts by GIOVANNI TAMAGNO (Tamagno's brother). (France) Malibran AMR 134, recorded 1903.
“The most famous heroic tenor of his age, Tamagno performed in a total of 26 countries, garnering renown for the extreme power of his singing, especially in the upper register. Indeed, music critics often likened the sound of his voice to that of a trumpet or even a cannon. (Italians call this rare type of singer a ‘tenore robusto’ or ‘tenore di forza’.) Tamagno's vocal range extended effortlessly up to a resounding high C-sharp during his prime, but he was no mere 'belter' of high notes; for his recordings provide evidence of his ability, even at career's end, to sing softly when required, modulating the dynamic levels of his clarion instrument with remarkable skill and unexpected sensitivity.
Best known as the creator of the protagonist's part in Verdi's OTELLO at La Scala, Milan in 1887, he also was the first Gabriele Adorno in Verdi's 1881 revision of SIMON BOCCANEGRA, a far more lyrical assignment than the ‘Moor of Venice’. He participated, too, in the premiere of Verdi's Italian-language version of DON CARLOS when it was staged at La Scala in 1884, singing the eponymous rôle of the Infante of Spain. Five other operas in which Tamagno created leading rôles were Carlos Gomes' MARIA TUDOR (in 1879), Amilcare Ponchielli's IL FIGLIUOL PRODIGO (1880) and MARION DELORME (1885), Ruggero Leoncavallo's I MEDICI (1893) and Isidore de Lara's MESSALINE (1899).
Tamagno pursued a busy and highly acclaimed career as a classical singer that lasted for more than three decades. During that time, he appeared in more than 50 different operas and sang at almost every important theatre in Europe, South America and the United States. He also had the distinction of participating in eight premiere performances of new or substantially refashioned operatic works by significant composers such as Verdi, Ponchielli and Leoncavallo. While not a sophisticated actor or a flawless musician, his huge voice and volcanic renditions of the most forceful tenor roles in the Italian and French repertoires had a tremendous impact on audiences enabling him to build a worldwide reputation as an elite performer and charge promoters on both sides of the Atlantic top-tier fees for his services. Such was the extraordinary facility of the tenor's upper register, he made the hurling forth of his high A, B and C sound as easy as everyday speech.”
“Patti's business terms may have been severe, but they weren't unique. Tamagno's records, too, were recorded in his home, had special labels, and cost one pound. But in one respect, at least, he surpassed even Patti: one of his discs, the ‘Esultate’ aria from Verdi's OTELLO, lasts a mere 68 seconds, of which the first 25 are a piano introduction! That this and his other records sold well, even at their outrageously inflated price, attests to his fame.
Tamagno (1850 - 1905) had been selected by Verdi to create the lead role in the 1887 premiere of OTELLO. His bold and hyper-emotional singing of the OTELLO arias is still startling (he gasps loudly for breath as he expires!), preserving for all time the performance intended by the greatest opera composer of his age for the hero of his masterpiece. Unlike Patti, Tamagno was still in full voice in 1903 when he recorded.”
- Peter Guttmann, Classical Notes
"The aria from Isidore de Lara's Messaline came to light only a few years ago, and now resides in the Yale Collection of Historic Sound Recordings, which has provided ten of the pressings heard here. Distances vary somewhat and the quality of the piano accompaniments is wildly erratic, but the transfers are bright and for the most part clean."
- George Hall, INTERNATIONAL CLASSIC RECORD COLLECTOR, Spring, 1996