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!"

UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI
Date: 1 July 2009

I,

Leah Tallen Branstetter

,

hereby submit this original work as part of the requirements for the degree of:
Master of Music

in

Music History

It is entitled:
Angels and Arctic Monkeys: A Study of Pop-Opera Crossover

Leah T. Branstetter

Student Signature:

This work and its defense approved by:
Jeongwon Joe

Committee Chair:
Melinda Boyd Jonathan Kregor

Approval of the electronic document: I have reviewed the Thesis/Dissertation in its final electronic format and certify that it is an accurate copy of the document reviewed and approved by the committee. Jeongwon Joe Committee Chair signature:

Angels and Arctic Monkeys: A Study of Pop-Opera Crossover

A thesis submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Cincinnati in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Music

in the Department of Composition, Musicology, and Theory of the College-Conservatory of Music by

Leah Tallen Branstetter

B.Mus. University of Cincinnati June 2006

Committee Chair: Jeongwon Joe, Ph.D.

Chapter 4 The Tenors of the Times: Myth, Media, and the Celebrity Tenor Don’t you know that a tenor is a being apart … ? He is not a denizen of this world, he is a world in himself. … Just take a look … and you will see how this celestial body revolves around the public. —Hector Berlioz, Evenings with the Orchestra The Death of Caruso The death of Enrico Caruso in the summer of 1921 was the death of a king. His public knew it was coming; an international bedside vigil was kept through reports from newspapers for months. Rumors of his ill health had been circulating for some time, but those in the tenor’s inner circle did the best they could to reassure the public that he would be recovered to rigorous good health and singing again in no time. In the winter of 1920–1921, however, Caruso’s condition took a turn for the worse. The New York Times kept the public abreast of his state: SECOND OPERATION TO RELIEVE CARUSO; Six Physicians Remove Pus From Pleural Cavity—Tenor Cheerful Under Knife. HIS CONDITION IS SERIOUS But Secretary at Midnight Says He Is Much Improved—Denies Alarming Rumors. Pus Removed from Pleural Cavity. One Physician at Bedside. Admits Tenor Is Seriously Ill. (31 December 1920) NEW YEAR’S NOISE DISTURBS CARUSO; Holiday Eve Turmoil in Streets Gives the Singer a Slight Setback. SIX PHYSICIANS VISIT HIM Much of Lost Ground Regained During Day, but His Condition Still is Serious. (2 January 1921) CARUSO IS FEVERISH BUT GAINS STEADILY; Tenor Now Convalescent, Asks to Sit Up to See Blizzard—Looks at Newspapers. MAY VISIT ATLANTIC CITY. Hopes To Pass at Least Two Weeks in Jersey Resort Before Undertaking Trip to Italy. (21 February 1921) CARUSO MUCH BETTER, IS DOCTORS’ MESSAGE; Tenor Is Reported to Have Had a Satisfactory Night and Day—Is Shaved in the Morning. (3 March 1921) Under these layers of headlines and sub-headlines were exceedingly detailed accounts of how many hours of sleep Caruso was getting, what foods he had ingested that day, how many doctors

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visited him, and even official bulletins issued to the press by his physicians or his secretary. When the tenor boarded a ship for Italy in May of 1921, a large crowd gathered at the pier to see him off for what many must have believed would be the last time. And the great king of the opera, though pale and some forty-one pounds thinner than before he fell ill, still found time to give a newspaper interview and to let photographers take both still shots and moving pictures. As he boarded the ship, he reassured the crowd by singing a high, loud note. It was the last note the American public would ever hear him sing.1 Caruso died on the second of August in Naples. He was afforded all the last rites of a bona fide king. His body was embalmed and laid out in the salon of the Hotel Vesuvio, and throngs of mourners filed into the city to pay their last respects (see figure 1). Italy’s ruler, King Victor Emmanuel, declared that Caruso’s requiem mass should be said at the Royal Basilica of San Francisco di Paola—the first time permission was ever granted for the funeral of a common citizen to be held there. Caruso’s body was transported in a crystal coffin set in a wooden casket, which was drawn through the streets of Naples on a cart drawn by six black horses. The route was lined by as many as 100,000 people; Italian troops were called in to manage the grieving masses. Following the service, the body was transported to a chapel where it was to be housed temporarily until a proper tomb could be erected in his honor. There, he was laid in state for more than six years as thousands of additional mourners made pilgrimages to view his body. Antonio Scotti, a fellow Neapolitan and singer at the Met, made arrangements for Caruso’s tuxedo to be changed once per year. Only when a tomb was finally completed in 1927 was Caruso’s widow, Dorothy, finally successful in her campaign to have the casket covered and

1

“Caruso Off to Italy; Sings a Farewell,” New York Times, 29 May 1921.

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sealed off from view of the public.2 Clearly she was working against strong feelings that Enrico Caruso was not a private citizen, but rather a persona in the public domain.

FIGURE 1. Caruso’s body lying in state, in full tuxedo, at the Hotel Vesuvio in Naples, Italy, 1921. (Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.)

Worldwide, Caruso’s fans suddenly found themselves entering an interregnum, a prospect that greatly perturbed them. Before the tenor had even passed away, dire predictions were being made about what was bound to happen to the popularity of opera; many wondered aloud how the art form would fare without its brightest star: The experiment of Carusoless opera has not been carried out long enough, or under the requisite conditions, to justify the inference that has been eagerly drawn. It will readily be agreed that it would be a happy change if people would flock to adequate, all-round
Christine Quigley, Modern Mummies: The Preservation of the Human Body in the Twentieth Century (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1998), 49–50; “Caruso Laid at Rest in Crystal Coffin,” New York Times, 5 August 1921.
2

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productions of opera, freed from the trials of the star system. But we are yet without proof that this revolution has come or is impending. Long use and wont have created a large army of operagoers of whom it may be said, as of the Wise Men from the East, “they rejoiced exceedingly when they saw the star.”3 Studies were even conducted as to whether or not society could produce another Caruso. Two days after the tenor’s death, the following notice appeared in the New York Times: “Dr. Bernard Hollander, a well known pathologist and President of the Ethological Society, which he founded for the systematic study of human character, takes a gloomy view of present-day conditions as productive of great men. His homily is based on the death of Caruso, which, he laments, has left the world without one overtowering singer.”4 Giulio Gatti-Casazza, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera at the time of Caruso’s death, was forced to assure the public that operas with tenor roles could still be performed: “There are no Caruso roles. All of our tenors have sung in the same operas he did. There are a great many aspirants to fill his place … Time and the public are the only two factors that can decide who shall be Caruso’s successor.”5 Indeed, all eyes turned to the wings of the world’s opera houses as the world wondered—who would be the heir to Caruso’s throne? The story of how Caruso became operatic royalty is the story of more than just a great voice. Of all the roles that Caruso created or perfected during his career, the most important was that of a pop culture icon, the “celebrity tenor.” Of course, the construction of an idol out of an opera singer was not an entirely new phenomenon—celebrity and the cult of personality had demonstrated their power to draw people into the opera house for centuries prior to Caruso’s rise
3 4 5

“Carusoless Opera,” New York Times, 30 January 1921. “Says World Now Lacks a Pre-Eminent Singer,” New York Times, 4 August 1921.

“Gatti-Casazzi Back, Talks of Caruso,” New York Times, 6 October 1921. In his memoirs, however, GattiCasazzi wrote, “[Caruso] was such a unique artist with whom none other compared. I do not see how we can ever have such another.” Quoted in Paul Fryer, The Opera Singer and the Silent Film (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005), 173.

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to fame. What was different about Caruso, however, is that his relationship with the public was mediated both by the mass media and the fledgling industries of recorded sound and moving pictures. Through Caruso’s relationship with the media, a new form of idolatry was formed around him that would shape the way opera singers—especially male opera singers—were seen and heard in popular culture throughout the twentieth century. The trend continues right up to the crossover tenors of today.

A Model Singer Not all opera singers are capable of achieving a Caruso-like status. To become famous outside the specialized world of opera, a singer must have avenues through which to be presented to a wider audience. Furthermore, cultural mediation is often necessary to make them acceptable outside of the opera world, and it is the mainstream media that generally performs this work. Retrospective studies of media representations of opera singers in the twentieth century have identified a clear model of the “ideal type” of singer—one who is particularly suitable for presentation outside the opera world.6 As the first chapter of this thesis demonstrated, the cultural boundaries surrounding opera can be maintained both from within and from the outside. Using Bourdieu’s conceptualization of a “cultural field,” media historian Marsha Siefert has explored how this phenomenon is manifested in biographical articles about opera singers presented in mainstream magazines such as TIME and Newsweek. Through this analysis, she identifies a standard formula used to create a narrative biography that is in turn used to facilitate mediation:
David Evans explains that “an ‘ideal type’ is a necessary tool because it is impossible to discuss every empirical example. Similar in purpose to Durkheim’s ‘average type,’ Weber’s ‘ideal type’ provides a means of attaining some kind of generalization while at the same time remaining as faithful as possible to the facts. But unlike an ‘average type,’ an ‘ideal type’ is not intended to be descriptive, but explanatory; it is ‘a construction of certain elements of a reality into a logically precise conception.’” David T. Evans, Phantasmagoria: A Sociology of Opera (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1999), 238–40.
6

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“This narrative, through its formula of pleasing the cognoscenti and wowing the masses, attempts to come to terms with the tension between the quality of culture and its accessibility.”7 Many aspects of this formula she has identified correlate with those David Evans describes in his study of the sociology of opera entitled Phantasmagoria.8 In essence, the elements that go into constructing a portrait of an opera singer for the mainstream media serve two primary functions: legitimizing and mediating. A brief summary of the most common elements will serve for this discussion. Legitimizing factors are used to establish the singer as pleasing to the cognoscenti or those within the cultural field. Typically, they include a description of an extraordinary, unique, godgiven vocal gift—usually established from an early age. This gift is then developed accordingly through world-class training or schooling; if the singer has a famous teacher that can be mentioned, so much the better. A strong work ethic coupled with a perfectionist streak is usually credited with the singer’s success, and proof that the singer in question is respected within the cultural field of opera is offered through descriptions of critical approval. Comparisons with successful singers of the past abound, which also serves to perpetuate the preeminent status of the previous generation. And finally, an impressive résumé is offered; a listing of the singer’s performances in European opera houses and at the Met—institutions with a great deal of legitimacy within the cultural field that might be lent to the singer’s image—is a requisite part of the narrative. Mediating elements, on the other hand, are those aimed at increasing the singer’s popular appeal. Siefert notes that mainstream biographies of opera singers strive to underscore a desire

Marsha Siefert, “Mediating Opera for America: Magazine Biographies, Opera Singers and National Identity” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2000), 585.
8

7

Evans, 238–79.

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that “celebrities must be both greater than us and like us.”9 Central to this, particularly in the American media, is a fairytale rags-to-riches story of a rise from humble beginnings. This success is achieved through hard work and sacrifice—yet often includes overnight success in the form of a big break or discovery. Biographies of opera singers also highlight any “normalizing” skills, talents, and interests the singer may possess—especially those that reveal a fulfilled personal life centered around a spouse, parents, and/or children. Excessively snobbish or “divaesque” traits (such as a spoiled or demanding nature) are downplayed, and a larger-than-life, yet congenial personality is emphasized. Part of this congeniality lies in the singer’s demonstration of a particular willingness or ability to bring opera to a wider audience. Traditionally, great popular success in and of itself is helpful as a mediating factor, but it can be viewed as suspect as a legitimizing factor—a problem many singers encounter while seeking to publicize themselves. Caruso was the “ideal singer.” The story of his humble beginnings was often told—so often, in fact, that it became the substance of tall tales. As Paul Fryer notes: [Books about Caruso] tell of a rags-to-riches life, starting with a childhood spent in the slums of Naples and leading to the enviable glamour of stardom, wealth and many other elements of which myths are made. Like most myths, however, they are often distorted. Facts become lost and fictions replace them. For example, in some accounts of his life, Caruso is portrayed as one of 21 children; in others, one of 18.”10 In reality, he was the third child of seven. Most of the exaggerations made to Caruso’s biography serve to enhance the mediating factors of the narrative. Biopics such as The Great Caruso (1951) and The Young Caruso (an Italian film also made in 1951) are particularly guilty of taking liberties with the details of the singer’s life. However, the death of Caruso’s mother—a true part of his biography—is always a pivotal part of the plot and the main character’s motivation.

9

Ibid., 292. Fryer, 175.

10

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Additionally, Caruso’s friendly relationships with his colleagues and his public, his hobby of drawing caricatures, and his great affection for his second wife and daughter are typically emphasized; his personality flaws, while savored by gossip columnists, were often downplayed or attributed to his “Italianness.” All of this helped to increase Caruso’s appeal as an American celebrity, but the roots of the tenor mythos that surrounded him go much deeper.

The Myth of the Tenor Herbert Breslin, the publicist and manager credited with making Luciano Pavarotti into a megastar, often claims that tenors are more difficult to publicize than their female counterparts in the operatic world: It is certainly easier for a woman to dazzle her audiences (whether they are sitting in theaters or in newspaper offices) than it is for men. For one thing, women have the advantage of colorful dress. The bare shoulder, flash of bosom, swirl of gown, the wondrous hairdo that cleverly transforms the ordinary into the memorable—all these are priceless aids to whatever natural charisma the prima donna possesses. Male performers, deprived of such easy routes to fame, have to rely upon their talents, hiding their personalities behind the stern facades of tuxedos, tie and tails, or, at the very least, a coat and tie.11 There is evidence supporting Breslin’s hunch that female opera singers have an easier time receiving press coverage than male opera singers do: Marsha Siefert’s analysis of biographies in American publications since 1926 found that sixty-two percent of singers profiled were women and forty-seven percent were sopranos.12 However, while the tuxedo may not be the best means

Herbert Breslin, The Tenors (New York: Macmillan, 1974), x-xi. Breslin has also represented a number of famous female singers, including Marilyn Horne, Joan Sutherland, and Renata Tibaldi. Siefert, “Mediating Opera,” 336. To qualify for her study sample, singers needed to appear in Current Biography Yearbook and be the subject of an article in a non-music magazine for general readership. After female singers are accounted for, tenors were the next most common group represented in the sample, with nineteen percent of articles about them. Siefert attributes this to a predilection for high voice types.
12

11

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of individual expression, it is not culturally unmarked.13 Perhaps because he is at a disadvantage, as Breslin suggests, the tenor has carved out a special niche for himself in the opera world. The mythology surrounding tenors represents a specialized kind of iconography within the general narrative model of the “ideal singer” discussed above. And while the stereotype of the female diva remains tightly connected to popular conceptions of opera, the idolatry of the celebrity tenor has had a unique impact on the concept of pop-opera crossover; many critics and commentators perceive a direct lineage from Caruso to Pavarotti (along with the Other Two Tenors) to the popera tenors of today. A tenor might not land in a feature article simply because he wore a black tie in his headshots. But if the suit doesn’t fit—metaphorically speaking—he is unlikely to become a celebrity at all, let alone a megastar. *** Inasmuch as any myth can have a discernable point of origin, the myth of the tenor begins with Gilbert-Louis Duprez (1806–1896). Duprez, a French tenor who performed in Italy and France, is frequently credited with being the first tenor to harness the dramatic power of a high C sung in chest voice. For this reason, he is cited as the “first true Romantic tenor” and the original tenore di forza.14 Duprez’s fame and success are depicted in many accounts as coming at the expense of his major rival, Adolphe Nourrit, who was “driven to a premature retirement, an attempted, hapless return (made worse by a liver ailment) and finally, suicide at 37 … All

See Deborah Tannen, “There is No Unmarked Woman,” New York Times Magazine, 20 June 1993. “I asked myself what style we women could have adopted that would have been unmarked, like men’s. The answer was none. There is no unmarked woman.” Gregory W. Bloch, “The Pathological Voice of Gilbert-Louis Duprez,” Cambridge Opera Journal 19, no. 1 (2007): 11–12. Bloch notes that Duprez was not the first tenor to sing a high C in chest voice, and contemporary sources cite his major accomplishment as importing the technique to France from Italy. Regardless, his claim has become an important part of the tenor myth as it is popularly relayed.
14

13

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because of that chest-voice high C.”15 According to the legend, Duprez first caused a stir in 1830s by singing one of these famous high C’s while performing the part of Arnold in a performance of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell—a role that was created by Nourrit.16 Duprez wrote in his memoirs that he had been carried away by the “manly accepts, the sublime cries” of Arnold’s Act IV aria when he extended his chest voice up into his high register; Rossini, on the other hand, was not so pleased and famously compared the singer’s timbre to “the squawk of a capon with its throat cut.”17 The composer’s comparison between the utterances of the tenor and the dying cries of a castrated rooster are certainly not flattering, but they represent the beginnings of a long-standing fascination with the sound of the tenor voice. As New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini once wrote, “ … hype aside, why has there always been a special mystique about the tenor voice?”18 Critics at the time wondered if Duprez was truly using chest voice for these high notes, and if he was, how high he actually reached. Medical professionals, on the other hand, studied the perceived unnatural qualities of Duprez’s voice and his technique. One early report by two doctors, Paul Diday and Joseph Pétrequin, entitled “Mémoire sur une nouvelle espèce de voix chantée,” appeared within three years of Duprez’s first performance of Guiallaume Tell in France. Like other early studies of Duprez’s voice, the doctors’ article was essentially a
Anthony Tommasini, “Searching the Wings for the Fourth Tenor,” New York Times, 16 February 2003; Bloch 12. Bloch points out that it was actually not Duprez’s success that lead to Nourrit’s downfall, but rather Nourrit’s downfall that made room for Duprez’s success. Further evidence of the mythological status of this event can be illustrated by the fact that different accounts present conflicting information as to whether it occurred at the Italian premiere of Guillaume Tell in Lucca in 1831, or at a performance in Paris in 1837. Duprez sang both performances and reportedly also used a chest-voice high C in both. The 1837 performance was apparently the one on which Rossini commented. See “100 Years of William Tell,” New York Times, 22 December 1929. Sandro Corti, “Duprez, Gilbert,” in Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/08364 (accessed 4 February 2009).
18 17 16 15

Tommasini.

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pathological report. The study of the voice was still a primitive, poorly understood science in the mid-nineteenth century—particularly before the invention of the laryngoscope in the 1850s—that consisted of such odious experiments such as vivisecting live dogs and attempting to reanimate the vocal chords of cadavers with a bellows. However, if doctors such as “Diday and Pétrequin had wanted to design a machine to test prevailing hypotheses of vocal production,” writes Gregory Bloch, “they would have built Duprez.”19 What fascinated scientists about Duprez was not the extension of his chest voice so much as his technique of lowering the position of his larynx—called voix sombrée or “darkened voice”—which is the basis of modern-day operatic vocal technique.20 Diday and Pétrequin believed that, “for physiological reasons, the practice of voix sombrée was destined to die out, and soon.”21 This early view of the modern tenor voice as aberrant and unhealthy is perhaps reflected in the famous quip often attributed to Hans von Bülow about the tenor’s personality: “A tenor isn’t a man, it is an illness!” Other professionals, such as the vocal pedagogue and inventor of the laryngoscope, Manuel Garcia, Jr., believed this new singing technique was not only normal, but also necessary.22 Eventually, they were proved right. Bloch summarizes: Our myth of Duprez does not, as the doctors do, position the tenor as a pathological specimen. Rather, it serves to place … tenors before Duprez in more like that category— or perhaps just the category of the underdeveloped and primitive. Diday and Pétrequin called Duprez revolutionary because he seemed to challenge the facts of vocal production as they were then known. We have come to imagine him as revolutionary because we have forgotten that any other conception of singing was ever possible.23
19 20 21 22

Bloch, 18–24. Ibid., 16–17; John Potter, Vocal Authority (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 53–4. Bloch, 16.

Ibid., 17–18. Garcia was also the son of the famed tenor credited with bringing Italian opera to the United States and the brother of famed sopranos Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot.
23

Ibid., 31.

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Indeed, regardless of what doctors thought, Duprez’s “new species of singing voice” had already caught on with other tenors and generated enthusiastic responses from audiences. The romantic tenor had arrived on the scene for good. This wild excitement surrounding the new species of tenor created another truism about him: the tenor is often defined as much in terms of his relationship with the public and the press as he is by his voice. As much as the public clamors to hear the tenor, the tenor craves the admiration of the public. By the time of Caruso, it seems as though tenors almost faced an obligation to become populists. As Jürgen Kesting noted in his study of Luciano Pavarotti entitled The Myth of the Tenor: “Caruso, the first ‘plebeian tenor’… was a singer of the common folk, and the myth surrounding him is based on the typical American rise-to-fame success story.”24 This ascent from humble beginnings is an important part of the media formula used to make opera singers accessible to a mainstream American audience, but for tenors, being “of the people” is particularly important, because it helps them to combat a commonly held impression that classical singing is a feminine pursuit.25 This is an issue that concerns tenors more than baritones or basses because of the sexually ambiguous nature of their voices. Kesting further notes that, “It is because [the sound of a tenor blends high-pitched boyishness with manly strength] that tenors have long since proved to be not only what Americans call the best box office draws; they are also looked upon as eccentric and odd—as creatures, in other words, that are comprehensible only in being in a world unto themselves.”26 An interest in popular music or

Jürgen Kesting, Luciano Pavarotti: The Myth of the Tenor, trans. Susan H. Ray (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991), 20. Marsha Siefert, “Mediating Opera for America: Magazine Biographies, Opera Singers and National Identity,” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2000), 408–19.
26 25

24

Kesting, 60.

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in reaching outside the confines of the opera house can have a great normalizing effect; the tenor can be a diplomat for the opera, using his generosity and warm-hearted personality to attract the masses to the music. The seeds of the tenor’s relationship with the public were planted from the very beginning. One of the first critics to deem the tenor a “world unto himself” was Hector Berlioz. The “Sixth Evening” of his satirical piece Evenings with the Orchestra (1853) is entitled “How a Tenor Revolves around the Public: An Astronomical Study.” The piece, which describes the rise and fall of a tenor’s career, is loosely based on the life of none other than Gilbert Duprez.27 Berlioz highlights the nature of the relationship of the tenor with the public and with the press; many of his observations can be applied to today’s celebrity tenors. Berlioz ascribes to the tenor a four-part life cycle. In the first phase of his career, the singer is plucked from obscurity, given training, and his potential as a celebrity is recognized: “Hardly has the tenor caught a glimpse of the emotional power with which he is endowed before he aspires to the throne … These qualities finally make up a talent whose effect is irresistible. He is a success. The Italian managers, who are good businessmen, sell, buy back, and resell the poor tenor … he is exploited and squeezed dry in a thousand ways.”28 In the next phase, a full-fledged celebrity is created: “It is all bouquets, laurel wreaths, recalls. Two days later, the press, overflowing with enthusiasm, broadcasts the name of the radiant tenor to all parts of the world where civilization has penetrated.”29 Upon reaching his zenith, however, the tenor ceases to adhere to his principles; as his fame grows, so does his ego, as vanity takes over: “He no longer

27 28 29

Corti. Hector Berlioz, Evenings with the Orchestra, trans. Jacques Barzun (New York: Knopf, 1969), 64–5. Ibid., 66.

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has standards; anything goes—provided it helps the emission of one of his favorite notes … the tenor lords it over everyone and tramples on everything. He struts about the theater with the air of a conqueror … he is a king, hero, demigod.”30 His success cannot last forever, though. In the final stage of his career, the tenor’s voice fades and his fans turn against him. Berlioz’s tenor laments to himself during his final performance: “The public is there—thousands of hands are prepared to applaud you, my poor old god: should they remain still, you would discover that the private sorrow you have just suffered … is nothing compared to the lacerating torture of the public’s indifference on an occasion such as this. Once your slave, the public is today your master, your emperor.”31 Writing a century and a half after Berlioz, Paul Fryer laid out four remarkably similar stages of a singer’s career, as it is shaped with relation to both the public and the media: A detailed inquiry into the specifics of media representation will demonstrate the shifting popular perception of the opera star, as manipulated by the media itself. From this detailed investigation, a dramatic pattern begins to emerge: the initial stage of media activity can be summarized as the media invention of the star persona; the second stage sees a move from star persona to public personality; a third stage exposes idiosyncrasies and weaknesses of character; a further stage can transform public approbation into popular ridicule.32 Fryer goes on to say that the “international impact of Caruso’s career … would seem to have been based almost entirely upon the success he experienced as one of the earliest performers to trust his talents to the mechanical media.”33 Kesting forwards a similar notion, writing, “The myth of the tenor originates with the person of Enrico Caruso. The tenor tradition reached its

30 31 32 33

Ibid., 69–70. Ibid., 73. Fryer, 17. Ibid.

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highest point in him, and his recordings opened the door to mass audiences.”34 Indeed, Caruso seems to have taken all of the popularity and celebrity afforded to earlier singers such as Duprez and multiplied it exponentially through the power of the modern media. Furthermore, he proved that the final stage of a tenor’s career could possibly end with public approbation transforming into canonization as opposed to ridicule or indifference. Caruso was active as a singer in the right place at the right time. Marsha Siefert explains that “Caruso’s voice, in its timbre, range, and method of tone production, was ideally suited for, and demonstrated the potential of, sound recording.”35 Caruso was therefore able to play a major part in the Victor Talking Machine Company’s effort to democratize opera while simultaneously marketing it as high culture to a new home audience.36 Caruso made his first recording in 1902 and his first record for Victor in 1904. His first contract with Victor called for ten “successful” recordings in exchange for $4,000—plus an additional $2,000 per year for agreeing not to record for any rival companies. By 1919, however, the company was guaranteeing him $100,000 a year.37 Caruso’s records were part of the “Red Seal” series of recordings, records marketed to consumers with elevated taste at a higher price; their marketing strategy was designed to convince listeners they could have all of the world’s most prestigious artists performing private concerts in their living rooms.38 Caruso may not have been Victor’s biggest profit-maker—the combined total from sales of all of Victor’s opera records made up only three percent of the
34 35

Kesting, 54.

Marsha Siefert, “The Audience at Home: The Early Recording Industry and the Marketing of Musical Taste,” Chapter 11 in Audiencemaking: How the Media Create the Audience, ed. James S. Ettema and D. Charles Whitney (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 1994), 197.
36 37

Siefert, “Mediating,” 179. John R. Bolig, Caruso Records: A History and Discography (Denver, CO: Mainspring Press, 2002), 11Siefert, “The Audience,” 196, 204–5.

13.
38

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company’s total sales—but he was one of their most powerful advertising tools. The strategy was not without practical cause, however: the company could not afford to sell Caruso’s for less than three dollars, since by 1908 the singer was making fifty cents in royalties off of every disc sold.39 While Caruso helped to sell Victor records, the company’s vast advertising campaign featuring his likeness also helped to solidify his image as both widely accessible and vocally legendary; pictures of the tenor in his dark suit and tie, hair slicked back, became emblazoned in the public memory (see figure 2). Caruso would become the first individual recording artist to sell a million records.40 Caruso was also adventurous with other types of media, both audio and visual. He appeared in several early moving pictures. A 1908 short of Lucia di Lammermoor, made to utilize a system that synchronized sound from a gramophone recording with the film, was one of a few early experiments in sound film to use Caruso’s audio recordings as a soundtrack. Caruso also appeared in two feature-length silent films. The first of these films, My Cousin, presents the tenor portraying both a famous opera singer and his lowly artist cousin. Victor was enthusiastic about Caruso’s movie making, and expecting an almost certain boon to their record sales, the company cross-advertised to promote the film. My Cousin was, however, a box office failure. Caruso’s second film, A Splendid Romance, appears to be no longer extant; while it was apparently screened abroad, its American release was prevented by the disappointing outcome of My Cousin.41

Bolig, 12. To put this pricing scheme in context, John Bolig notes that most middle class American families considered themselves well off at fifteen dollars a week. Perhaps because of these high record prices, Caruso became one of the earliest targets of musical piracy when illicit reproductions of his records were made and sold at cheaper prices without the concern of royalties. See also Bolig, 27; Siefert “The Audience,” 208.
40 41

39

Siefert, “The Audience,” 208.

Fryer, 175–9, 182–187, and 193–5. A Splendid Romance was released in South America and in Europe, bringing in fairly good box office returns in England.

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FIGURE 2. Victor advertisement featuring Caruso listening to his own record. (Source: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.)

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In addition to his work in film, Caruso was also involved in early experiments in radio; in 1910, his voice was broadcast live from the stage of the Metropolitan opera. A microphone was installed in the footlights, and a performance of Pagliacci featuring Caruso—on a double bill with Cavalleria Rusticana—was broadcast through a signal that was receivable within about 50 miles of the opera house. The New York Times reported that “anywhere in New York … where there are wireless receiving stations, it will be possible to hear the opera.” 42 This was one of several such experiments with radio to occur that year, but none produced quite the hoped-for success, and Caruso’s broadcast was the last attempted by the Met for nearly twenty years. While Caruso’s ventures into film and radio were not particularly commercially successful, they served to cement his worldwide fame and were an important part of the overall precedent he set for the multimedia careers of future opera singers. The creation of the myth of the tenor—driven in large part by Caruso’s career—has greatly impacted the way the “ideal type” opera singer is constructed in twentieth and twentyfirst century narratives. One of Siefert’s criteria for the selection of a singer for the presentation to mainstream audiences is that he or she is first recognized by the cognoscenti for having gone through all the proper institutional channels. The establishment of a “tenor for the people” model, combined with an increased number of media through which to reach large audiences, made it possible for sheer popularity to take veto power over the views and criticisms of the cognoscenti; musicians can now bypass the operatic elite and go straight to the masses. In other words, the presence of enough mediating factors in a narrative negates the need for the traditional barrage of legitimizing factors. Furthermore, the iconography of the opera singer collided with that of other mainstream pop culture celebrities, such as movie stars or rock stars. For the first time in history, it became possible for a singer to become known to the public as an
42

Ibid., 182–3.

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“opera singer” without necessarily having ever performed in a live, staged performance of a traditional opera—much less done so in the major opera houses of the world to critical acclaim. It seems that if enough people recognize you as an opera singer, then you must be one. We might call this the “Caruso effect.” In the decades after Caruso’s death, the solidification of this new route to legitimacy paved the way for the very existence of the popera singer.

The Succession of Kings The search for the next Caruso continued long after his death. As Siefert notes, “The technological breakthrough [of recordings] helped to make Caruso a benchmark from which other tenors would be measured, the founder of a dynasty rather than an heir to the reflexive history of tenors.”43 To inherit the role of “king of the tenors,” a singer now not only needed possess the rare prowess of a powerful tenor voice and a fairytale life story for the press, he also needs to garner millions upon millions of fans. There also seemed to be no question that such a man needed to be found; while there was a brief reign of famous sopranos during the era of Maria Callas in the 1950s and sixties, the “next Caruso” remained the holy grail of the opera world. Numerous names have been put forth over the decades, but most have failed to pass the test of “time and the public” that Gatti-Casazza had set forth in 1921. Notably, however, one of the names that is frequently uttered in the same breath as Caruso’s is that of a singer whose career was greatly advanced by the “Caruso effect”: Mario Lanza. Mario Lanza, born Alfred Arnold “Freddie” Cocozza in 1921, was the son of workingclass Italian immigrant parents living in the south Philadelphia neighborhood known as Little Italy. Lanza’s early career reflected his great promise; during his student years he was certainly

43

Siefert, “Mediating,” 528.

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on track to become a well-respected opera singer. He studied at Tanglewood at the invitation of Serge Koussevitsky, studied with Leonard Bernstein, and performed on stage with Arturo Toscanini. After a stint in the U.S. Army during World War II, Lanza resumed his formal vocal training with Enrico Rosati, who had also taught Beniamino Gigli, and made a living by recording for RCA and performing concerts under the management of Columbia Artists. Between July 1947 and May 1948, Lanza toured North America with bass-baritone George London and soprano Frances Yeend; together they were known as the Bel Canto Trio. At first, the trio performed sporadically in small towns and cities. By the summer of 1947, however, they regularly played in larger venues, drawing as many as 76,000 people to Grant Park in Chicago.44 Lanza always stole the show and generated a considerable amount of buzz amongst both audiences and in the press. While still working with the trio, Lanza was invited to replace the Italian tenor Ferruccio Tagliavini at a concert at the Hollywood Bowl with Eugene Ormandy and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. It was there that he came to the attention of one Louis B. Mayer.45 Lanza was immediately signed to a multi-year contract at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Mayer wasn’t the only one excited about the cinematic possibilities presented by having a handsome young singer with extraordinary vocal talent on the roster. Indeed, while the opera world sought the next Caruso, Hollywood had been looking for the perfect man to portray Caruso on the silver screen. Jesse L. Lasky—who had produced both of Caruso’s silent films—had long wanted to make a film based on Dorothy Caruso’s biography of her late husband. He found exactly what he was looking for in Lanza, and The Great Caruso became the third feature the tenor made for
“Million-Dollar Voice,” TIME, 6 August 1951, accessed online at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,856898,00.html (4 March 2009).
45 44

Roland L. Bessette, Mario Lanza: Tenor in Exile (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1999), 57–9

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MGM. Unlike Caruso’s own films, The Great Caruso was a massive box office success—the film set records with a ten-week run at Radio City Music Hall that grossed more than 1.5 million dollars.46 The accompanying album released by RCA was also profitable, selling more than 100,000 copies before the film even opened and eventually becoming the first operatic LP to sell more than a million copies.47 Lanza’s albums weren’t the only ones that were helped by The Great Caruso; there was much renewed interest in Caruso’s recordings as well as those of many other opera singers.48 Lanza’s fame as a Hollywood star was now firmly established, but conversely, the likelihood of his returning to a traditional operatic career path diminished rapidly. His contact with audiences was exclusively through film, recordings, television, radio, and concert tours—not in the opera house. He learned only a small number of complete roles, and in his entire career, he performed in exactly one professional production of a fully staged opera.49 Indeed, Mario Lanza would become known to the world as an opera singer primarily because he played one in the movies. And yet, despite leading quite a different type of career, Lanza was constantly compared to Caruso. The comparisons began even before he portrayed Caruso on film, during his concert tours as a young singer. But once Lanza signed with MGM, the studio immediately began to actively promote the connections between the two singers. Lanza was born in the same year Caruso died, and he grew up idolizing the great Italian tenor and learning arias by singing along

46 47

“Million-Dollar Voice.”

See Bessette, 103. The RCA album The Great Caruso cannot properly be considered a soundtrack, as it included no recording from the film and featured only four songs that Lanza actually performs in the movie.
48 49

Armando Cesari, Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy (Fort Worth, TX: Baskerville, 2004), 120.

Lanza played Pinkerton in two performances of Madama Butterfly with the New Orleans Opera Company in April 1948. He also sang the role of Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor as a student at Tanglewood in 1942.

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with Caruso’s records; these facts are often reiterated in the publicity surrounding Lanza’s early films, and the language is often such that it seems we are expected to believe that Caruso’s voice was gifted to Lanza through divine intervention.50 Advertisements for Lanza’s first MGM picture, That Midnight Kiss, co-starring Kathryn Grayson, encouraged moviegoers to come and meet Grayson’s “new singing sweetheart, Mario Lanza, the ex-G.I. with the Caruso voice.”51 When Lanza starred in The Great Caruso, however, the floodgates opened. By portraying Caruso—a role Lanza took extremely seriously and researched carefully in order to do his idol justice—he called to attack many critics who had previously written him off as a Hollywood celebrity of no great consequence to the operatic world. Marsha Siefert notes that, based on the critical model she has established, she would expect an attempt at a transgressive entry into the cultural field—that is, the entry of an artist who has not been legitimized within the field—such as Lanza’s to be met with such critical sanctions.52 The final stage of Lanza’s career, following his zenith in the early fifties, certainly brought its share of ridicule and criticism. But the criticism he was receiving in the press only reflected an internal struggle that Lanza continually dealt with, a struggle one commentator has characterized as “Faustian choices between Hollywood money and operatic artistry.”53 Or so the myth goes. It seems that Lanza always hoped for a career in the world’s great opera houses, but to do this would have required his stepping back from Hollywood, undergoing additional years of studying and training, compromising the lavish lifestyle to which he had become accustomed,

50 51 52 53

Bessette, 99. Advertisement, New York Times, 22 September 1949, p. 41. Siefert, “Mediating,” 85–6.

Ralph Blumenthal, “50 Years Later, Lanza Booms Forth; The Mystique of a Tenor Better Known in Movies Than in Opera,” New York Times, 23 June 1998.

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and facing the pressure of having to prove his critics wrong. The comparisons with Caruso only increased the magnitude of the struggle. In August of 1951, Lanza was the subject of a cover story in TIME magazine—making him one of only three male opera singers to be featured on the publication’s cover from its inception in 1923 to the present day (see figure 3).54 The cover shows Lanza in full color, with a ghostly black-and-white image of Caruso floating over his shoulder; a musical staff winding through the image visually ties the two singers together. The article itself is scathing. Rather than placing emphasis on Lanza’s working-class roots, the piece rebukes the singer for his tendency to exaggerate his modest upbringing. Instead of being given a congenial personality, Lanza is described as a lazy glutton and an eccentric egomaniac. His singing is attacked for being under-trained, undisciplined, and forced. The fact that this article takes the opposite approach from those that attempt to make an opera singer more palatable to audiences shows that Lanza was being punished for his transgressions against the cultural field. While the critics turned against him, however, he still remained extraordinarily popular in the public sphere. Like Caruso, Lanza sought refuge in Italy during his final months of life. He set sail for Naples in May of 1957, where he received a warm welcome from fans in Caruso’s hometown. He then moved on to Rome, where he would make two final motion pictures and a concert tour of Europe before succumbing on October 7, 1959, to a pulmonary embolism—the result of a serious drinking problem coupled with the ill effects of the drastic crash diets that preceded each of his film shootings. More than 3,000 people came to his funeral in Rome; another 15,000 filed past Lanza’s body as it lay in state in his hometown of Philadelphia. While there were rumors

TIME Magazine Cover Archive, http://www.time.com/time/coversearch, (accessed 18 April 2009). The other two male singers to be featured on a TIME cover are Lawrence Tibbett and Luciano Pavarotti; the latter was featured twice.

54

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FIGURE 3. Mario Lanza on the cover of TIME in 1951, with the ghostly image of Caruso looking over his shoulder. (Image courtesy of editors.)

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Lanza would be buried next to Caruso in Naples, ultimately he was laid to rest in Los Angeles.55 Still another 1,500 mourners paid their respects to Lanza at a memorial service in Hollywood.56 Lanza’s reception, however, ultimately remained as an ancillary to the story of Caruso. Lanza has come to be seen as a tragic figure; depending on the author’s point of view, he is depicted either as a Caruso that might have been, or as one of the greatest voices of the century, spurned by critics and purists simply because he chose Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer over the Metropolitan. Either way, he remains an important part of the myth. It was Lanza who proved the existence of the “Caruso effect,” demonstrating that an operatic career was possible outside of the opera house; as such, Lanza frequently appears in tenor lore an important precedent to modern-day crossover artists. Plácido Domingo once wrote: Many people in the classical music world refused to recognize [Lanza] and actually belittled not only his impact on the public but his God-given voice … a voice which, incidentally, not only made an impact on me, but also on many of my tenor colleagues, like Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras. Why was there this antagonism? Was it because some people felt that success had come too easily for him—that he hadn’t “suffered” for his art—or was it jealousy that someone who wasn’t very sophisticated, academically speaking, could be come such an effective “pied piper” for leading the uninitiated to the allure of the operatic voice?57 While he might not have ended the search for the next Caruso, Mario Lanza certainly carried forward the tradition of the “people’s tenor” into the later half of the twentieth century. Enter Luciano Pavarotti, the first tenor of the twentieth century to unquestionably rival Caruso’s fame. He had all of the hallmarks of a legendary tenor—plebeian roots, an entertaining personality, and a voice recognized for its greatness both in and outside of the opera world.

55 56

“Lanza May Lie Beside Caruso,” The Washington Post, 9 October 1959.

Derek Mannering, Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2005), 213. Placido Domingo, preface to Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy by Armando Cesari (Fort Worth, TX: Baskerville, 2004), xvi-xvii.
57

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Jürgen Kesting writes, “[Pavarotti’s] fame has absorbed all the elements of the tenor myth and has metamorphosed into an internationally recognized trademark.”58 Herbert Breslin takes the credit for establishing this trademark: “I shifted the attention of the opera world from rampant diva-dom to a tenor. Then I brought that tenor out of the opera house and into the arms of an enormous mass public. Those were my ideas … and Luciano was happy to go along with them. Together, we changed the landscape of opera.”59 While the evidence already presented in this chapter should serve to establish that neither Pavarotti nor Breslin was responsible for making the public receptive to the idea of a tenor as a pop culture icon, the two did package together the hype, spectacle, and mythos in a way that made the Pavarotti brand tremendously marketable during a time when the gulf between classical and popular music seemed wider than ever. Many of Pavarotti’s tactics for reaching a mass audience were not so different from those of Lanza or Caruso. He performed concerts before large audiences in concert halls, stadiums, and casinos, singing a mixture of Italian operatic arias, Neapolitan songs, Broadway tunes, and popular songs in English. He made numerous recordings, appeared on television, and remains a ubiquitous presence on classical music radio stations. He starred in a movie.60 He sat for countless interviews and was profiled in nearly every conceivable form of mainstream news and entertainment publication or broadcast—including the tabloids and gossip columns—often directly alongside some of pop culture’s biggest celebrities. What was unprecedented was the scope. At the height of his career, Pavarotti’s performances were more than just entertainment, they were landmark cultural events recognized around the world.

58 59

Kesting, 12.

Herbert Breslin and Anne Midgette, The King and I: The Uncensored Tale of Luciano Pavarotti’s Rise to Fame by his Manager, Friend, and Sometimes Adversary (New York: Doubleday, 2004), 3.
60

Franklin J. Schaffner, Yes, Giorgio (MGM/UA Home Video, 1992), VHS.

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The numbers surrounding these events are astounding. The first concert given by Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and José Carerras as the Three Tenors was held in Rome on the eve of the 1990 World Cup finals played there; 6,000 people heard the tenors sing over a 198member orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta, but more than 100,000 sought tickets, which sold for as much as $360.61 Box office revenues topped a million dollars, and the concert was also seen by an approximated 800 million television viewers across the world. The recording made of the concert quickly became the best-selling classical record of all time.62 In 1994, when the tenors next performed together publicly in conjunction with World Cup events Los Angeles, they topped themselves by selling 56,000 tickets at up to $1,000 each, and broadcasts streamed on public television and via worldwide satellite are estimated to have reached more than a billion viewers.63 A concert at the Eiffel Tower in 1998 for that year’s World Cup was heard by a live audience of 100,000 people and again reportedly more than a billion television viewers.64 Pavarotti’s solo concerts were also capable of generating huge audiences and considerable media hype. The venues where he performed included Madison Square Garden, Wembley Stadium in London, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Olympic stadiums in Berlin and Barcelona.65 A 1991 concert in London’s Hyde Park was attended by 150,000 people—including Prince Charles and Princess Diana of Wales, Prime Minister John Major and his wife, Norma, the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, and actor Michael Caine—despite pouring rain. It was also broadcast via satellite

61 62 63 64 65

Clyde Haberman, “Rome Is Big Enough for 3 Tenors,” New York Times, 9 July 1990. Martha Duffy and William Tynan, “They’re Baaack!” TIME, 18 July 1994. Ibid. “Three Tenors are the Name of the Game” BBC News, 11 July 1998.

“Biography,” Luciano Pavarotti: The Official Website, http://www.lucianopavarotti.com/indexeng.html#biografia (Accessed 29 March 2009).

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to more than thirty countries.66 Two years later, a half-million people turned out to hear him in New York City’s Central Park, a concert that was also aired live nationally by PBS and internationally through a delayed broadcast.67 His annual “Pavarotti and Friends” concerts in Modena routinely brought in millions of dollars for charities, and, like many of the tenor’s other concert and stage performances, they enjoyed a long afterlife through sales of audio and video recordings.68 Through all of the publicity and spectacle, the message was loud and clear: listening to Pavarotti can help you to understand and enjoy the foreign world of opera. Often described as an “ambassador for opera,” or the “man who brought opera to the masses,” Pavarotti’s crossover projects were more overtly self-aware than those of his predecessors.69 The stadium concerts he performed with Placido Domingo and José Carerras as the Three Tenors or with the stars of the rock and pop world as Pavarotti and Friends were not advertised merely as high-quality entertainment, as had been the case with Caruso and Lanza’s outreach and crossover efforts, but as active attempts to break down the barriers that stood between the public and operatic music. The image Pavarotti cultivated was that of a serious artist (as he always kept up appearances in the world’s major opera houses) constantly striving to reach out to those who did not normally listen to opera. He wrote in his autobiography:

66 67 68

Suzanne Cassidy, “Pavarotti Celebrates by Singing in the Rain,” New York Times, 31 July 1991. Allan Kozinn, “Pavarotti Sings, and the Great Lawn Is All Ears,” New York Times, 28 June 1993.

“Biography,” Luciano Pavarotti: The Official Website. The “Pavarotti and Friends” concerts are discussed in further detail in Chapter 2 of this thesis. See, for example, Tim Page, “Opera World Loses Leading Ambassador,” Washington Post, 6 September 2007; Andrew Gumbel, “Dear Luciano Pavarotti,” Independent, 16 October 1995; “Opera Star Pavarotti Dies At Age 71,” Glasgow Evening Times, 6 September 2007; John Allison “One of the Greatest Voices in History,” Independent, 10 September 2007.
69

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When I perform with pop singers or go on a talk show or get frantic putting together my horse show, I am hoping to convince people that I am not a museum piece left over from the nineteenth century, a historic relic, or an artist in a high tower. I want non-opera people to see that I am a human being just like them, a person who likes sports, popular music, good food, and pretty women—but who also has a passion for opera. Maybe what I hope to get across is the idea that it is not necessary to be old-fashioned, eccentric, or weird to love opera.70 The formula was wildly successful; if appearing to bridge the gap between classical music and popular culture wasn’t a requisite for tenors before Pavarotti, it certainly was for many of those who came after. Pavarotti’s posthumous reception to date is perhaps the strongest indication of his cultural status as an international pop culture icon. His funeral, like Caruso’s, was a huge public affair attended by thousands who packed the streets of Modena; giant television screens were set up so mourners could watch the funeral service from outside.71 But even more telling was the flurry of newspaper and magazine articles that started even before his death. From the moment Pavarotti’s health and his voice began to decline in the 1990s, well over a decade before he lost his battle to pancreatic cancer in 2007, the search for his successor had begun. All of the speculation once led the tenor to quip, “Everybody is trying to kill me. Every newspaper is there ready to say when I am going to die!”72 An article in TIME magazine stated, “What the opera world needs most right now is a new Wagnerian soprano or a hefty heldentenor, but that is not what the fans are looking for. What they fret about is, where is the next Pavarotti going to come from? Who will replace Domingo? These two supersingers have raised tenor worship to extraordinary

70 71

Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti: My World (New York: Crown Publishers, 1995), 3.

Trisha Thomas and Colleen Barry, “Crowd Mourns Pavarotti in His Hometown,” USA Today, 6 September 2007.
72

1993 Interview with Pavarotti, 60 Minutes, CBS News, rebroadcast on 9 September 2007.

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levels, and even they admit that they can't go on forever.”73 This stream of articles with titles such as “Search Is On for the Next Pavarotti,” “Opera World Searches Horizon for Next Pavarotti,” and “Who Will Be the Next Pavarotti?” echoed both in tone and in content those that appeared for decades following the death of Caruso.74 And so, with the beginning of the search for the new Pavarotti, the search for the new Caruso finally came to an end. And the cycle continues. The great success of the Three Tenors has also put forth the possibility that there might not just be one ruling tenor in a given era, but rather a pantheon— groups of singing deities made greater than the sum of their parts. It seems that the world no longer has to wait for the reign of one celebrity tenor to end before beginning the search for the next. Even while the Three Tenors were still performing together, some critics and fans were hunting for a fourth to join them.75 Within a few years of the first Three Tenors concerts, the classical crossover market was flooded with tenor groups, including a cavalcade of Three Tenors derivatives: the Three American Tenors, the Three Mo’ Tenors, the Irish Tenors, the Celtic Tenors, the Chinese Tenors, the Ten Tenors, and even the Three Redneck Tenors. There was even an attempt to assemble a “Three Sopranos” group.76 All of these groups take the basic formula of the original trio—singing popular songs in ensemble, usually with classical vocal

Martha Duffy and Dorie Denbigh, “So Happy Together,” TIME, 29 April 1996, accessed online at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,984477-1,00.html (23 February 2009). Benjamin Ivry. “Search Is On for Next Pavarotti,” New York Sun, 19 September 2007; Anastasia Tsioulcas and Hazel Davis, “Opera World Searches Horizon for Next Pavarotti,” Reuters/Billboard, 26 September 2007; Elysa Gardner, “Who Will Be the Next Pavarotti?” USA Today, 28 November 2006; Oliver Pole, “Is this Former Bolt Cutter Really the New Pavarotti?” The Telegraph, 19 June 2001.
75 76 74

73

Tommasini, “Searching the Wings for the Fourth Tenor.”

“I thought that someone should do a Three Sopranos…. So we went out and found three sopranos, … Their names were Kathleen Cassello, Kallen Esperian, and Cynthia Lawrence. … I think the selection was a mistake from the start. If you really want to do The Three Sopranos, you should take three like Montserrat Caballé, Joan Sutherland, and Beverly Sills.” See Breslin and Midgette, 222–23.

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technique—and adding their own spin, usually a regional or ethnic flavor and/or a change in the number of singers. Many of the individual names forwarded by fans as potential successors for Pavarotti are, like Mario Lanza, coming from outside the traditional confines of the operatic field: There is Russell Watson, a British tenor whose story “depicts the meteoric rise of a humble factory worker from Salford who was catapulted into international singing stardom.”77 There is Paul Potts, the mobile phone salesman from South Wales who skyrocketed to fame after winning the television competition show Britain’s Got Talent in 2007.78 But perhaps the crossover artist best positioned to take over from Pavarotti is Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who seems to have been gifted a place in the myth by the Man from Modena himself. Pavarotti is reported to have said of Bocelli’s abilities as a recording artist, “There is no one finer,” when recommending the younger tenor as a replacement for a duet project with the Italian rock star Zucchero.79 Pavarotti and Bocelli appeared together in concert at one of Pavarotti’s benefit concerts, and Bocelli was chosen to sing an arrangement of Mozart’s Ave verum corpus at Pavarotti’s funeral.80 Bocelli’s great success as a pop and crossover singer, fueled in part by his touching personal story of having overcome the total loss of his sight at age twelve, has lead to an extraordinarily successful “transgressive” entry into the operatic field; he has sung in operatic productions for European opera companies with moderate success—but not until after his breakthrough as a popular
“Russell,” RussellWatson.com, http://www.russell-watson.com/russell.php (accessed 19 March 2009); Tatiana Morales, “The ‘Next Pavarotti’ Is Back,” CBS News, 10 September 2005, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/09/09/earlyshow/saturday/secondcup/main830648.shtml (accessed 4 April 2009).
78 79 77

See Anastasia Tsioulcas and Hazel Davis, “Irreplaceable?” Billboard, 29 September 2007.

Antonia Felix, Andrea Bocelli: A Celebration (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), 83. The duet was entitled “Miserere” and included on Zucchero’s 1992 album of the same name. Bocelli toured with Zucchero in the summer of 1993.
80

Colleen Barry, “World Bids Farewell to Luciano Pavarotti,” Washington Post, 8 September 2007.

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recording artist—a complete reversal of the career paths of the tenors who came before him. This manifestation of the “Caruso effect” seems to have already been renamed for its biggest success story to date: “Andrea Bocelli has paid the price of this unusual career path … but his voice will not be held back by boundaries: it rings out all over the world in ‘Time to Say Goodbye,’ while on stage it resonates in the operatic masterpieces. [Opera] has found a regenerating thrust of unheard of power precisely as a result of the ‘Bocelli phenomenon.’”81 Bocelli and his management seem to be well aware of both the power and source of this phenomenon, as further rhetoric in the official biography on the singer’s website indicates: At last, a legend for the new millennium. A legend in the Homeric sense of a myth … which has flowered here through song: pure enchantment and sensational power, like Caruso, Gigli, Del Monaco, Corelli. A legend (of Andrea Bocelli’s stature) is not created by design: the most astute marketing would never be able to produce such a result. It is simply that people “recognize” him and he has a following in the most far flung parts of the world (and so for the artist the greatest adventure begins: bearing the responsibility for those millions of souls who ask to identify themselves in his voice, to unlock and interpret their deepest needs—first and foremost, the need for beauty.)82 The tenor myth, now well established in public consciousness, informs the look, sound, and publicity campaigns of modern tenors hoping to gain iconic status—or at least fifteen minutes of fame. They all have the high notes and the golden vocal chords. Many also have the humble roots and larger-than-life personalities. They have the tuxedos and dark suits. But history tells us that despite this, very few of them will stand the test of time and the public. Some, like Lanza, may find their way into the myth as satellites to a Caruso or a Pavarotti. But the important change that has been implemented over the course of the twentieth century is that both mythology and technology now allow singers—and not just tenors—an increased number of

Giorgio De Martino, “Biography,” trans. Consuelo Hackney, Andrea Bocelli: The Official Website, http://www.andreabocelli.com/andreabocelli_eng.htm#biografia (accessed 7 April 2009).
82

81

Ibid.

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avenues through which to expand or even to begin their professional careers outside of the opera house. Regardless of how they launch their careers, their success will be defined as much by their relationship with the public as with the quality of their singing. And if they are successful in negotiating the nebulous border regions of the cultural field and attracting the admiration of huge numbers of fans through crossover and shrewd use of the media, a lucky few may end their careers not by fading away, but rather by establishing themselves firmly in the annals of the immortal kings of opera.

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