I don¶t miss the pressures, but I do miss the joy of singing and performing.

´ ²Franco Corelli IN RECENT YEARS, the legendary tenor Franco Corelli participated in a series of interviews with Stefan Zucker, host of ³Opera Fanatic,´ the popular (now defunct) late-night program on New York radio station WKCR-FM. They also collaborated on a theater series, An Evening with Franco Corelli and Stefan Zucker. The following comments are excerpted from these programs. (For information about the 7 Corelli interview tapes, see our full catalog). Stefan Zucker: It¶s said that before you began your career you lost your high notes and became a baritone. What happened? Franco Corelli: I was young and didn¶t know how to use my voice. My vocal cords were unable to sustain the pressure to which I subjected them. Since I was very athletic, with a strong diaphragm, my voice¶s birthright was great volume of breath and breath span. After three months of lessons with soprano Rita Pavoni, I lost my voice, and then for a period of three or four months I studied as a baritone. When I was a boy, Tito Gobbi gave a concert in my hometown, Ancona. He said that singing is like sport. In sport if you get tired, you still keep on pushing, and without proper training I drove my voice. After a page of music, my voice would get lower. I thought that to get through an entire aria, I¶d have to make the switch to baritone. I did have a big enough middle register to enable me to pass for one. SZ: Were you successful as a baritone? FC: No. The technique I was studying wasn¶t a good one and led me to close my throat. I used the throat muscles so much that the voice didn¶t pass through freely.

scrutinizing everything he did throughout his career. His method was based on opening the throat. FC: In today¶s theaters. Melocchi¶s tenors all came to resemble Del Monaco in tone color. Because he began to perform a few years before I did.SZ: What technique did you adopt ultimately? FC: A friend. I regained my freedom in singing and my high notes. strong. Then he became among the first to study with Melocchi. I used him as my example. It also can cause problems with mezza-voce and legato. La Mia Vita e i Miei Successi. Melocchi taught [Mario] Del Monaco for a number of years. After a few months. SZ: What are its pros and cons? FC: The lowered larynx permits you to have a vibrant. range and style. To sing Verdi with a lowered larynx is as anachronistic as playing Bach on a concert grand²although the result can be thrilling. like steel. taught me his approach. but it does tend to prevent you from singing sweetly. who was studying with Arturo Melocchi. who had learned the lowered-larynx technique in China from a Russian²the technique previously was unknown in Italy. the throat is open. Carlo Scaravelli. brilliant voice. This means that. although some advised me he was a throat-wrecker. involving singing with the larynx held low. with today¶s louder and more brilliant . SZ: According to Del Monaco¶s autobiography. Melocchi taught a real technique. at the beginning of his career he appeared as Ernesto and Alfredo²and couldn¶t be heard. He sang with the larynx lowered as far as it would go. SZ: Did you yourself study with Melocchi? FC: I went to him sometimes. When you yawn. for better or worse. A truly open throat remains that open.

a tenor who was unable to change vocal color.] Like Del Monaco.orchestras. I ultimately modified the method so that my larynx ³floats´²I do not keep it lowered to the maximum at all times. FC: With the laryngeal method you must know your vocal organ very well.] With this technique. A friend and I listened to records and sang for hours and hours. he had difficulty modulating dynamics. with soft singing in particular. Carried to an extreme. [He imitates them. what you can do and how far you can go. and people told me that was my best quality. SZ: With some other methods. but with Melocchi¶s method. I had seen only two or three operas. my natural voice was not beautiful. [He is the Radamès on an Aida highlights recording with Nilsson. For example. the larynx may lower as a byproduct. I began to sing as a joke. Still. SZ: Tell us about the history of your voice. focused sound with immense ring. According to La Mia Vita. no one believed in me. and that¶s when I fell in love with singing. I had a strong voice. I heard some who pushed their larynxes down to the point that they sounded as if they had bronchitis. you can make your vocal cords suffer. although he had a concentrated. How was it when you began to sing? FC: When I began. I lost that competition because I screamed too much but won the next . this road leads to Luigi Ottolini. Before entering a competition. lowering the larynx is the beginning of everything. Many who teach it cause their pupils to force their voices to the point of ruination. He had a strong voice that was not particularly useful for musical or dramatic purposes. Melocchi recommended that Del Monaco not try to sing with nuance or real dynamic modulation. singers need the power and steel that come from the lowered larynx.

while singing the third and fourth acts. in Rome. I was very lucky. a very difficult work. After that. bel canto and style. in Spoleto in September 1951. I began with a voice that wasn¶t so interesting. For three or four years I didn¶t believe my career could continue. How did you learn to sing pianissimo? FC: I first sang pianissimo in 1954. They had me change to Don José. Giuseppe Bertelli. My first opera there was Zandonai¶s Giulietta e Romeo. as Radamès. what were my worst notes. And it stays in one tessitura. but I tried to make it beautiful by infusing it with some sentiments. In Aïda you need legato. SZ: Francesco Tamagno and Aureliano Pertile were nearly the last dramatic tenors to have made diminuendos²until you. my life was easy. Little by little I began to lose my voice. genuine and simple sentiments. Carmen is an opera of explosive impulse. It does have high notes. But I was humble and studied for hours and hours. Three months after my debut I went to the Rome Opera. and if I could change them. because. in Don Carlo. and you can succeed in it if you have enough temperament.one because I was in wonderful voice and my screaming excited the judges. asking people what they thought about my voice and what were my mistakes. where I remained for four years. He . I studied the part for three months with the conductor. the theater was full of wonderful voices. unlike today. one of the greatest. the following month Carmen at Caracalla. The next month came Adriana Lecouvreur. which I didn¶t like. I asked if I could change my vocal color. The prize was to be my debut. The conductor was Gabriele Santini. Carmen also is congenial to me because it isn¶t very high. but I didn¶t have enough technique for Radamès. but they are well situated and not extremely difficult.

little by little refining the sound. because I heard that my voice trembled. ³You had a remarkable moment there. SZ: What is the story of your vibrato? FC: When I began to record. The engagement was prestigious because of all the famous tenors around. including Poliuto and Ugonotti. and I made what I thought was a bad effect on it.taught me well. I arrived at the last act a little tired²my throat and breathing were tired.´ I learned to sing pianissimo from that. FC: Radamès represented my arrival in the high repertory. I was horrified and stopped right away. [He caricatures himself. SZ: What was your highest note at the beginning of your career? . and my vibrato subsided. SZ: In the next few years you were offered still higher repertory. SZ: You of course did conquer Radamès. but I was singing too strongly. The A-flat on the word ³mancherò´ was difficult for me. My legato improved. I was pushing too much because of lack of adequate breath control. I tried it out for one performance in 1953 but only started to sing it with some frequency in ¶55. learning to control my breath and to push less. FC I had no choice but to study and refine my technique further.] Although I didn¶t study so much before my debut. attacking the note strongly and making a diminuendo. you went on to La Scala in La Vestale. SZ: Within three years of your debut. People said. I certainly did afterward. FC: For me it was important to sing an opening night at La Scala that early in my career.

Mr. Carmen. which was. The performance was good²the public liked it. such as Otello. very difficult for me. I performed it in Philadelphia. in Il Trovatore. Gianandrea Gavazzeni. Before the Ugonotti rehearsals began. however. he remarked. or with dramatic low ones. I also . one would have expected you to continue in either of two directions²with heroic high roles. for I began with heavy repertory and then went to the lyric French repertory. In each of the performances with Gencer I interpolated high D-natural. said. SZ: What was the highest note you ever sang in performance? FC: I sang Poliuto five times with Callas and three times with [Leyla] Gencer.´ He came to my apartment. two years before singing it at the Met. SZ: Why did you do that? FC: I had made my Met debut in 1961. and I sang the part for him. SZ: Considering how tenor careers often progressed. a little too heavy and low for Poliuto and Ugonotti. In 1964. ³I don¶t know if Corelli is able to handle it. because it goes up only to A-flat. The Met had not done Roméo for many years. My topmost note was about B-flat. the conductor. I was afraid to attempt anything higher. Bing wanted to produce the opera and paid me well to sing it. Was that tenor part the most athletic you sang? FC: Yes. SZ: In 1962 you were hailed at La Scala for your performances of Gli Ugonotti.´ It was. FC: Mine was a strange career. ³I never dreamt you could sing an opera such as this. Norma and Forza were easy for my voice. however. such as Arnoldo in Guglielmo Tell. so at my first audition I sang ³Giunto sul passo estremo´ [Mefistofele]. On leaving.FC: At the beginning I had problems with top notes.

The management went to her. thinking I couldn¶t sing sweetly enough. In ³Salut! demeure´ I sound like a true romantic tenor. Manon Lescaut and Otello in particular. Trovatore. As late as 1958 she was always able to sing. I feel I did succeed in the end²you hear a tenor different from the one in Andrea Chénier. you sang Pollione opposite the Norma of Callas when she walked out of the performance. What really happened? FC: She was a little sick. as if nothing had happened. I threw away some recitatives. Little by little she lost her voice. Some in the audience heckled her. she looked elegant. . but in general they do not say you were temperamental. She could have continued.sang Werther at his urging and made a recording of Faust. because I didn¶t know them well enough. When she left the theater. but then she began to stew and announced she was cancelling. SZ: People think of you as having been nervous. When she came offstage after Act I. she was completely calm. Ernani. SZ: In 1958. however. though. SZ: Are you suggesting that she could have continued the performance had she not started to scream? FC: Absolutely. to push her to continue the performance. Aiïa. and that didn¶t permit her to sing at her best. She became a lioness and began to scream. do you feel this repertory was a good choice? FC: I ended up not singing operas better suited to me. in Rome. She was in possession of a fabulous voice and an excellent technique. SZ: Looking back. She threw some vases and a chair. There are. I was apprehensive. The roles were very difficult for me. especially Faust.

but mine is the correct tempo. others unduly broad. You are really great. but under these circumstances it is impossible for me to keep you. The beginning of the fight was between [Giulietta] Simionato and this maestro.´ The sovrintendente rejoined. you are really great. I felt that my voice was a little tired. I was full of apprehension and mad at everyone. a little opaque.however.´ Sevitzky left. less brilliant than before. ³Maestro. What took place? FC: We had a big problem.´ We had some back and forth. Some of his tempos were extremely fast. I was a bundle of nerves. You had a run-in with conductor Fabien Sevitzky during Carmen rehearsals at Verona. They were upset because of his strange tempos. Corelli said. and if one night . for me it¶s impossible to sing with you. but after three months I still had no desire to sing. I felt so comfortable that I said to myself. At first I thought I would simply relax for a time and then return. Finishing on my knees in front of Simionato. and I left the stage. He was more interested in the design of the accompaniment than in the vocal lines and highlighted the orchestration at the expense of the singers. My turn to fight with him came when I was singing ³La fleur.´ Ordinarily I sang the aria in three minutes. SZ: Why did you stop your career in 1976? FC: I was a little tired. The people who made them didn¶t know what they were doing. I stood up and declared. I wasn¶t eating or sleeping. as Mr. ³I¶m really sorry. The singer¶s life cost me a great deal. but with him it took more than five. and I wasn¶t the only one. some exceptions. Then [Ettore] Bastianini fought with him. Maestro Sevitzky said. ³Maestro. not the one you hear on records. ³Why go back? The public demands more and more of you. but my voice isn¶t good for your tempo. The sovrintendente came.

I thought about voice before everything else. with sixty-nine votes. they ask why.. with fifty votes. more suitable to the poetry of Chénier. because. FC: It¶s true. your singing has more warmth. Listeners expressed a longing for Corelli¶s animal excitement and maintained that no one since measures up.?´ SZ: When you sing for me today. Jussi Bjoerling second. I do look deeper today. Corelli placed first.´ I don¶t miss the pressures.. heart and caress than it did twenty-five years ago. Franco Corelli & a Revolution in Singing . because it was more vigorous. With forty-seven singers receiving a grand total of 600 votes. For a detailed list. Nowadays I change back and forth. ³What if. and Gigli fourth. but I do miss the joy of singing and performing. Enrico Caruso third. You sing "Che gelida manina" with more sweetness and tenderness now. before. on some days I feel I¶d sing with less force and with more variety of dynamics and more passion. Mr. I ask myself. with more heart²like [Beniamino] Gigli. Zucker is at work on a book. SZ: Besides concentrating more on dramatic tenor parts.you¶re unable to deliver. is there anything you would do differently if you had your career to do over again? FC: Well. In 1989-90 listeners to ³Opera Fanatic´ voted for Favorite Tenor of the Century. click on link. When I¶m in good voice. My voice did regain its bloom. You sing with more gradations of volume. and your voice has become more adolescent in timbre. On other days I still prefer my old approach. with 177 votes. with 185 votes.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful