Alessandro Bonci was born in Cesena, in the Italian historical district of Romagna, in 1870. Apprenticed in youth to a shoemaker, he showed musical interest and talent, and was able to secure a music scholarship at the Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro. His first studies were with Carlo Pedrotti, with whom the great Francesco Tamagno had also studied. Bonci’s training was traditional bel canto, and it was this style of singing that characterized his artistic work throughout his career. He was part of the last generation of bel canto singers, and his career overlapped the verismo school of singing most notably represented by Caruso, who was rising as an international star during the latter part of Bonci’s career.
Bonci’s debut was in Parma in 1896, as Fenton in Falstaff. By he end of his first professional year, he had already been engaged by La Scala, where he debuted in I Puritani, an opera with which he quickly became identified. His rise was near meteoric. He went on very quickly to the major houses of Europe, including Covent Garden in 1900. His American debut was with the Manhattan Opera Company, where he found himself in a kind of direct competition with Enrico Caruso, who was singing at the Met. He went on to enjoy a major career in all the important houses, both here and abroad, until he retired in 1925, at the age of 55, dedicating himself to teaching and concertizing.
Without question, Bonci was an elegant and well schooled bel canto tenor. His early career was in the 19th century, and his singing exemplified the tastes of that period. As mentioned, he was particularly identified with the bel canto repertoire, especially the works of Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini. Here is the great tenor aria “A te, o cara, ” from Bellini’s I Puritani:
Courtesy: Great Opera Singers
Alessandro Bonci,1870-1940,tenor opera singer,with wife,aboard ship