Monthly Archives: November 2016

GIULIO NERI, Bass * 21 May 1909, Torrita di Siena + 21 April 1958, Rome;

Image result for Giulio Neri (1909-1958)

Giulio Neri (May 21, 1909, Torrita di Siena – April 21, 1958, Rome) was an Italian operatic bass, particularly associated with the Italian repertory.

Neri studied first in Florence with Ferraresi, and completed his studies in Rome. He made his stage debut in 1935, at the Teatro delle Quattro Fontane in Rome, where he sang mostly comprimario roles. He then joined the Rome Opera in 1938, where he quickly established himself as one of the leading basses of his generation.

He sang throughout Italy, making his La Scala debut in 1941. After the war he began appearing abroad, notably at the Royal Opera House in London, the Liceo in Barcelona, the Munich State Opera, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, etc.

He sang most of the great bass roles in opera by Verdi and some Wagner, such as Sparafucile, Ferrando, Fiesco, Padre Guardiano, Grand Inquisitore, Ramfis, King Heinrich, King Marke, Gurnemanz, etc. Other notable roles included; Oroveso, Alvise and Mefistofele, one of his greatest roles.

Neri had a dark, powerful, cavernous voice and a strong stage presence. He can be heard in several recordings he made for Cetra, notably La Favorite, Rigoletto, Don Carlo, Aida, La Gioconda, and Mefistofele. He also appeared in a film version of Rigoletto, opposite Tito Gobbi, in 1946.

He died suddenly of a heart attack, one month short of his 49th birthday.

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Posted by on November 30, 2016 in Bassses


FRANCESCO TAMAGNO, Tenor * 28 December 1850, Turin Città Metropolitana di Torino Piemonte, Italy + 31 August 1905 Varese Provincia di Varese Lombardia, Italy;

Opera singer. A dramatic tenor, he sang in most of the world’s leading operatic venues during the late 1800s. Raised in Turin by a middle class restaurant-owning family, Tamagno served in the Italian military then got his professional start with the chorus at his home city’s Teatro Regio in 1870, progressing over the next few years to comprimario parts. His first major role was Riccardo in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” at Palermo’s Teatro Bellini in 1874 while his La Scala Milano debut took place in 1877 as Vasco da Gama from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s “L’Africaine”. Belonging to the genre of singer known as ‘tenore robusto’, he favored roles that showed off his powerful high notes such as the title role in Verdi’s “Ernani”, Manrico in same composer’s “Il Trovatore”, Arnold from Rossini’s “William Tell”, and Rhadames in Verdi’s “Aida”. Over the years he was to add other heavyweight parts to his repertoire including Eleazar in Jacques Halevy’s “La Juive” and the title leads of Camille Saint-Saens’ “Samson et Dalila” and Umberto Giordano’s “Andrea Chenier, though his greatest renown was to come from his creation of the title role in Verdi’s “Otello” at its La Scala world premiere on February 2, 1887 under the baton of Franco Faccio. Tamagno took Otello to many major opera houses including New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1890 and London’s Covent Garden in 1895. He kept a busy schedule, touring 26 different countries, which probably contributed to a premature vocal decline, and was forced into gradual retirement by heart disease before giving his final performance at Rome as Otello in 1903. Tamagno’s only recordings, which include excerpts from “Otello”, were cut in 1903 and 1904 for the Gramophone & Typewriter Company; the science of phonograph recording was primitive and his voice no longer what it had been, but the records had large sales at the time (despite a high price), have remained continuously in print, and are still studied by music historians. (bio by: Bob Hufford)

as the very first Otello

in Le Roi de Lahore

wearing a three-piece suit

a studio portrait

in profile

and arms folded

All Photos Courtesy of Sandy’s Opera Gallery

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Posted by on November 29, 2016 in Tenors


LUIGIA ABBADIA, Mezzo-Soprano * 1821, Genoa, Italy + 1896, Rome, Italy;

Luigia Abbadia (1821–1896) was an Italian operatic mezzo-soprano known for her fine voice, secure technique, and a strong temperament. Possessing an uncommonly wide range, Abbadia sang several roles traditionally portrayed by sopranos in addition to roles from the mezzo-soprano repertoire.

Abbadia was born in Genoa to composer Natale Abbadia. She studied music under her father before making her professional opera debut at Sassari in 1836. Over the next several years she appeared in operas throughout Italy, including performances in Novara, Brescia, Triest, Monza, Turin, Bologna, Padua and Piacenza. In 1838 she sang the role of Agnese de Maino in Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda in Mantua. In 1840 she sang the role of Corilla in Donizetti’s Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali in Vienna. That same year she originated the role of Giulietta di Kelbar in the world premiere of Verdi’s Un giorno di regno at La Scala and originated the role of Rovena in Nicolai’s Il templario at the Teatro Regio in Turin. The following year she returned to La Scala to create the roles of Ines in the original production of Donizetti’s Maria Padilla and the role of Delizia in the original production of Federico Ricci’s Corrado d’Altamura. Her other roles at La Scala included Marie in La fille du régiment, Elvira in Ernani, Emilia in Mercadante’s La vestale, Eleonora in Donizetti’s Torquato Tasso, and the title roles in Donizetti’s Alina, regina di Golconda and Pacini’s Saffo. Other highlights of her stage career included portrayals of Alisa in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Arsace in Rossini’s Semiramide, and Normanno in Mercadante’s I Normanni a Parigi.

In 1860–61 Abbadia participated in a tour of Germany with the opera company of Achille Lorini which included performances in Berlin and Hamburg among other cities. After retiring from the stage in 1870 she established a singing school in Milan. Several of her pupils went on to have successful opera careers including mezzo-soprano Giuseppina Pasqua and tenor Giovanni Battista De Negri.

 Abbadia Luigia (Genova, 1821 - Roma, 1896)

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Posted by on November 24, 2016 in Mezzo-Sopranos


GIUSEPPE TADDEI, Baritone * 26 June 1916, Genoa, Italy + 02 June 2010, Rome, Italy;

Image result for Giuseppe Taddei

Together with Tito Gobbi, Giuseppe Taddei best exemplified the great tradition of Italian baritones in the post-WWII era. In contrast to Gobbi’s leaner instrument, Taddei’s voice was large and round, occasionally prone to unsteadiness, but silken in timbre and always at the service of an incisive musical mind. Whether in a comic or dramatic role (from Leporello to Scarpia), Taddei found the right colors and expression to produce a complete characterization. His career was a lengthy one; in fact, his Metropolitan Opera debut came at the age of 69, when his still-full-voiced Falstaff was welcomed with, according to one New York newspaper, “a rafter-shaking ovation.”

Taddei had his first experience of opera at the age of four or five when his mother took him to see Verdi’s Otello. The boy soon began entertaining his father’s friends with popular Italian songs of the day, and he was assigned solos by his elementary school teacher. When Taddei was eight or nine, he sang near the steps of a church to raise enough money to buy school books for seven of his poor schoolmates.

At age 19, Taddei won a vocal competition sponsored by the Rome Opera and shortly thereafter made his debut at that theater. The role was the Herald in Lohengrin, sung under the tutelage of conductor Tullio Serafin. Taddei acknowledged throughout his career the lessons imparted during coaching sessions at Serafin’s home with major singers of the era. Several other emerging stars were soon to become good friends, including Italo Tajo and Tito Gobbi.

With Italy enmeshed in WWII, Taddei was conscripted in 1942 and sent to Yugoslavia. In a strange turn of events, he was captured by German troops and taken to a concentration camp where his fate remained a mystery for several months. Once released, Taddei found favor among the American troops and officers for whom he sang often, and their support greatly assisted the baritone in restarting his career. For example, a concert in Vienna led to a three-year contract there for the two Figaros, Amonasro, and Rigoletto. To entreaties that he come to America, however, Taddei responded that he wished to conquer Italy first, especially La Scala.

Other important engagements followed quickly. Taddei’s London debut took place at the Cambridge Theatre (with Jay Pomeroy’s Anglo-Italian company) as Rigoletto and Scarpia. His Salzburg debut in 1948 was as Mozart’s Figaro and that same year, he sang at La Scala, beginning an association that lasted until 1961. In Italy, the singer performed extensively in the Wagnerian repertory, particularly the role of Hans Sachs. A series of Cetra recordings brought Taddei an American following long before he sang there. Taddei’s American debut took place at San Francisco in 1957 where his Macbeth was welcomed as both well-sung and insightfully characterized. Similar praise was awarded his Scarpia.

Chicago heard Taddei for the first time in 1959 when his Barnaba menaced Eileen Farrell’s Gioconda. London heard him at Covent Garden in the 1960s when he presented his Rigoletto, Macbeth, and Iago. His much-delayed Metropolitan Opera debut took place on September 25, 1985, when his Falstaff was embraced by the public and critics alike. Several previous attempts to engage him had been made by the Met, but requests for auditions the singer felt unnecessary, the wrong fees, the wrong timing and the wrong roles being offered had kept him away. Taddei repeated his plump knight two years later, once again demonstrating a superb theatrical sense and barely diminished vocal resources.

Image result for Giuseppe Taddei



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Posted by on November 22, 2016 in Baritones


MERCEDES MATIAS-SANTIAGO, Soprano * 04 March 1910, Cavite city, Cavite Province, Philippines + 20 June 2003, Sampaloc, Metro Manila;

Maestra Santiago as Free Press cover girl in 1948.

Maestra Santiago as Free Press cover girl in 1948.

MERCEDES MATIAS-SANTIAGO (March 4, 1910 – June 20, 2003) was a renown Filipino soprano and music educator.

Early life
Born Mercedes Matias on March 4, 1910 in Cavite City, Cavite Province, Philippines, she was one of three children of Juan Matias of Ligao, Albay and Rosario Regalado of Cavite City. Her father worked as a division head at the U.S. Navy yards in Cavite. (Guerrero 2002, p. Q14)

Matias grew up surrounded by opera music and she and her family regularly attended performances at the Manila Grand Opera House. From this inspiration, she showed early promise as a soprano. After attending public schools in her home town, she moved to Manila to study under Maestro Victorino Carrion and the Englishwoman Kay Williams, both of whom were prominent music instructors in the Philippine capital. (Bañas 1935, p. 556 and Villaruz 2006, pp. 77–78)

In 1928, Matias travelled to Milan in order to further her voice training. It is said that her father sold three property lots to pay for her expenses. (Guerrero 2002, p. Q14) She was the third Filipino classical singer, after Isang Tapales and Jovita Fuentes, to leave the country to pursue further studies abroad. Matias stayed in Italy from 1928 and 1932 and during this time took part in opera performances in Turin, Venice and Milan. She performed in concerts for the benefit of Milan’s fascists and on one occasion, had the distinction of singing before Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. (Guerrero 2002, p. Q14)

There are two differing accounts of Mercedes Matias’ first performance in a leading role in Italy. According to one commentator, she debuted as Gilda in Verdi’s opera Rigoletto at Turin’s Teatro Comunale in 1929. (Tariman 2003, p. D2 and Tariman 2009) Another source states she debuted in the same role in 1931 at the Teatro Dolverne in Milan. (Guerrero 2002, p. Q14) In addition to these performances, Matias sang the lead female role in Rigoletto in Venice as well as similar lead roles in Lucia di Lammermoor, La Sonnambula and Il barbiere di Siviglia in Milan.

Fame in the Philippines
After her return to the Philippines, Matias performed as a coloratura soprano at the Manila Grand Opera House, which she had frequented as a child, as well as at the new Manila Metropolitan Theater. She reprised several of the roles she had performed in Italy, including that of Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor. She was also one of the first Filipinas to sing Verdi’s Traviata. Indeed, during the 1930s and 1940s, she was the number one interpreter of both operas in the Philippines. (Tariman 2009)

Matias was a popular radio performer as well. Readers and radio listeners who participated in a contest run by the Philippine magazine Graphic in 1934 – which garnered more than 16,000 ballots – voted her number two among the best classical singers appearing on radio in the Philippines, behind Anita Galan. (Enriquez 2008, p. 106)

A high point in Mercedes Matias’ career occurred after she performed the role of Anina in Bellini’s opera La Sonnambula, when Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon sent her a seven-foot (two-meter) bouquet with an inscription that read Ruiseñor de Filipinas (Nightingale of the Philippines). (Tariman 2009) For that performance, she was accompanied by the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO). In all, Matias appeared as a vocal soloist with the MSO in 1933, 1936, 1947 and 1952.

Following one of her performances in 1948, the Manila Chronicle wrote: “As in other cities abroad where the presentation of higher types of music is part of community life, the cosmopolitan population of Manila jammed the UST Gym to listen, look and applaud Mercedes Matias Santiago as the country’s one and only Lucia di Lammermoor. The audience headed by President Manuel A. Roxas gave Santiago thunderous ovations that implied their approval.” (quoted in Tariman 2003, p. D2)

Besides singing professionally, Mercedes Matias taught voice culture at the University of the Philippines’ Conservatory of Music in the 1930s and later served briefly as an instructor in the Music Department at St. Paul College in Manila in 1943 before it was occupied by Japanese soldiers. After the war, she taught at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory as well as in private schools. Her list of distinguished pupils included Dalisay Aldaba, Conchita Gaston, Enya Gonzalez, Remedios Bosch Jimenez, Luz Morales, Consuelo Salazar and Catalina Zandueta, as well as presidential wives Aurora Quezon and Imelda Marcos. (Cornejo 1939, p. 1936 and Guerrero 2002, p. Q14)

Personal life
According to a contemporary source, Mercedes Matias married Gerónimo Santiago Jr., son of former Manila city councillor Gerónimo Santiago Sr. and Ildefensa Cichangco, in 1936. (Cornejo 1939, p. 1936) However, according to marriage registration records, they were only officially wedded eight years later, on February 19, 1944, at the Catholic Church in Sampaloc, Manila. The marriage contract indicated that both bride and groom were single and 33 years old. (FamilySearch,,129555302,132790901) This marriage subsequently broke down and the couple separated, principally because Matias-Santiago could not have children. (Tariman 2009)

In the 1950s, Matias-Santiago began a romantic relationship with one of her students, the tenor Aristeo Velasco. As a leading Philippine music commenter later wrote, theirs “was a case of love ignited and intensified by music”. (Tariman 2009) Velasco left his wife to live with Matias-Santiago, causing a scandal in the Philippines and irreparable harm to her career. As a result, she lost her teaching position and was forced to earn a living by giving private lessons.

Later Years
Matias-Santiago continued to give voice lessons for many years in her rented two-storey apartment and studio located at no. 1081 Maceda Street in Sampaloc, Metro Manila, where she and Aristeo Velasco resided. ‘The Maestra’, as she was known, taught music altogether for 70 years. (Tariman 2003, p. D2)

Forgotten by most Filipinos and passed over for major awards, Matias-Santiago nonetheless continued to have her supporters. In a biographical article entitled “A Neglected Living Treasure”, which appeared in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine in 2002, she told an interviewer: “My life is something like the opera ‘Lucia de Lammermoor’… It’s a little sad, a little tragic and a little romantic.” (Guerrero 2002, p. Q14)

Mercedes Matias-Santiago died during the afternoon of June 20, 2003, at the age of 93. Her partner Aristeo Velasco predeceased her.

Ruiseñor de Filipinas (Nightingale of the Philippines).  Mercedes Matias-Santiago with a bouquet given to her by Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon following a performance, c1936.  Photo courtesy of Milagros Cayamanda-Morgan, Ottawa, Canada.

Ruiseñor de Filipinas (Nightingale of the Philippines). Mercedes Matias-Santiago with a bouquet given to her by Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon following a performance, c1936. Photo courtesy of Milagros Cayamanda-Morgan, Ottawa, Canada.

Filipina divas Jovita Fuentes and Mercedes Matias Santiago in Italy circa 1930s.:

Filipina divas Jovita Fuentes and Mercedes Matias Santiago in Italy circa 1930s.

An autographed picture of Maestra Santiago dedicated to the writer.

Maestra Mercedes Matias Santiago with world-renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin at UST Conservatory in 1948.

Maestra Mercedes Matias Santiago with world-renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin at UST Conservatory in 1948.

Pablo Tariman with Maestra Santiago in her Sampaloc apartment. Note painting of her as Lucia di Lammermoor in the background.

Pablo Tariman with Maestra Santiago in her Sampaloc apartment. Note painting of her as Lucia di Lammermoor in the background.

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Posted by on November 21, 2016 in Sopranos


JUAN ONCINA, Tenor * 15 April 1921, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain + 29 December 2009, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain;

Image result for Juan Oncina
Spanish tenor.

Juan Oncina was one of the best light tenors specialising in the lyric roles of Mozart, Rossini and Donizetti, though he also sang some French roles with success. His stage manner was appealing, with handsome appearance and a good sense of comic timing.

He studied in Barcelona with the soprano Mercedes Capsir. and made his debut there in 1946 as Des Grieux in Manon, when she sang the title role. His career developed quickly, with performances in Italy, Egypt and Spain. His Florence Festival debut in 1949 was in L’Hôtellerie portugaise by Cherubini, returning the following season for Gluck’s Armide. He soon worked in Naples, Venice, Trieste and Catania. His repertoire included Don Ottavio, Tamino, Paolino, Tonio, Ernesto, Nemorino, Elvino and Lindoro. He also sang Duke of Mantua, Alfredo and the title role in L’amico Fritz. His French repertoire included Wilhelm Meister, Nadir and Werther.

His British debut was in 1952 as Don Ramiro at Glyndebourne. The following season he sang Ferrando in Sussex, before repeating Ramiro in Edinburgh. He quickly appeared in other Rossini roles, Count Ory, Almaviva and Lindoro, as well as Fenton in Falstaff.

Image result for opera siempre Juan Oncina

Fotografia di Juan Oncina Tenore

with a dedication and autograph dated 1955


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Posted by on November 18, 2016 in Uncategorized


SENA JURINAC, Soprano * 24 October 1921 Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina + 22 November 2011, Augsburg Augsburger Stadtkreis Bavaria (Bayern), Germany;

Opera Singer. A lyric soprano who later sang the heavier dramatic roles, she shall be remembered for her long tenure at the Vienna State Opera (VSO). Born Srebrenka Jurinac at Travnik in what was then Yugoslavia, she showed musical talent from an early age and following study at Zagreb’s Conservatory made her 1942 operatic bow in that city as Mimi from Puccini’s “La Boheme”. Engaged by Karl Bohm for Vienna she was to see her debut delayed and her life nearly ended by a 1944 bombing raid before finally giving her first performance in the Austrian capital on May 1, 1945, as Cherubino in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”. Sena was initially heard at Covent Garden, London, as Dorabella from Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” during a 1947 VSO tour and and the next year was invited back to England for the first of her many Glyndebourne Festival appearances. Over the years her repertoire expanded to include numerous Mozartean roles among them both Donna Anna and Donna Elvira of “Don Giovanni”, Fiordiligi from “Cosi fan tutte”, Ilya in “Idomeneo”, and La Contessa in “The Marriage of Figaro”, the Elisabeths of both Verdi’s “Don Carlos” and Wagner’s “Tannhauser”, the young Octavian and later ‘his’ older love The Marschallin from Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier”, the title leads of Puccini’s “Tosca” and “Madame Butterfly”, Georges Bizet’s “Carmen”, and Leos Janacek’s “Jenufa”, Leonora in Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino”, Marie of Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck”, the tragic Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello” and both Marzelline and Leonore from Beethoven’s “Fidelio”. Sena bade farewell to Glyndebourne in 1956 as Donna Anna and made her American debut at San Francisco in 1959 as Butterfly; heard but few times in the United States, she declined all offers from the Metropolitan. She was to continue her predominantly European career and was heard for the last of 1,268 times at the VSO in 1983 as The Marschallin. That same year she was invested with the honourary title of Kammersangerin and was to continue giving recitals for a time, after which she was a respected teacher. Sena lived out her days in Bavaria and died of the effects of advanced age. She was often to joke that she should have married a record producer though she did leave a significant legacy of discs both “live” and studio. (bio by: Bob Hufford)

photo non datée

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Image result for Sena Jurinac - SP 4x6 Fayer Photo of the recently deceased soprano as Jenufa.

as Jenufa.

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Posted by on November 17, 2016 in Sopranos

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