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Category Archives: Tenors

JAN KIEPURA, Tenor * 16 May 1902, Sosnowiec, Poland + : 15 August 1966, New York City, New York, United States;

Born on the 16th of May 1902 in Sosnowiec, a quite small yet industrial town in Poland, Jan Kiepura was certainly not born in the ideal circumstances for becoming a star.

Kiepura discovered his singing voice in his youth, thus he started singing in a school choir. He wasn’t set on a singing career at the time, however. His parents wanted Jan, as well as his brother W?adis?aw, to learn a real trade. Sent by his parents to Warsaw in 1920, Jan Kiepura applied to study law at the University of Warsaw, to which he was admitted in 1921. During his law studies he took singing lessons under Wac?aw Brzezin’ski (and under Tadeusz Leliwa).

Before Kiepura’s modest (but actual) début he had to deal with some competition, namely Dygas and Gruszczyn’ski – the two main tenors at the time in Warsaw. Reportedly, when word got around about Kiepura’s voice, it was especially tenor Dygas who got anxious regarding the newcomer. Dygas was keen on hindering Kiepura’s attempts to break through as a solo singer. Hence, even though Kiepura was supported by his teacher Brzezin’ski, he began his singing in the chorus at the Wielki Theater in Warsaw. His take on the humble role of a mountaineer in the opera ‘Halka’ (Moniuszko) in 1924, was the very first time he could showcase his voice as soloist in an opera. He also gave his first concert in 1924.

His big début was on February 11th 1925 in the opera Faust (Gounod), also on the boards of the Wielki Theater in Warsaw. The audience that evening was in for a surprise, for the tenor to sing Faust, Dobosz, would not appear. Just before the opera started, the audience was informed that instead of Dobosz, Jan Kiepura would sing the role of Faust. The name Kiepura hardly rang a bell at that moment in time. In his biography of the tenor, Jerzy Waldorff describes the performance that evening of February the 11th. Waldorff recalls the sharp contrast between the initial disappointment of the audience due to the absence of Dobosz, and the growing enthusiasm during the performance, which started by stupefaction from the first notes Kiepura emitted, climaxing in a standing ovation at the end. In the following months Kiepura gained popularity singing in Rigoletto (Verdi), Halka (Moniuszko) and Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni) at the Warsawian Wielki Theater.

In 1926 Puccini’s Tosca and Gianni Schicchi were added to his repertoire as well as Straszny dwór by Moniuszko. Having gained considerable popularity, Kiepura had quite a few engagements in Poland, yet he wanted to try his luck abroad, specifically in Paris. Passing by Vienna he decided to contact F. Schalk, the director of the Vienna Opera House. Schalk was very impressed with Kiepura and offered him the role of Mario Cavadarossi (Tosca), which would make his début at the Vienna Staatsoper. Kiepura was yet again replacing someone, the ill partner of soprano Jeritza. Schalk asked Kiepura: ‘Can you sing in Italian?’, to which Kiepura replied assuredly: ‘But of course!’.

Thus, Kiepura sang Cavadarossi opposite Maria Jeritza in Tosca. And what a performance that was! The audience was so excited by Kiepura’s ‘Recondita Armonia’ in Italian, it did not matter that immediately after the aria Kiepura switched to Polish, not being as sure of his Italian as he was in his answer to Schalk. The performance was a fantastic success; the Viennese newspapers labeled him ‘King of tenors’ and even ‘ Caruso’s successor’. In light of the success, Kiepura was offered the taxing role of Calaf in Puccini’s Turandot in the same year (15 October 1926) at the Vienna Staatsoper. He premiered the role out of Italy. In 1929 Jan Kiepura debuted at La Scala (Milan) where he sang Mario Cavadarossi (Tosca) and in 1931 Des Grieux (Manon Lescaut).

By 1937 Kiepura had married Martha Eggerth, a singer and actress, with whom he appeared in many movies as well as in a production of ‘The merry widow’ on Broadway. The merry widow was such a success that the production toured throughout the U.S.A. as well as Western Europe, and was sung in four different languages. Kiepura acquired great fame in the ’30s, shifting the emphasis from opera to the big screen. On January the 10th 1938 he debuted at the Metropolitan in New York as Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme. Kiepura also sang in Tosca, Bizet’s Carmen, and Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Metropolitan until 1942. The duke of Mantua (Rigoletto) was regarded as his best role.

His golden timbre and overall generosity towards the public made Kiepura very popular. Neither the opera house boards, nor Broadway bühne, nor film sets were his only stages: arriving in Poland by train, being already famous, awaiting fans cried out ‘Sing, Jasiu!’ – and he did: broadly smiled Kiepura was always ready to sing for fans, and did so on many occasions.

Kiepura’s voice was an outpouring of a rich, warm tone: powerful and generous singing forte, sweet and honeyed when singing piano. Equipped with such an instrument he managed to sing roles throughout virtually the entire tenor fach. He did, however, stay away from the most taxing and heavy roles such as Otello. Besides being successful as an operatic singer he was also a prolific singing movie star. One of the songs for which he was so famous was ‘Brunetki i blondynki’ (R. Stolz and M.Halicz) from the movie ‘I love all women’ (1935). The song was written for him and served as a display of the unparalleled richness and spontaneity in his voice.

His technique allowed him to sing concerts well into his sixties. Unfortunately a heart attack ended his life prematurely when he was still active as a singer. Jan Kiepura died on August 15th, 1966.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Tenors

 

SALVATORE LICITRA, Tenor * 10 August 1968, Bern, Switzerland + 5 September 2011, Catania, Italy;

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Hailed as Luciano Pavarotti’s successor, the extraordinary Italian tenor Salvatore Licitra had his American debut in November 2001 when he performed at the Richard Tucker Foundation Gala. Critics were deeply impressed by Licitra’s singing and praised his rich, spacious voice and flawless, reassuring technique. An even greater triumph for Licitra was his Metropolitan Opera debut in May 2002. On May 11, 2002, Licitra, whose Met debut had originally been scheduled for the the 2004-2005 season, replaced the indisposed Pavarotti in Puccini’s Tosca. Not only did Licitra charm the audience in his role as Cavaradossi, but he also elicited rave critical reviews. In general, critics noted Licitra’s visceral power, further commenting on the singer’s remarkable ability to tame his volcanic energy, so the speak, in moments of exquisite finesse. When Licitra was 18, his mother heard him imitate a singer on the radio. Instantly realizing her son’s immense talent, she urged him to study singing. Initially, his studies were not auspicious; it was not until he started working with legendary tenor Carlo Bergonzi that Licitra made his first steps toward an operatic career. Having appeared in a number of small roles throughout Italy, he triumphed as Gustavo in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera in Verona in 1998. Encouraged, Licitra auditioned for La Scala, securing a role in Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, and consequently sang in a number of La Scala productions worldwide. As Manrico in an Il Trovatore production during the 2000-2001 season, Licitra was part of La Scala’s celebration of the centennial of Verdi’s death. In 2000, Licitra made his first Sony Classical recording singing music by Bizet and Puccini on the soundtrack for Sally Potter’s film The Man Who Cried. Licitra’s promising career was cut short when he died in September 2011 following a moped accident in Sicily.

Artist Biography by Zoran Minderovic

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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Tenors

 

BRIAN SULLIVAN, Tenor * 09 August 1917, Oakland, California + 17 June 1969 Geneva, Switzerland;

He studied at the University of South California and was a student of Lillian Backstrand-Wilson. He first appeared on Broadway in musicals and sang in 1946 in the premiere of “Street Scene” by Weill in Philadelphia. He made his debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1984 as Peter Grimes. He stayed until 1964 at this house, where he sang twenty roles in 122 performances, including Tamino, Don José, Lohengrin, Narraboth, Lionel in Flotow’s “Martha”, Rodolfo Des Grieux, Dimitrij in “Boris Godunov” and Andrej in “Khovantchina”. Avito in Montemezzi’s “Amore dei tre Re” in San Francisco in 1952 , and Don Carlos in Chicago in 1957 His repertoire included Ferrando, Edgardo, Alfredo, Pinkerton,Faust, Tannhauser, Erik, Florestan, Matteo in “Arabella” and Otello(!). There are varying stories as to the cause of his demise. He was scheduled to sing Siegfried in “Gotterdammerung” in Geneva, and his body was discovered in the Rhone river without him ever singing the role.

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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Tenors

 

CESAR VEZZANI, Tenor * 8 August 1888, Bastia, Corsica, (some sources give his date of birth as 1886) + 11 November 1951,Marseille;

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César Vezzani (8 August 1888 – 11 November 1951) was a French/Corsican operatic tenor who became a leading exponent of French grand opera through several decades. (Some sources give his date of birth as 1886.

Career
César Vezzani was born in Bastia in Corsica; his father died shortly before his birth. Soon after 1900 his family moved to Toulon on the French mainland, but little is known about his early musical training. In 1908 he went to Paris to study singing and was taught by the Corsican soprano Agnès Borgo (1879 – 1958). He then made his operatic début at the Opéra-Comique in 1911 in the title-role of Richard Coeur-de-Lion by Grétry. He continued singing there in such works as Dinorah by Meyerbeer and Erlanger’s La sorcière, as well as Italian operas such as Tosca and Cavalleria Rusticana.

In 1913 Vezzani and Agnès Borgo were married, and they had one daughter. (They later divorced in 1919, and Vezzani had two subsequent marriages.) Vezzani and Borgo were contracted to sing in the USA (including Boston) in 1914/1915 but were prevented by the outbreak of the First World War. Vezzani was called up and was wounded in action. He resumed his singing career during the later years of the war, but most of his subsequent engagements were in provincial opera houses, especially in the south of France, though he also sang in Brussels. He returned to the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1921/1922 and probably appeared there again during the 1920s, but he never sang at the Paris Opéra. The ringing and heroic quality of his voice made him an ideal choice for certain heavy and dramatic tenor parts, but he never abandoned some of the more lyrical roles of the French repertoire.

During World War II Vezzani spent time in North Africa, singing frequently in Algiers. He continued as principal tenor in Toulon until 1948 when he suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed. He returned to Bastia, but now without an income he spent the last three years of his life in some poverty and assisted by the generosity of friends. He died in hospital in Marseille and was buried in Bastia, where a street is named after him.

Recordings
The potential of Vezzani’s outstanding voice for recording was quickly recognised, and from 1912 to 1914 he made a series of recordings for French Odéon, including excerpts from Pagliacci. Tosca, and Werther. Then from 1923 until the early 1930s he recorded for French HMV in arias from many of his favourite roles, including Reyer’s Sigurd, Halévy’s La Juive, and Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine. There was also a complete recording of Gounod’s Faust in 1930 with Mireille Berthon and Marcel Journet. It is unclear whether and when Vezzani sang Wagner on stage, but he recorded a number of pieces from Lohengrin and The Ring. In total he recorded over 170 sides. Most of these were originally released only in France, but there have been several selections transferred to CD, and a systematic reissue of his recordings has been launched by Marston Records.

Reputation
Critics have shown universal recognition of the exceptional quality of Vezzani’s voice, though they have sometimes expressed reservations about the subtlety of his approach, which was generally robust.

His recording of Faust has occasioned the following comments: “Vezzani is a noble representative of that vanished breed, the French spinto tenor… Unforced lyricism was not Vezzani’s greatest strength… [but] where ringing excitement is called for, his only equals are Caruso and, more recently, Franco Corelli.” Referring to his recording of excerpts from Roméo et Juliette, another critic has said: “He was a real ténor de force and still singing well at sixty. There is little nuance here, but the voice is healthy and brilliant, somehow typically Corsican.” Reflecting on the fact that Vezzani’s career did not take him to the world’s major opera houses, another has said: “He seems to be one of those whose gifts exceeded his attainments.” The generous attention that he received from recording companies allows later generations to form their own judgments.

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as Canio

Photo credit: FORGOTTEN OPERA SINGERS 

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Tenors

 

EUGENE CONLEY, Tenor * 12 March 1908, Lynn, Massachusetts, USA + 18 December 18, 1981, Denton, Texas, USA;

Resulta ng larawan para sa Eugene Conley born

Eugene Conley (March 12, 1908 – December 18, 1981) was a celebrated American operatic tenor.

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, Conley studied under Ettore Verna, and made his official debut as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1940. In 1945, he first appeared with the New York City Opera, as Rodolfo in La bohème, and went on to appear with that company until 1950. He also sang with the Opéra-Comique in Paris, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan (I puritani, 1949; and Les vêpres siciliennes opposite Maria Callas, 1951), and Covent Garden in London.

The tenor made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1950, in the title role of Faust, and appeared with the Met many times until 1956.

On television, he appeared on “The Voice of Firestone” (1950–53) and “Cavalcade of Stars” (1951-52).

Conley was artist-in-residence at the University of North Texas College of Music from 1960 until his retirement in 1978. From 1960 to 1967, he directed its Opera Workshop. In his retirement year, he presented a joint recital at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, with soprano Maria Powell.[1] Among his students was Henry Price (tenor). He died in Denton, Texas, at the age of seventy-three.

Conley’s discography includes complete recordings of Faust (with Eleanor Steber and Cesare Siepi, for Columbia, 1951), the first recording of The Rake’s Progress (conducted by the composer, Igor Stravinsky, for Columbia, 1953), and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (conducted by Arturo Toscanini, for RCA, 1953). In 1999, VAI published, on Compact Discs, a 1952 performance of Rigoletto from the New Orleans Opera Association, with Leonard Warren, Hilde Gueden, Conley, and the young Norman Treigle as Count Monterone, conducted by Walter Herbert. A “pirated” recording of the Verdi Requiem exists, with Herva Nelli and Conley, conducted by Guido Cantelli (1954).

Resulta ng larawan para sa Eugene Conley born

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2017 in Tenors

 

JESS THOMAS, Tenor * 4 August 1927, Hot Springs, South Dakota, United States + 11 October 1993, San Francisco, California, United States;

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Jess Thomas (1927-1993).He studied at Stanford University in California.with Otto Schulmann. In 1957 he debuted in San Francisco as the Haushofmeister in ” Der Rosenkavalier”.followed by Malcolm in Verdi’s “Macbeth” In 1958 he was appointed to the Staatstheater von Karlsruhe, where he debuted as Lohengrin. In 1960, he appeared at the Munich Festival as Bacchus. At Bayreuth Parsifal (1961-63, 1965), Lohengrin (1962, 1967), Walther (1963, 1969), Tannhauser (1966-67) and Siegfried (1969, 1976 ), His Metropolitan Opera debut was in 1963 as Walther Caesar in the premiere of Barber’s “Anthony and Cleopatra”. In addition to his Wagner roles, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Siegmund, Siegfried, and Tristan, his repertoire included Florestan Radames Samson, Calaf, and Lensky.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2017 in Tenors

 

HANS HOPF, Tenor * 2 August 1916, Nuremberg, Germany + 25 June 1993, Munich, Germany;

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Hans Hopf (August 2, 1916, Nuremberg – June 25, 1993, Munich) was a German operatic tenor, one of the leading heldentenors of the immediate postwar period. He sang Walther von Stolzing in the Bayreuth Festival’s Die Meistersinger, every year from 1951 to 1955.

He studied in Munich with Paul Bender, and made his stage debut with a touring opera ensemble, as Pinkerton, in 1936. He then sang in Augsburg (1939–42), Dresden (1942–43), and Oslo (1943–44). He joined the Berlin State Opera in 1946, and the Munich State Opera, in 1949. He appeared in Bayreuth in 1951, as Walther, returning as Siegmund, Siegfried (in 1960), Tannhäuser, and Parsifal (in 1952). At Bayreuth in 1951 he took part in a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler. He sang Max at the Salzburg Festival in 1954. He made guest appearances in Milan, London, New York, and Buenos Aires. He sang both Siegfrieds in the early 1960s at Bayreuth, the Met, and elsewhere, recording Tannhäuser twice in 1960.

A singer with a sturdy and reliable voice, Hopf also won acclaim in a number of non-Wagnerian operas notably Verdi’s Otello, and the Emperor in Die Frau ohne Schatten.

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Posted by on August 3, 2017 in Tenors

 
 
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