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An Interview with Magda Olivero

From the Outtakes to the Film Opera Fanatic: Stefan and the Divas

Stefan Zucker: At the beginning of your career, how was the sound of your voice different from what we know today?

Magda Olivero: Well, it was a very light voice, very, very bright. I was very young, almost a soprano leggero, and emphasized the highest notes. I had a considerable range–I could hit F above high C with complete ease. I had the tessitura of the soprano leggero.

SZ: How did you move on to a heavier repertoire?

MO: It was instinctive. In fact, after my first Gilda, the baritone Mario Basiola said to me, “Signorina, you will not stop here. With your temperament and that voice, you are going to go much farther. Your Gilda is beautifully sung and is warm and human, but you will not stop here.” And he was right. I instinctively was attracted to those roles that are based on a solid theatrical work–Tosca and Fedora of Sardou, for example. A character that could act, that I could live–that’s what I sought. A character that was static, that was primarily to be sung well, I could admire, but it wasn’t for me. Continue reading An Interview with Magda Olivero

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An Interview with Giulietta Simionato

Simionato on Björling, Di Stefano, Del Monaco and Corelli, From the Outtakes to the Film Opera Fanatic: Stefan and the Divas

Stefan Zucker: Did you sing with Björling?

Giulietta Simionato: Yes.

SZ: What did you sing with him?

GS: Cavalleria, at the Metropolitan.

SZ: How was he?

GS: The voice was very beautiful. Too bad he drank. This is what ruined him. I don’t want to go into personal particulars, but he was a good colleague and a pleasant person. That’s how I remember him. Björling was a fine singer. He wasn’t much onstage; he didn’t enter into the role. But I managed to shake him up. In my Santuzza there was such emotional charge that it forced them to collaborate with me. [On Bel Canto Society video #12, Simionato and Corelli rehearse the Santuzza-Turiddu duet. Not only is the singing emotional but the acting is violent.]

SZ: How would you compare Björling’s singing to Di Stefano’s?

GS: Oh, they are two completely different things—like the sun and the moon. Di Stefano is the sun—impetuous, volatile, warm-blooded—a real Sicilian. Björling was Nordic. There was a composure in the man and in the singing.

SZ: Was he too cold for the Italian repertoire?

GS: Perhaps he was. But the voice was so beautiful, so well placed, that he could do anything he wanted with it, and you could forgive his being a bit cold.

SZ: Di Stefano made many mistakes in his performances with you in Mexico. How was it to sing with him?

GS: [Laughs] He just had gotten married. And for this reason he didn’t come to the rehearsals and didn’t know the operas. It’s not that I’m telling you something because he’s not here; he knows it. And he used to say to me, “You have to act more like a diva. Why do you bother going to the rehearsals if I’m not there?” “I feel I have a duty to be present; however, we can’t rehearse the scenes with the tenor.” “Well, you know how it is,” he said. “I just got married. I’m beginning with my wife.” Pir-ipi-p, pir-i-pi-r. “And so I have no time for rehearsals.” He didn’t know the operas. In Favorita I turned my back to the audience and whispered the correct words to him while he sang totally different ones. Barbiere no longer was the Barbiere of Rossini but the Barbiere of Di Stefano [laughs]. I define him as “genius and excess.” His was a voice of genius, but he was so intemperate, especially in his offstage life. He knows this is what I have labeled him.

SZ: What happened to Di Stefano’s voice?

GS: He never acquired a technique. He says he was supposed to use his voice just as the Eternal Father gave it to him. He opened his mouth, drew in a breath and out poured those gorgeous tones. That’s the way he was, and the public accepted him like that.

SZ: Was Del Monaco as unprofessional as…?

GS: He was very professional, very organized, very controlled, very, very serious, very determined in everything he sang. And he always had that trace of the glacial, as I called it. He was so secure. He was the last heroic tenor we have had.

SZ: Corelli wasn’t a heroic tenor?

GS: He wasn’t heroic, but it was a beautiful voice.

SZ: Was Corelli as unprofessional as Di Stefano?

GS: Di Stefano never was professional at all. Corelli always was professional. His problem was that he was insecure. He always was afraid he wasn’t going to make it even though his performances were stupendous. He seemed to feel guilty of flaws he didn’t possess. He worried about deficiencies that for the most part were imaginary. Often, right before the “Flower Song” in Carmen, he would say, “Signora, I can’t do it, I’m going away.” “No, don’t say that. Don’t be like that. Come on, come on.” And he’d begin the aria, ending it with that high note that would bring down the house.

SZ: What is your opinion of Del Monaco’s and Corelli’s vocal techniques?

GS: Del Monaco devised a technique of his own, for his capabilities, including vocalises and a study I would call inhuman, because to resist, given the manner in which he sang, is something that verges on the inhuman. I asked him, “How can you possibly sing like that?” “No, Giulietta,” he said. “You should sing the way I do; you should push the way I do.” I told him something I cannot repeat here. “If I pushed the way you do, I don’t know what might happen.” I can’t repeat it, but I said it to Mario, “No, my dear, you dig deep inside you, whereas I do it this way.” The truth was he wanted to dig down into his body for maximum resonance. I don’t know what that man was made of. Everyone said, “He’ll last for a year or two”—but look how many years he lasted, because he was able to resist, in a way that only can be called superhuman! We all were open-mouthed: “How can he resist, how does he do it?” And he was relatively slim—not a big man. He must have had vocal cords of steel. His breathing method was that of a man. They are constructed in a different way. And so while we women tend to do this [pull in at the diaphragm], they do this [push out at the diaphragm]. In fact they all are rotund, because with time they form a strong, powerful musculature around the midriff, on account of the fact that they push out in order to support. I can’t even speak if I breathe like that.

SZ: But how are men built differently, as far as breathing is concerned?

GS: Being constructed in a different way, they have organs we don’t [laughs]. They can’t breathe as we do, because they—you—are built in another way inside!

SZ: But not in the lungs.

GS: [Laughs] Yes, I know. The breathing, however, starts from here [demonstrates]. If you, instead of doing this, do that, you will understand that the respiration—the system, the technique—is turned upside down.

SZ: Del Monaco and Corelli both studied with a certain Arturo Melocchi, who went to China where he learned a particular mechanistic technique from a Russian and brought it to Italy. Corelli modified the technique. Del Monaco lowered his larynx a lot, whereas Corelli raised and lowered his larynx. Can you compare and contrast the approaches?

GS: They are two different ways of singing and two different mentalities, which means a lot. Corelli went up into the high notes—in Ugonotti, for example, he sang the high C just as I did. His was a very wide-ranging voice. But Del Monaco always had difficulty. Corelli also could emit a sweet, soft phrase. Del Monaco, no. Because rubber bends. Corelli’s was a normal respiration. His singing was all on the breath. Studying a little with Melocchi, naturally Corelli modified the technique to his particular capabilities, so that it worked well for him.

SZ: Can you compare the Don José of Corelli, Del Monaco and Di Stefano?

GS: They are three completely different things. Di Stefano, for example, was amazingly spontaneous. There was everything in that voice—the dramatic quality, the color, the expression! Corelli was more thought-out, more studied. He always was afraid. However, he could deliver when the chips were down. He could drive the audience wild. I remember his “Flower Song”: it was something unforgettable. So was Di Stefano’s. Also Del Monaco’s. They all were different. Corelli, for example, in performing the role, was careful never to touch me. He was too scared. “No, signora,” he said. He always called me “signora.” As a matter of fact I spoke with Corelli today [October 13, 1996]. He is a dear colleague and a wonderful person. Di Stefano, on the other hand, always managed to hurt me. I always was covered with bruises, scratches and cuts, because that’s the way he was—a real Sicilian. He did it unconsciously.

Del Monaco also was a highly passionate Don José, complementing my own portrayal. We didn’t talk much, but we understood one another. And yet he never hurt me—never a bruise, a scratch or anything even though he was a very physical Don José. He threw me to the ground, knelt down, bent over me. We were very effective together—an intense, passionate couple—and audiences were excited. Yet, despite his apparent violence toward me, his apparently brutal treatment of me, he never caused me any pain. So you see, they all were so completely different. It’s hard to compare them. No—each one acted according to his nature.

SZ: If an impresario were to ask you to perform Carmen, which would you choose?

GS: I would be equally happy with any of them. I admired them, loved them—as friends, naturally. We were very close, like a family. When we saw each other, it was a real pleasure. I hugged them since I’m very expansive. I always was insecure when I sang, because I always was worried about not being on a high enough level to satisfy the audience. This brought on a kind of anxiety. And then when it was over, I thought, “Perhaps I didn’t deserve this applause; I could have done better.” It’s just my character. If you told me the tenor was to be Di Stefano, I’d say “Benissimo”—wonderful, that’s fine!” or Corelli—”Benissimo!” There were others—I don’t remember all their names at this moment. I admired them all, I respected them—not all in the same way but each in his own way. I always was content, because I knew I worked well with them. Each one had his particular virtues. And I admired each one for his.

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Simionato and Olivero on Bruna Rasa

Giulietta Simionato on Mascagni and Lina Bruna Rasa,
From the Outtakes to the Film
Opera Fanatic: Stefan and the Divas

Stefan Zucker: Did you sing Cavalleria under Mascagni’s baton?

Giulietta Simionato: I did Mamma Lucia once with him, in 1940, for the recording. I also did Lola with him, for Cavalleria’s 50th anniversary. I didn’t make it in time for Santuzza. I did L’amico Fritz near Rome and other things, not Cavalleria. But he heard me.

SZ: What is your opinion of Mascagni’s tempos as a conductor?

GS: One should not exaggerate with the slowness, because the drama suffers and the voices are only human. You can’t stretch out the score forever. Even with singers who have good breath spans it becomes too much. His tempos grew progressively slower until it no longer was possible to follow him. Singers took emergency breaths in the middle of phrases, trying to please him.

SZ: Did he accept the tempos of other conductors?

GS: Yes. However, he said, “I wrote it. I know what the tempos should be.” He was a little bit of a bully.

SZ: Can you compare your Santuzza with Lina Bruna Rasa’s?

GS: Bruna Rasa had a beautiful voice, but the poor thing soon became a little demented. She was a favorite of Mascagni because he had written Cavalleria for a soprano, and he didn’t like it sung by mezzos. So when he heard me sing it, naturally he had his doubts. But afterwards he said, “I didn’t believe that . . . I was wrong.”

SZ: Did Bruna Rasa use chest voice?

GS: Yes. She sang a [middle-voice] A with chest, for example, at “Io piango, io piango” [at the end of “Voi lo sapete”]. I couldn’t, but she did. It was ugly, certainly, but she was able to do it because she had an emission that allowed it. Mascagni permitted her to do it. Another thing—Mascagni in his music always resolved at the passaggio [change of register]. He had a strange fondness for that note. Unfortunately down there you can’t force or push your head voice. A singer with a long career in back of her might be astute enough to bring up chest resonance without damaging her voice, but most would not be able to do this. Without chest it just isn’t possible to resolve on those notes with enough force. Even in L’amico Fritz, all of Beppe’s arias finish on F-sharp, right in the middle of the passaggio.

SZ: Where is your passaggio?

GS: It’s F-sharp-for everyone, sopranos and mezzos alike. I don’t know about men, because I’ve never looked into that.


Magda Olivero on Mascagni and Lina Bruna Rasa,
From the Outtakes to the Film
Opera Fanatic: Stefan and the Divas

Stefan Zucker: Was the part of Santuzza suited to you?

Magda Olivero: I studied it with Maestro [Luigi] Ricci, who was the last repository of all these composers—Giordano, Puccini, Mascagni. Maestro Ricci added a sheet of paper to every page in his scores, with the metronome marks and directions of the composer. In fact all the metronome marks of Cavalleria were changed over the years. Ricci gave me all the correct metronome marks. All the authentic suggestions of the composer, vocal and scenic, are there.

SZ: I am confused because the tempos are different in the two recordings of Mascagni conducting Cavalleria—one a studio recording with Gigli and Bruna Rasa, the other, live, from Holland two years earlier, with Antonio Melandri and Bruna Rasa.

MO: With the passing of the years Mascagni’s arms grew heavier, and therefore his tempos grew slower and slower. Toward the end of his life his tempos had grown so slow that it became a real problem for his singers.

SZ: Do you think one of the versions of Cavalleria has the correct tempos?

MO: I wrote down in my score all the metronome marks that Maestro Ricci gave me. They correspond exactly to what Mascagni wanted.

SZ: It would be of great importance to publish Ricci’s notes.

MO: Yes. I will have to talk to the Sonzogno music publishers, particularly to Mrs. Ostali, the head. You’ve given me the idea. I’ll have to ask her, “Does your Cavalleria have the correct metronome markings or those that have changed over time?”

SZ: Did you sing under….

MO: Mascagni? No. I met him. I was present at a dress rehearsal of Cavalleria, with Bruna Rasa. I believe it was one of her last appearances.

SZ: Did she use chest voice?

MO: The voice was bellissima! And she was a beautiful woman too.

SZ: I believe you sang Santuzza just once.

MO: Yes, at the San Carlo in Naples.

SZ: Why not more performances?

MO: I don’t know, my career always has been very strange. I took it as it came. I never tried to organize my career. I never was deadly serious about it. Artistically, perhaps, yes, but as a career per se, I took it rather lightly.

SZ: Was the part too heavy for you?

MO: No. If it had been, I wouldn’t have sung it even once. Maestro Ricci agreed I could perform it. I sang Medea—and if that isn’t heavy! [laughs.] Much worse than Cavalleria! Terrible!


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Stefan Zucker interviews Carlo Bergonzi

Bergonzi as Radames
Bergonzi as Radames

“Each one of these great tenors at the apex of tenors, Bergonzi, Pavarotti and Domingo—I don’t think you can find defects. He who doesn’t have one thing has another. They are all worthy of the names that they have.”—Carlo Bergonzi

We offer Luisa Miller with Bergonzi in the Bel Canto Society Store

THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW  took place on “Opera Fanatic,” on WKCR, October 12, 1985. Carlo Bergonzi spoke in Italian (I translated). Also present in the studio were Dr. Umberto Boeri, pediatrician, a close friend of Bergonzi; Robert Connolly, writer, a frequent collaborator on the show; Kenneth Rapp, accompanist; Annamarie Verde, Bergonzi’s New York concert producer; and other friends of Bergonzi.

Throughout the evening, we interspersed records of Bergonzi in songs and arias. Continue reading Stefan Zucker interviews Carlo Bergonzi

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Corelli vs. Del Monaco: Tenor Fanatics Speak Their Minds

“What a wonderful Christmas gift for my husband, John, and me to receive Del Monaco at His Most Thrilling! and Del Monaco on TV. The package came yesterday and we repeatedly watched and listened to the tapes for hours. They are absolutely priceless.

“Boy, were our endorphins flowing!! It’s amazing to experience this because it truly does allow the development of a point of reference for opera singers. I commented to my husband that the title really should be ‘Del Monaco at His Most Orgasmic.’ These programs turned me into a convert. I have always had my own listing for the top singers of all time, and Del Monaco had been tied for third place (Corelli had always been my favorite). I understand that variation and subtlety have their place, but unabashed, exquisitely distilled intensity must be recognized. When one also considers the perfection of Del Monaco’s physical features and emotional capacity, one must conclude that he is numero uno.

“I am usually not a fatuous or fickle person; my changing an opinion is highly unusual. When I first met my husband 30 years ago, we often went to the opera in Philadelphia. We saw Corelli in a number of performances, and my husband saw Del Monaco twice (I only saw him once—but it was in Otello). At that time, I disagreed with him about Del Monaco: the performance I attended was after his automobile accident, and I realize that he was not at his most vigorous, and I also realize now that I was overly harsh in my judgement.

“We are grateful, Stefan Zucker, that you are you. Without someone like you to somehow gather this priceless material, it simply would no longer exist. We are aware of video recordings from the Met and other sources, but the material you manage to get is out of this realm—it is so much more ‘real.’ What you manage to make available lends joy to the lives of people like my husband and me.”—Mary Triboletti, New York, NY

Are John and Mary Triboletti guilty of heresy? We invite you to compare these Del Monaco tapes to, say, Video #122, Corelli’s Favorite Corelli, or Video #91, Corelli in Concert with Orchestra and draw your own conclusion.

“I read Mary Triboletti’s letter, and since I think I can claim I am Franco Corelli’s foremost fan—being the author of the one and only existing book about him—I feel I have the duty of accepting the challenge.

“Mrs. Triboletti gives herself an answer when she writes: ‘I understand that variation and subtlety have their place.’ That is my point exactly. Corelli was the one and only tenor (at least in his generation) able to combine a big, thrillingly heroic and dramatic voice with variation and subtlety—he alone possessed the combination of voice, technique and sensitivity. I do not want to denigrate Del Monaco since he doubtless was a great tenor, but he did not possess by half Corelli’s richness of vocal and dramatic nuance: Corelli is the tenore di forza who always sings and never shouts. Where Corelli is in turn melancholic, loving, sorrowful, impassioned, heroic, sensual, desperate, Del Monaco is mostly angry. He always sings Canio, even when he is singing Manrico or Ernani.

“Obviously everyone is entitled to his or her own orgasms, and I am told most women secretly dream of being raped, once in a lifetime. But my personal advice remains that if you prefer to be caressed—even if in a very passionate way!—you’d better stick to Corelli.”—Marina Boagno, Parma, Italy

“My heart goes out to Mrs. Boagno, since I understand how she rightly idolizes Corelli. I also feel like a fool to appear to presume to criticize Corelli. Seeing one of your interviews with him a few years ago was so thrilling. My husband, John, asked him the question he had harbored for many years: ‘Why didn’t you do Otello?’ Corelli simply responded, ‘I made a mistake.’ What a night that was for us both!

“I first saw Corelli in the early 60s in Philadelphia as Roméo. Just to experience his stage presence (magnificent stature, grand gestures and powder-blue tights), not to mention that voice, was a highlight in my life. I do, however, remember that Corelli was often criticized by newspaper critics for a lack of what Mrs. Boagno calls ‘vocal and romantic nuance.’ I do not take most critics’ word as gospel, and they do like to contrive a flaw—even in the most perfect singers. To be fair, he did have a penchant for sustaining those dramatic notes—but that is one of the reasons I’ve always adored him. I actually cried when Corelli was ‘indisposed’ for a performance of Tosca, but when I realized that Milanov, not at her most youthful or lithe, was Tosca, I almost forgave him. Even his acting and dramatic flair would have been strained.

“If it’s vocal and dramatic nuance that is truly desired, then Di Stefano or Bergonzi would have to be considered, among the tenors of that era. I think we were so fortunate to have had such a rich cluster of magnificent voices and performers then. I wish we could be having a similar debate regarding today’s singers. I find myself pining for the wooden perfection of Richard Tucker.”—Mary Triboletti, NYC, NY

“Watching these great singers is for us—beginning singers—a valuable lesson in operatic technique.

Del Monaco at His Most Thrilling!—marvelous, exciting, fabulous, gigantic. What a technique, what a voice, what an interpretation, what a feeling! We don’t know why so many people criticize him. (Maybe he is too good.) In a letter in a recent Bel Canto Society catalog, Marina Boagno writes about MDM: ‘He is always Canio.’ Not true: When he sings ‘Lontano, lontano,’ with Tebaldi in Mefistofele or the duet in Gioconda with Simionato, he is most genteel and charming. We don’t find anything bad in Corelli’s singing—he is a great tenor—but we will not stand for it if someone says Del Monaco is shouting, not singing. No one sings Otello, Canio or Pollione better. He is the last great actor in opera history. He is not angry all the time. If Boagno says otherwise, then she never has watched him in ‘Niun mi tema.’ The interpretation is so strong that I cried. If someone likes impressive, big-voiced tenors and dramatic actors, then his favorite tenor will be Del Monaco. If someone likes dramatic nuance, beauty of singing and gentleness in a dramatic voice, then his No. 1 will be Corelli. We would like to thank Joe Pearce for understanding MDM and writing a kindly article calling him the ‘King Kong of tenors!”—Bartosz and Piotr Zamojscy, Gdansk, Poland

“In my early years as an opera fanatic I felt that Del Monaco was the greatest tenor because of the size of his voice, which sounded bigger than everyone else’s on records. During the past ten years, however, I have come to feel that Corelli is the top all-around heroic tenor.

”In Del Monaco at His Most Thrilling! and Del Monaco on TV he is indeed very exciting. In the live Otello and Walküre arias he is unequaled. In the Norma and Macbeth, however, everything sounds the same. He pushes through the phrases instead of caressing them and has a distinct nasal quality. Marina Boagno is correct when she says he always sounds angry, and that makes him sound less effective in music that needs romance and a warm sound. For example, in the Bohème aria he does not project a young poet with either his voice or expression. Contrast that with Corelli in Video #87 [Corelli in Scenes from Don Carlo, Bohème and Aïda]where he has the expressions of a young man in love, full of mischief and heart.

“I agree with Stefan that Del Monaco’s B-flats are better than anyone else’s, but above that he is less impressive. In the Turandot aria his middle voice is so big that the B-natural is a trifle unsteady and less than brilliant. Compare that with Corelli’s ‘Nessun dorma’ B in Corelli on TV, where it sounds like a golden trumpet. Also, for warmth of sound contrast the last scene from Aïda (1971) with Corelli on Video #87 with that of Del Monaco in the Tokyo Aïda (1961) [no longer available]. Here I find Corelli more believable, with a beauty of sound and a sincerity reminiscent of Gigli in the film Du bist mein Glück.

“When have we heard a voice as big and sensuous as Corelli’s with Pavarotti-like high notes? I guess Del Monaco is Number One provided the repertory is limited to dramatic roles with middle-voice tessituras. Corelli, however, has no rival in the larger repertory of spinto, romantic and lyric roles. His voice is powerful yet can be sweet. He also has that Gigli melancholy that adds humanity to his singing.”—Joe Li Vecchi, Langhorne, PA

“My husband just warned me that in connection with Corelli I should avoid the pornographic!

“I have my husband (who is 60) to thank for my appreciation of opera. For years he talked about and played among many others Del Monaco and Corelli—but I was a musical snob. They were too emotional and intense. They also shouted a lot. Nothing could surpass Wagner. Then, one day, these gentlemen appeared on my TV screen. I have not been the same woman since.

“Now I must add Corelli’s name to Richard Burton’s (as Hamlet) and Peter O’Toole’s (as Macbeth). They are on my list of bitter regrets—regrets that my age has denied me the opportunity of seeing these great men in person. Other women of my generation don’t know what they are missing. For me Domingo and Pavarotti just won’t do.

“As to Corelli, his voice and his beauty—at age 36 I’m at a loss for words.”—Louise A. Jeffery, Kent, England

“Until my wife had actually seen Del Monaco and Corelli ‘in the flesh,’ as it were, she regarded them merely as bawlers! All of her spare time is now spent watching and listening to the two bawlers!”—Tony Jeffery, Kent, England

“I own all of your tapes of Del Monaco and Corelli. I have been most impressed by the picture and sound quality. You have done a marvelous job in providing these documents of two of the greatest and most exciting tenors of the 20th century. Bravo!”—George Ryan, Bronx, NY

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Corelli in the Press

Encore (the magazine of BMG classical music service) reported:

Franco Corelli, known as “golden thighs” to opera audiences, was one of the world’s leading tenors from his La Scala debut in 1954 until his unofficial retirement from the stage in 1976. His matinee-idol looks coupled with his thrilling high notes earned him cult status during his singing career. A recent survey by the magazine Opera Fanatic [the radio program, really] named Corelli Favorite Tenor of the Century, out-polling even Björling (second), Caruso (third), and Domingo (nineteenth, tied with Jacques Urlus).

Jeannie Williams wrote in USA Today:

Look out Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti: Italian tenor Franco “Golden Thighs” Corelli, the Mel Gibson of the Metropolitan Opera in the 1960s, may be back. Corelli, who left opera in 1976, made a rare weekend appearance on a New York radio show, “Opera Fanatic.” He said he quit too soon, he wants to sing Verdi’s Otello and do recitals. His reappearance would sell out Carnegie Hall in hours….” (“Starwatch”)

Michael Redmond treated the same story in the Newark Star-Ledger:

Last week’s big buzz had to do with a live radio interview given by Franco Corelli to the irrepressible Stefan Zucker, host of “Opera Fanatic.” During the interview, Corelli indicated a clear interest in returning to the stage to perform and record the title role of Verdi’s Otello, the brightest jewel in the Italian tenorial crown.

Corelli never sang this role during the years that he was the most brilliant and exciting tenor alive…. Well, this was news,…It is also a matter of public record (i.e., listeners heard Corelli say it), as well as a matter of on-tape record. By early this week, Corelli was waffling about the whole thing, saying that he had been mistranslated. The interview had been conducted both in Italian, which Zucker then translated, and in English. A difficulty with Corelli’s explanation is that he had said it in English. Hmmm. So why all the fuss? Simply because a return by Franco Corelli to sing Otello, or “Mary Had a Little Lamb” for that matter, would surely become a candidate for “hottest operatic ticket of the 90s”…. I had had the privilege of overhearing Corelli sing while he was teaching in Newark. The tenor sounded fantastico, high notes and all….(“Corelli Comeback: Yes or No?”)

Audrey Farolino wrote in Page Six of the New York Post:

Will he or won’t he? That’s what opera fans are wondering about Franco Corelli, considered the world’s best and sexiest tenor during his heyday from the 1950s through the 70s. Corelli worked music lovers into a fever pitch earlier this month when he suggested on WKCR’s “Opera Fanatic” program that he would still like to perform in Verdi’s Otello, something he never did during his career. Since then, “the phone here has been going wild,” says Stefan Zucker, the show’s host….(“Corelli: Coming Back?”)

On one of the programs Corelli described his diet, which Jeannie Williams then reported in USA Today:

Sixties superstar tenor Franco Corelli says he’s eating nothing but bananas and yogurt daily, plus water and coffee—and it works.

Marylis Sevilla-Gonzaga in Opera News also made mention of the Corelli shows and the prospect of a comeback.

Listeners having voted Corelli Favorite Tenor of the Century, Stefan Zucker booked a date at a concert hall for him to be interviewed by the audience and me and be presented with an award. Marylis Sevilla-Gonzaga in Opera News, Bill Zakariasen in the New York Daily News, Iris Bass in Sightlines, Jeannie Williams in USA Today and Tim Page in Newsday all noted the event in advance, while Albert Cohen in the Asbury Park Press described the audience’s reaction:

Zucker arranged for a fascinating evening when he brought Corelli to the stage of Merkin Hall in New York City for an evening of talk. Part of the fun was the capacity audience. Talk about fanatics! Whenever someone recognizable entered, the applause would erupt. Jerome Hines, the Scotch Plains basso, was greeted warmly.

Pandemonium took over when Corelli appeared. Everyone was standing, whistling and shouting “Bravo.” The fans really went crazy when he was given his “Tenor of the Century” plaque during this unusual evening. (“Fans Go Wild over ‘Tenor of Century'”)

The Honorable David N. Dinkins, Mayor of the City of New York, proclaimed January 7, 1992 “Franco Corelli Day.” On that occasion Stefan Zucker interviewed Corelli in Gould Hall, taking a microphone into the auditorium à la Phil Donahue so that the public could speak with him as well. After intermission mayoral representative Dr. George Seuffert presented Corelli with the proclamation, which among many things cited his “thoughtful expertise and delightful sense of humor” in interviews.

Joseph Li Vecchi wrote about the event in Gramophone:

When Corelli walked out on stage at Florence Gould Hall the audience reacted as if Caesar had just returned from the conquests in Gaul….Corelli was interviewed by Stefan Zucker and he answered questions from the audience. We were also treated to a number of his recordings….Corelli fans are devoted to the great tenor and one lady even drove in from Cleveland for a chance to meet him. [Another came from Raleigh, another from Miami.] After the interview there was a reception….

Li Vecchi then described Corelli’s vocalism, citing high notes and diminuendos, and maintained:

There is no voice before the public today with Corelli’s combination of power, range and color….