Corelli & Zucker 9 June 1990

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SKU: CZ4V  Category:

Please note: These interview video cassettes have an audio track only, no picture of any kind. You can hear us speak and sing, but you don’t see us.

CZ4V June 9, 1990. (four hours). 2 video cassettes. NTSC or PAL VHS.

This title does not count as a free selection in the 6-for-the-price-of-5 offer. However, it does count as 1 paid item toward the 5 paid DVDs, videos, CD sets, photos or posters in the offer.


Contents: WKCR fundraising (not a lot of it); a brief biography of Lauri Volpi and a discussion of his strengths and weaknesses, with recorded examples.

The Heroic Tenor vs. the Verismo Tenor

Corelli understood Lauri Volpi’s views, strengths and weaknesses better than those of any singer (other than himself). Here is an edited sample from the interview:

Franco Corelli: Old-style, heroic tenors such as Giacomo Lauri Volpi sang the center and bottom notes lightly and sweetly and let loose on top. Lauri Volpi’s repertory was vast, but the operas that suited him best were Guglielmo Tell, I puritani, Poliuto, Turandot, Luisa Miller and Gli ugonotti, heroic works where he could neglect the center notes and seek to display brilliance and high notes and where he could emphasize classical style and purity of tone over passion. In contrast, verismo1 singers favor the center notes and sing with portamento2 and heart. In verismo the theatrical effect of the phrase is more important than purity of tone. Words sometimes are more important than music, and you have to use the center notes to interpret them.

Stefan Zucker: What are the characteristics of the verismo tenor?

FC: The verismo tenor has a round, strong middle voice and pushes the high notes with his guts. Caruso gave us this manner of singing. As a verismo tenor you do try to sing beautifully, lightly and sweetly, at moments. You must have this chiaroscuro, this contrast. But you can’t sing some notes in falsettone3 –no more of that!–you’ve got to sing with your real voice even when you sing softly. You do your sensual singing in the middle and only sing high notes on occasion. The risk for the heroic tenor who sings verismo is abuse of the center: he won’t be able to sing the high notes called for by the heroic repertory. If you push your center you lose your high C. Heroic tenors can sing verismo but verismo tenors generally cannot sing heroic repertory.

SZ: And Lauri Volpi?

FC: When he was studying, around 1915, the influence of the 19th century still was felt strongly. He worked with people from the last century who were especially conscious of style.

SZ: What was he like as an interpreter?

FC: He was romantic, far from verismo. His singing of verismo repertory wasn’t impulsive; it was too noble. He was like a priest. He wanted his voice to be dreamlike, to express pathos and suffering. Otherwise, he wasn’t preoccupied about emphasis, color or expression.

SZ: And his voice?

FC: It pealed forth like a thunderclap. It was steely and alive, not dark, incisive but not dramatic.

SZ: What’s the difference?

FC: The voice was too bright to be dramatic; it didn’t have the color of a cello. Every note was silvery pure, at any rate in the octave between C in the middle and high C. His emission was so perfect that even his low notes rang. His low C was silvery, not heavy. He was able to have strong notes in the center, but he disliked muscular singing.

SZ: What then did he make of Del Monaco’s singing? Did he find it muscular?

FC: He thought exactly that — that Del Monaco’s singing was not only muscular but also that he broke legato, had insufficient sweetness, an insufficient mezza voce and didn’t do enough diminuendos, that he couldn’t observe composers’ markings. [For Corelli’s own assessment of the strengths as well as the weaknesses of Del Monaco’s singing see the March 3, 1990 and May 12, 1990 (download or VHS audio) interviews.]…

Why does Lauri Volpi’s tone waver when he goes from full voice into mezza voce?

The evolution of Lauri Volpi’s vibrato.

It’s not easy to distinguish falsetto from mezza voce.

Corelli demonstrates the opening of “A te, o cara,” to illustrate portamento.

Corelli was slated to record Puritani but canceled. His style in Puritani–or lack of it. Why he didn’t sing Tristan.

Recorded selections with Lauri Volpi include Puritani, Ugonotti, Manon Lescaut (w. Luigi Bongonovo), Luisa Miller (w. Lucy Kelston), Otello (3), Forza (w. Bechi), Tosca, song.


Corelli’s Terminology

1. Verismo: the style that came into vogue with Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (1890). Fernando De Lucia was among the first to sing verismo, but his style has far more rubato (see below) and is far more delicate than Caruso’s or others with whom most today, Corelli included, associate verismo. Mascagni protégé tenor Piero Schiavazzi also was more imaginative in his treatment of rhythm and tempo and less forceful than later veroists. (Rubato: robbing time by lengthening or shortening a note or group of notes; some theorists hold that phrasing should be balanced–time taken should be paid back.)

2. Portamento: a glissando or slide from one note to another. Toward the middle of the 19th century Rossini began to object to portamentos, which singers had begun to introduce in ever greater quantities.

3. Falsettone: Corelli thinks of this as a mix of falsetto and chest resonance; some others think of it as a mix of head and chest resonance, “falsetto” at one time typically having been synonymous with “head voice.”