Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200 Years, vol. 2 by Stefan Zucker, 6″ X 9″ X 352 pp., with nearly 200 lithographs and photographs, beautifully reproduced.

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Stefan Zucker on six revolutions that have reshaped singing.

In this volume, in discussions with Stefan, Franco Corelli looks back on his life and career. Here are a few examples:

FC on the “Rome Walkout”: Callas was a little sick, and that didn’t permit her to sing at her best. Some in the audience heckled her. When she came offstage after Act I she was completely calm, but then she began to stew and announced she was canceling. The management went to her, to push her to continue the performance. She became a lioness and began to scream. She threw some vases and a chair. Little by little she lost her voice. When she left the theater, however, she looked elegant, as if nothing had happened.

Callas and Corelli in Tosca, March 19, 1965
Callas and Corelli in Tosca, March 19, 1965

SZ: Are you suggested that she could have continued the performance had she not started to scream?

FC: Absolutely. She was in possession of a fabulous voice and an excellent technique. As late as 1958 she always was able to sing. She could have continued.

FC: There’s always rivalry onstage. To go up against Nilsson I had to learn how to put forth 110 percent of the voice that I had. At La Scala in 1964 they screamed “hams” at us because we held high notes so long, trying to outdo each other in Turandot. Nilsson was born dominant—her voice was, too.

FC: In the Faust recording Ghiaurov screamed and was only good in the laugh. Sutherland hooted. I was the only one who truly sang, with a free voice and an expressive top. I threw away some recitatives, though, because I didn’t know them well enough.

SZ: Are you able to judge to what extent your pleasing appearance affected your career?

FC: Besides voice, musicality and physique du rôle are important. Callas also said that you need a nice physique du rôle. If I hadn’t had my voice my appearance wouldn’t have helped. But if I were a hunchback I would not have had the career that I did.

Callas and Corelli in Tosca, March 19, 1965
Callas and Corelli in Tosca, March 19, 1965

Some chapters focus on Corelli’s personal life and how it intertwined with his singing, including interviews with his wife and two long-term mistresses.

Mrs. Corelli: I was extremely jealous. I didn’t have ten fingernails, I had twenty, to scratch out the eyes of women who were after Franco. I gave up my singing career to keep an eye on him. Still, if a man is determined to cheat there’s nothing you can do about it.

Corelli’s letters to Lauri-Volpi: some are affecting.

FC: People assume that in old age I am hearing Verdi and Puccini in my mind’s ear. No! The music I am hearing and that keeps me going is the sound of Teresa Zylis-Gara having orgasms. She was my great love, and I think about her all the time. She was the reason I made so many pretexts to send Loretta [Mrs. Corelli] back to Italy.

FC: Barbieri had paid people not only to applaud her but also to boo me. The man I assaulted had been paid by her!

Callas and Corelli in Tosca, March 19, 1965
Callas and Corelli in Tosca, March 19, 1965

Loretta’s past was the real reason Corelli and Boris Christoff dueled with swords on the stage of the Rome Opera. (They wounded one another.)

Three unsatisfactory Corelli biographies and an OK one as well as John Potter’s Tenors.

Corelli had a no-holds-barred rivalry with Del Monaco, with each trying to block the other’s career.

Callas, Corelli and Gobbi in Tosca, March 19, 1965
Callas, Corelli and Gobbi in Tosca, March 19, 1965

Roberto Bauer (Rudolf Bing’s Italian factotum): Franco told La Scala as well that he wouldn’t sing anymore in seasons that also include Del Monaco… He says that he knows himself very well and realizes that he is capable of socking Del Monaco in the jaw if he ran into him unexpectedly.

A collectors item, the three volumes contain 350 lithographs and photographs, many published for the first time, of tenors from the 1820s to today. This volume contains twenty-one pages of correspondence by Rudolf Bing and others about the Corelli–Del Monaco rivalry. John Pennino of the Met Archives provides a list of the Met’s payments to Corelli and comparisons to those for Del Monaco and Callas.

Sample PDFs:


Customers Review Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200 Years, vol. 2

Submitted by Paul Pothwell on Tuesday, 01/23/2018 at 6:06 pm.

These are beautiful and informative books. Exquisite photographs throughout. So much information, they are hard to put down. The quality is superb, I can’t wait for volume 3.
I can’t recommend them highly enough to anyone interested in opera.
Thank you, Mr Zucker.

Now reading and enjoying volume 2. Again.
Excellent read, excellent quality.  Fabulous collection
of photographs. And last but far from least, informative. 
The only thing lacking, Sir, is an autograph of yours.
Thank you again for these great books.

Paul Rothwell 
Gresham, OR

Submitted by Col. William Russell (ret.) on Friday, 01/19/2018 at 7:04 pm.

As with Zucker’s first volume, this one again is superbly written and well-illustrated. True, not all will agree with Zucker’s comments and observations but he presents them so concisely and persuasively that he makes his points with clarity and conviction. Books like this often have a limited availability so grab it while you can. Hopefully, there will be a volume 3.
Col. William Russell (ret.)
Springfield, VA

Submitted by Michael J. Peterson on Wednesday, 01/24/2018 at 1:14 pm.

I purchased Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, vol. 1 first, which was so impressive that within a very few days of reading the fantastically historic and organized book I had to order Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, vol. 2. Both of these volumes give a huge wealth of information about not just the singers, but even reference: 

*recordings which are available in various places online
*feuds between rival factions and singers
*the color, timbre, range and stylistic approaches of the voices
*massive collections of interviews with Franco Corelli which form the basis of the book
*endless photographs of singers about whom I’ve heard but never seen
*explanations of vocal technique and famous instructors who taught these singers

Stefan Zucker is a masterful interviewer and author with his engaging style and cross referencing which makes this book, Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, vol. 2, a serious need for any singer who should know and understand the stylistic differences in the singers’ art, and be aware of not only resources to find examples of their work by title, but to be fully founded in the singers’ art.

All of which leads me to recommend this book to any student of voice including those whom I teach (the Garcia Method through Margaret Harshaw – IU School of Music 1981), music history, opera buff or casual reader who would like a comprehensive set of beautifully bound books with glossy covers and the best quality paper I have in my library.

I cannot wait until the hoped for release of Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, vol. 3 
I’ve already searched to buy it to have “the rest of the story.”
Michael J. Peterson 
Frankfort, IN 

Submitted by Jane DeRocco on Friday, 01/19/2018 at 10:38 pm.
Volume 2, of course, is a continuation of Volume 1, with the same format, approach, and high quality. The illustrations alone are worth the price of the book. The text describes Corelli in his historical context and is always illuminating. Although the technical jargon may not be as meaningful to non-singers, that should not discourage anyone from buying this book. Corelli’s singing was always special; his voice had a brilliance to it that others lacked and his singing was always dramatic and expressive. He deserves to be a standard by which others are measured. I hope Volume 3 will be available soon.

Jane DeRocco
Utica, NY

Submitted by Remo Caminada on Tuesday, 01/29/2018 at 2:44 pm.

With the books Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, the great Stefan Zucker gave us and the following generations an incredible gift. Talking about and with all the great tenors, mostly singing in or influenced by the Golden Age of classical singing, we get closer to the real artistic value of all the master tenors who brought the art and the love for classical singing to us today. Zucker’s efforts over decades, his clear imagination and knowledge of sophisticated singing techniques, make the quality of all the interviews possible and for us readers accessible.

With love and gratitude,
Remo Caminada
Reggio Emilia, Emilia-Romagna

Submitted by Tobias Mostel on Tuesday, 01/29/2018 at 10:44 pm.

One of the best things about the book is the collection of writing about singing. This kind of writing has fallen by the wayside in our contemporary world. Now critics write about the quality of the production, the sets and the costumes. Often it is possible to get through a whole review without any lengthy discussion of the singing. In my considered opinion, any audience that comes out of an auditorium talking about the sets of an opera has been subject to a failure of singing. Who cares about sets? Who cares about the production designer? In opera it is singing that’s the issue, not the scenery. There is no scenery talk at all in vols. 1 or 2. I heard Corelli in all his roles at the Met. In fact, I was in the boys chorus in the revival of Turandot.  I was a page in Act II and onstage for the whole riddle scene. Corelli did his best against Nilsson whose high notes were loud, legendary and lengthy. My mother, Kate, said that Nilsson reminded her of Eva Turner who, she said, cleaned the dust off the chandelier on the intake of breath. On the exhalation, the dust was restored.

Volume 2 has extensive interviews with Corelli. I am of two minds about interviews with performers. Some of them know what they’re talking about, others don’t know what they’re talking about and offer rationalizations of what they do. I put Corelli in the latter class. Corelli spends much time being politic about other singers. He has nothing of interest to say about Milanov and little of interest about Callas, though he talks about her a lot. Mostly he’s interested in himself—this was true onstage, too. Corelli could create a no-man’s-land space around himself onstage. No other performer could get through. He did not do this all the time, but he did it some of the time. Any sense of ensemble or drama suffered when he indulged in this behavior.

My standards of stage behavior come from my father, Zero Mostel. I take Zero as the standard against which all stage performers are measured. Corelli, due to his self-indulgence, doesn’t do very well. A picture on page 149 of Corelli and Price shows what I mean. Stefan notes that “Both singers seem to be posing for the camera without relating to each other.” Price was notorious for this. Farrell was in the same class. Part of the thrill of opera is the drama. When performers ignore this, the drama suffers. Opera without drama is ham without eggs. Drama must be part of an opera performance. No amount of high notes will make up for the lack of drama.

In the long middle section of the book Stefan discusses many recorded performances of Corelli. This is for serious students of the voice. My only sorrow is that he doesn’t discuss what everyone else was doing, too. This brings to mind the scene in the boiler room of Fellini’s movie And the Ship Sails On. All the singers try to out-sing each other on higher and higher notes to the engine-room crew which is not that interested. Much of the talk from singers in the book is about outdoing others. At the end of the book, Stefan attacks other biographers of Corelli. This section is fun. It is always interesting to read scholars running each other over the coals of accuracy. Stefan is right up there with Gore Vidal in the accuracy department.

On page 269 is perhaps the most honest self description in the history of music, perhaps in the history of art. Bravo to Stefan for getting it out of Corelli! [Corelli volunteered it out of the blue.—SZ] Also there is much discussion of the egos of the stars. This is exciting stuff. It’s good to have the who, what, why, where and when of stories that have been floating around the standee line for years. All in all this is a fine book largely about Corelli and the art of singing. Anyone interested in these subjects will consider the money well spent on such a fine book with so many excellent pictures.

Tobias Mostel
Tallahassee, FL

Submitted by Joe Pearce on Sunday, 02/11/2018 at 3:04 pm.

As with vol, 1, I enjoyed 2 very much. Stefan’s knowledge is never a surprise, but I’m always impressed by just how much Franco C. understood about singing—his and other people’s—and for that matter how much he knew about other tenors of both his own time and before. I didn’t let Stefan’s warning about skipping that one crazy chapter with all the sex deter me, but I don’t know if it helped the book all that much (although if it got into the right hands and was mentioned in reviews, it might have done the job). It’s too bad Stefan and Franco never had another of those “let’s-compare-tenors-in-fifteen-or-twenty-recordings-of ….”– say, Trovatore or Turandot, as that section on Aïda  in vol. 1 was truly memorable–especially when they both had good things to say about the Gigli 1946 set, which I grew up on and still love. [The chapter on recordings of Aïda was written by me, without Franco’s participation.— SZ]

Joe Pearce, President
The Vocal Record Collectors’ Society

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Here is the email to which these customers responded:

Thank you very much for having bought Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, vol.2.

I have a favor to ask you: would you review the book, with a view to having your critique published on our Web sites, on Facebook and in our e-newsletters?

Stefan Zucker