Giovanni Martinelli

Last updated
Giovanni Martinelli Giovanni Martinelli3.jpg
Giovanni Martinelli

Giovanni Martinelli (22 October 1885 – 2 February 1969) was an Italian operatic tenor. He was associated with the Italian lyric-dramatic repertory, although he performed French operatic roles to great acclaim as well. Martinelli was one of the most famous tenors of the 20th century, enjoying a long career at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and appearing at other major international theatres.

Contents

Biography and career

Martinelli was born 22 October 1885 in Montagnana, Province of Padua, Veneto in the Kingdom of Italy. [1]

After service as a clarinetist in a military band, he studied with Giuseppe Mandolini in Milan, and made his first operatic role in 1908 as the messenger in Aida . [2] On 29 December 1910, Martinelli made his professional debut at the Teatro dal Verme in Ernani . [1]

On 12 June 1911, Martinelli debuted in Rome as Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West ; he would continue singing in that role elsewhere in Italy including La Scala in 1912. [1] Martinelli made his London debut at the Royal Opera House as Cavaradossi in Tosca on 22 April 1912. [1] Then on 25 April 1913 he portrayed Pantagruel in the world premiere of Jules Massenet's Panurge at the Théâtre de la Gaîté in Paris.

Martinelli's debut at the Metropolitan Opera took place 20 November 1913, as Rodolfo in La Bohème , where the young tenor's easy high C and pure, silvery tone attracted favorable attention; he was a Met mainstay for 32 seasons, with 926 performances of 36 roles, appearing most often as Radames in Aida ; Otello ; Manrico in Il trovatore ; Don Alvaro in La forza del destino ; Calaf in Turandot and Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West; but also as Arnold in Guglielmo Tell ; Eleazar in La Juive ; Enzo in La Gioconda ; Don Jose in Carmen ; Vasco de Gama in L'Africaine ; Canio in Pagliacci ; Pollione in Norma . He also sang in Boston, San Francisco and Chicago, often trying out new roles there, before singing them at the Met.

Outside the United States, Martinelli appeared in Paris and Buenos Aires during his prime but – oddly enough – his native Italy did not hear him at his peak. In 1937, he returned to London to sing at the Covent Garden in highly acclaimed performances of Otello and as Calaf, opposite the exceptionally powerful English dramatic soprano Eva Turner. Martinelli retired from the stage in 1950, although he gave one final performance in 1967 – at the age of 81 – as Emperor Altoum in Turandot, in Seattle. During retirement he taught singing in New York, where one of his pupils was tenor Jack Harrold.

Martinelli was essentially a spinto tenor of steely brilliance, commanding a strong high C; his rigorously controlled technique gave him exceptional breath control, although it did not eschew some occasional tightness and squeezing out of notes, particularly during the later phase of his career. His interpretive style was generally restrained and noble, but he was capable of delivering passionate, histrionic outbursts where appropriate in such melodramatic roles as Canio and Eleazar.

As his voice matured during the early 1920s, some music commentators in New York regarded him as being Enrico Caruso's successor in dramatic parts, even though the timbre of their voices were markedly different—Caruso's tone being much richer and warmer—Martinelli's forward, vibrant projection and broad phrasing found their supreme expression in Verdi's operas, ranging from Ernani to Otello; in lyrical or lighthearted music however, his voice production could be too forceful and stiff.

In 1945, Martinelli retired from singing on stage but continued to make occasional appearances at charity recitals. [2] [3] Martinelli sang as Samson in Philadelphia in 1950 and as the emperor in a Seattle concert of Turandot in 1967. [2]

He died 2 February 1969 at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. [4]

Giovanni Martinelli and his wife Adele at the Metropolitan Opera on 12 November 1915 Giovanni Martinelli (tenor) and his wife at the Metropolitan Opera on November 12, 1915.jpg
Giovanni Martinelli and his wife Adele at the Metropolitan Opera on 12 November 1915

Personal life

In private life Martinelli was said to be something of a playboy, possessing a charming personality, a wealth of memorable anecdotes and an impressive head of hair that grew silver with age. He was married to Adele Previtali (d. 1980) from 7 August 1913 until his death; they had three children: Bettina (born 1915), Antonio (born 1917), and Giovanna (born 1926). Soprano Colette D'Arville was his lover during the 1930s and 1940s. [5]

His sense of humour was notorious, as was his criticism of other singers. Once, after listening to a baritone bellow the title role of Otello, he quipped "he sings it like a truck driver." A friend asked him what he thought of a famous American singer who also did the role. "Ah, how, he sings it like the truck". [6]

Recordings

Martinelli made a large number of commercial recordings for Edison and the Victor Talking Machine Company/RCA Victor by the acoustic and electrical processes which are available on LP and CD reissues. Some feature other great Met singers of Martinelli's day, with whom he sang, include the sopranos Frances Alda, Geraldine Farrar and Rosa Ponselle, contralto Louise Homer, baritones Giuseppe De Luca and Lawrence Tibbett, and the bass Ezio Pinza.

Transcription recordings were made of some of his live performances, including a 1935 concert of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with Arturo Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (which also featured Elisabeth Rethberg, Marion Telva, and Ezio Pinza, broadcast by CBS), a 1939 performance of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra by the Metropolitan Opera, also with Rethberg and Pinza (broadcast by NBC), and various Otellos from the 1930s onwards—including a 1941 version with Lawrence Tibbett, Stella Roman, and Alessio de Paolis, under Ettore Panizza. Some of these transcriptions have been issued on LP and CD.

On August 6, 1926, Martinelli appeared in a Vitaphone short film, singing "Vesti la giubba" from Pagliacci , one of eight short films shown before the Warner Brothers feature film Don Juan starring John Barrymore.

Several episodes of a DuMont TV series hosted by him called Opera Cameos (1953–55) are in the collection of the Paley Center for Media.

Sources

Related Research Articles

Mario Del Monaco

Mario Del Monaco was an Italian operatic tenor.

Ezio Pinza

Ezio Fortunato Pinza was an Italian opera singer. Pinza possessed a rich, smooth and sonorous voice, with a flexibility unusual for a bass. He spent 22 seasons at New York's Metropolitan Opera, appearing in more than 750 performances of 50 operas. At the San Francisco Opera, Pinza sang 26 roles during 20 seasons from 1927 to 1948. Pinza also sang to great acclaim at La Scala, Milan and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.

Elisabeth Rethberg

Elisabeth Rethberg was a German operatic soprano singer of international repute active from the period of the First World War through to the early 1940s.

Spinto is a vocal term used to characterize a soprano or tenor voice of a weight between lyric and dramatic that is capable of handling large musical climaxes in opera at moderate intervals.

José Cura

José Luis Victor Cura Gómez is an Argentine operatic tenor, conductor, director, scenographer and photographer known for intense and original interpretations of opera characters, notably Otello in Verdi’s Otello, Samson in Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila, Canio in Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, Stiffelio in Giuseppe Verdi's Stiffelio and many others.

John Keyes is an American operatic tenor who specializes in the dramatic repertoire. After studies in Chicago, he apprenticed and performed at both the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Houston Grand Opera during the late 1980s. In 1990 he won an international singing competition in San Antonio and was awarded the Richard Tucker Career Grant. He made his European debut the following year as Siegmund in Richard Wagner's Die Walküre at the Scottish Opera.

Nicola Martinucci is an Italian opera singer, particularly noted for his performances in the spinto tenor of roles Calaf in Turandot, Radamès in Aida, and the title role in Andrea Chénier.

Rubén Domínguez was a Venezuelan lirico-spinto tenor. He is recognized for his work within the lirico-spinto repertory, as well as works by Bellini and Donizetti. He played many verismo roles such as Canio in Pagliacci. He also played Otello, Mario Cavaradossi, Manrico, Radamés and Calaf.

Giacomo Lauri-Volpi

Giacomo Lauri-Volpi was an Italian tenor with a lyric voice of exceptional range and technical facility. He performed throughout Europe and the Americas in a top-class career that spanned 40 years.

Aureliano Pertile

Aureliano Pertile was an Italian lyric-dramatic tenor. Many critics consider him one of the most exciting operatic artists of the inter-war period, and one of the most important tenors of the 20th century.

Kamen Tchanev Bulgarian tenor

Kamen Tchanev / Kamen Chanev was a Bulgarian operatic tenor who enjoyed an international career.

Roy Cornelius Smith is an American operatic tenor, from Big Stone Gap, Virginia.

Francesco Merli

Francesco Merli was an Italian opera singer, particularly associated with heavy roles such as Otello, Canio and Calaf. He ranks as one of the finest dramatic tenors of the inter-war period.

Ettore Panizza Argentine conductor and composer

Ettore Panizza was an Argentinian conductor and composer, one of the leading conductors of the early 20th century. Panizza possessed technical mastery and was popular and influential during his time, widely admired by Richard Strauss and Giacomo Puccini, among others.

Vladimir Vasilyevich Galouzine is a Russian tenor. He has performed in such Russian operas as The Queen of Spades, Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina and has performed the lead roles in Italian operas like Madama Butterfly, Otello, Tosca, Aida, and Manon Lescaut.

Francesco Anile Italian tenor

Francesco Anile is an Italian tenor. He regularly sings in Italy and abroad, performing in theatres such as the Teatro Massimo in Palermo and San Carlo in Naples. Turandot, Norma and Otello are some of the works of his repertory which he plays with more strength and character. In March 2009, he was Manrico in Verdi's Il trovatore, and he has performed Canio in Pagliacci, directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Armando Agnini was a successful Italian stage director of opera.

Maurice Stern is an American operatic tenor and sculptor. He graduated from the Eastman School of Music. He made his debut at the New York City Opera as The Emperor Altuom in Giacomo Puccini's Turandot, and received a laudatory solo review by Eric Salzman of The New York Times for that small role.

Mario Basiola was an Italian operatic baritone.

Aleksandrs Antoņenko Latvian tenor

Aleksandrs Antoņenko is a Latvian tenor who specializes in the dramatic repertoire, and has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 Slonimsky, Nicholas; Kuhn, Laura; McIntire, Dennis. "Giovanni Martinelli". Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. Retrieved 3 April 2021 via Encyclopedia.com.
  2. 1 2 3 Feeney, Anne. "Giovanni Martinelli: Biography". allmusic. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  3. "'Old Tenors Never Die'". Time. Vol. 59 no. 11. 17 March 1952. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  4. "Opera Star Martinelli Dies". St. Petersburg Times . 3 February 1969. Retrieved 14 December 2013. Giovanni Martinelli, a leading tenor of grand opera's golden age, died yesterday at Roosevelt Hospital In New York. He was 83. ...
  5. James A. Pegolotti (2003). Deems Taylor: A Biography. University Press of New England. p. 203-208; 239; 378.
  6. Clifton Fadiman (ed.) The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, Boston, 1985, p. 386