This posting is an indulgence to me, and since I’m the one posting, I’m going to indulge myself. You’ve heard of a murder of crows; well, this is a plethora of tenors singing the same aria. This aria was written by Gounod in French, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from singing it in Italian. I wouldn’t be surprised if it has been sung in Russian. Our tenors, in order of appearance are: Antonio Cortis, a wonderful, wonderful Spanish tenor (singing in Italian), Giuseppi Di Stefano, when he was young, Georges Thill (singing in French), John McCormack, who, with Caruso, was the most popular tenor of his time, and finally, Enrico Caruso.
A word of warning. The farther back in time we go, the more that people are apt to “remaster” recordings. This usually results in less surface noise, but the remastering kills the higher overtones. So, for example, with Caruso, we get a cleaner sound but maybe one-fourth of his voice. I personally would rather hear the surface noise, but we have what we have.
Second, I have gone to ridiculous lengths to synchronize the Italian and the French texts. The Italian is somewhat close to the French, but not exactly the same as the French. This is because when translating from French to Italian, the translation was different from the original, and, in certain cases, notes were added to the Italian version to make the new text fit. I can swear to this because I had the French and Italian scores out to compare what went where. This means that when you read the English translation, it is a translation of the French and not of the Italian.
And I should say something about each of the singers. Cortis was at least a spinto if not even bigger. It’s interesting to hear where he placed the sound. He has an Italiante vocal production, which means that he puts the sound into the masque. In other words, you can feel the sound coming from the front of his face and not from his throat. Di Stefano is similar. There are two high Cs in this aria. The last one can be sung full-voiced or mezzo piano. Each one of these tenors does it differently. Thill was a heroic tenor, meaning he had a very big voice. I have a posting on Thill alone, and you can look him up there.
And finally, Caruso. There is nothing that I can say that hasn’t already been said about him. Just keep in mind that you are not hearing the full voice.
Faust, Act III
Faust, transformed into a young man by Méphistophélès sends, sends Méphistophélès in search of a gift for Marguerite and sings a cavatina (Salut, demeure chaste et pure) idealizing Marguerite as a pure child of nature.