Cortis was born Antonio Tomás Montón Corts to Spanish parents, on board a ship sailing between Oran (Algeria) and Altea (Spain). The small family (his father had died a week previously) moved to Valencia, later to Madrid. Antonio and his brother received musical education. Antonio entered the Royal Conservatory of Music in Madrid (at the age of 8) where he studied composition, violin and theory. His goal was to become a composer or a violinist. In 1909 Cortis entered the Municipal Conservatory and received vocal tuition. He was soon engaged as a member of the Gran Teatro del Liceu Chorus. He subsequently appeared in comprimario tenor roles. He eventually became a well renowned tenor, but did not have a career in New York.

Credo a una possanza arcana

Credo a una possanza arcana
che benigna o maligna
i nostri passi or guida
or svia pei diversi sentieri
de l’esistenza umana.
Una possanza che dice a un uomo:
Tu sarai poeta. A un altro:
A te una spada, sii soldato!
Or bene, il mio destino
forse qui vuolmi.
Se quel che bramo mi si avvera, resto.

Allora partirò!
E questo mio destino si chiama amore.
Io non ho amato ancor!
Pure sovente nella vita ho sentita

Sul mio cammin vicina passar
la donna che il destin fa mia!
Bella, ideale, divina come la poesia;
Passar con me sul mio cammino l’amor!
Udita io l’ho sovente
con la sua voce ardente dirmi:

“Credi all’amor; Chenier, tu sei amato!”

I believe in an arcane power

I believe in an arcane power
that benign or malignant
our steps now guide
or misleads us through diverse paths
of human existence.
A power that tells a man:
You will be a poet. To another:
To you a sword, be a soldier!
Well, my destiny
maybe here you want me.
If what I crave comes true, I’ll stay.

Then, I shall leave!
And this, my destiny, is called love.
I haven’t loved another yet!

Yet, I have often felt that the woman who is destined for me has crossed my path!
Beautiful, ideal, as divine as poetry;
to walk the path of love in life with her!
Yes, many times her voice has spoken to my heart;
I have often heard her ardent voice telling me:
“Believe in love, Chenier, you are loved!”

Recondita armonia

Recondita armonia
di bellezze diverse!…
E’ bruna Floria,
l’ardente amante mia,
e te, beltate ignota,
cinta di chiome bionde!
Tu azzurro hai l’occhio,
Tosca ha l’occhio nero!
L’arte nel suo mistero
le diverse bellezze insiem confonde:
Ma nel ritrar costei
Il mio solo pensiero,
il mio sol pensier sei tu,
Tosca, sei tu!

Difficult to understand harmony

Oh the mysterious harmony of diverse beauties!
Floria is dark, my ardent lover,
And you, unknown beauty,
Have a ring of blonde hair!
Your eyes are blue
Tosca’s are black!
Art in all its mystery
Mixes various beauties together:
But while I’m painting her
my only thought,
My only thought is you,
Tosca, it’s you!

Siciliana

TURIDDU
O Lola c’hai di latti la cammisa
si bianca e russa comu la cirasa,
quannu t’affacci fai la vucca a risa,
biatu pì lu primu cu ti vasa!
Ntra la puorta tua lu sangu è spasu,
ma nun me mpuorta si ce muoru accisu …
e si ce muoru e vaju ‘n paradisu
si nun ce truovo a ttia, mancu ce trasu

Siciliana

TURIDDU
O Lola! like the snow, pure in thy whiteness!
Redder than cherries glow thy lips in brightness!
Happy the lover brave, when by thy kisses
Thou shalt his soul enslave in fondest blisses!
Though at thy door dark blood be warningly lying,
Ne’er shall it hinder me, when to thee flying.
Death straight to heaven in its arms may enfold me;
Ne’er shall I enter there happy, till I behold thee!

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Nessun dorma

Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!
Tu pure, oh Principessa
Nella tua fredda stanza
Guardi le stelle che tremano
D’amore e di speranza
Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me
Il nome mio nessun saprà
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo dirò
Quando la luce splenderà
Ed il mio bacio scioglierà
Il silenzio che ti fa mia
(ll nome suo nessun saprà
E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir, morir)
Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle!
All’alba vincerò!
Vincerò!
Vincerò!

No one shall sleep

No one shall sleep! No one shall sleep!
Even you, oh Princess,
In your cold room,
Watch the stars that tremble
With love and with hope
But my mystery is closed in me
My name shall be known by none
No, no, on your mouth I shall say it
When the light shall shine
And my kiss will dissolve
The silence that makes you mine.
(No one will know his name
And we must, alas, die, die)
Vanish, o night!
Set, stars!
Set, stars!
At dawn, I shall win!
I shall win!
I shall win!

Antonio Cortis

Antonio Cortis 1891-1952 was a Spanish tenor with a beautiful spinto voice capable of singing both the light and heavy roles in the Italian and French repertory. Born on a ship in the Mediterranean, he gave Valencia, where he was raised, as his native city. He initially studied voice at the Madrid Conservatory. After a move to Barcelona when he was 18, he continued training in the Catalan capital. He made his debut in that city in 1912 and sang comprimario roles for several years.

He was on tour with Enrico Caruso singing the role a Beppe to the Neapolitan’s Canio in Pagliacci, when he so impressed Caruso that he offered to introduce Cortis to the New York opera scene. Cortis, who apparently was very shy, an unusual characteristic for a tenor, did not take him up on the offer.

His career as a leading tenor began in Italy around 1920. He was a success and sang at many of the world’s important houses, but never at the Met. He did have a big success at Chicago’s Civic Opera where he sang to great acclaim from 1924 to 1932 when the company succumbed to the Great Depression. Thereafter, he was the victim of the worst of possible fates – bad luck.

Because of the deterioration of the world’s economy he returned to Spain, still in good vocal condition. Thereafter he got caught up in the poisonous politics of his country which descended into the catastrophic civil war of the late 30s. World War II kept him in Spain. When peace finally broke out he resumed singing, but his best days were in the past, his health broke, and he died in 1952 at the age of 60.

He made a number of recordings; the best were made between 1925 and 1930 when the singer was at his peak. They show a rich and lush tenor who phrases with elegance and who has a secure top. The undeserved neglect of his art is belied by the excellence of his recordings.