I am posting this American tenor not because I think that he is a great singer, but rather because what he does and should not do is instructive. This was a tenor without high notes, yet he sang roles that demanded strong high notes. How did he compensate? According to accounts from his time, he sang in a mixture of head voice and falsetto. Singing in head voice is achieved by using the swallowing muscles to force a tone. It is not a free voice. Falsetto is achieved by using the swallowing muscles to push even more than the force required for head voice. Falsetto is not a free tone. You can listen to any counter tenor today, and you will hear singing in falsetto, again using the swallowing muscles to produce a tone. As you have probably guessed, some people are more artful in this muscling of the voice than others. Crooks seems to have been one of those. But his high notes are not real; to use today’s parlance, they are a hack. I thought that it would be interesting to post what he does.

This opera was written in French.  I am not sure why an Englishman sang it in Italian, but there you have it.  I have tried to make the three languages line up, and they generally agree with the original French, but not exactly.  If you are following Crooks’s singing, use the Italian.

Italian:

Mi par d’udir ancora
Ascoso in mezzo ai fior
La voce sua canora
Sospirare l’amor
O notte di carezze
Gioir che non ha fin
O sovvenir divin
Folli ebbrezze, bel sogno

Delle stelle del cielo
Al tremolante balen
La vegg’io d’ogni velo render libero il sen
O notte di carezze,
Gioir che non ha fin
O sovvenir divin,
Folli ebbrezze bel sogno!

French:

Je crois entendre encore,
Caché sous les palmiers,
Sa voix tendre et sonore
Comme un chant de ramier!
O nuit enchanteresse!
Divin ravissement!
O souvenir charmant!
Folle ivresse! doux rêve!

Aux clartés des étoiles,
Je crois encore la voir,
Entr’ouvrir ses longs voiles
Aux vents tièdes du soir!
O nuit enchanteresse! etc.
Charmant souvenir!

Il s’entend sur une natte et s’endort.

English:

I think I can still hear,
hidden under the palm-trees,
her tender and sonorous voice
singing like a dove’s.
O bewitching night,
exquisite rapture,
O delightful memory,
mad elation, sweet dream!

Under the light of the stars
I can almost see her
slightly opening her long veils
to the tepid evening breeze.
O bewitching night, etc.

He lies down on a mat and goes to sleep.

Richard Crooks was a famous American tenor, who was born on June 26, 1900 and  who died on  September 26, 1972.

After several busy concert seasons as an oratorio and song recital specialist, including participation in the American premiere of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, Richard Crooks traveled to Germany where he made his operatic début in Hamburg as Cavaradossi in 1927. His career took him to the Berlin State Opera, Belgium, and Sweden.

Following appearances in Berlin and other European centers, Richard Crooks returned to the USA, making his American debut in 1930 in Philadelphia as Cavardossi. In February 1933 he made his Metropolitan début in New York as Massenet’ s Des Grieux and remained with the company for the next ten years as well as singing in other houses.

Crooks made his last appearance at the Met in 1943, Crooks gained his greatest fame through his huge number of ballad recordings and hundreds of radio broadcasts, especially as a regular on The Voice of Firestone (“If I could tell you . . .”) beginning in 1932.

It was during a 1945 Firestone program that Richard Crooks lost a top note. A degenerative throat condition, muscular support had become increasingly difficult after a series of operations for peritonitis. This and the distance from the homes of his children, Patsy and Richard, were factors in his retirement several years later. In 1942 he retired from the Metropolitan on the advice of his doctor. Crooks cancelled his Victor recording contract in 1945, and in 1950 ceased all professional work. In 1966, Crooks was honored at the Farewell Gala to the Old Met, this proving to be his final public appearance. He died at the age of 72.