The short, but brilliant career of the Spanish tenor Miguel Fleta lasted for sixteen years, from his debut in Trieste 1919 until his retirement in 1935. He died three years later. With his death, his name escalated to the world of legends and those who cherished him spoke of the greatest tenor ever.
Miguel Burró Fleta was born in Albalate de Cinca, Huesca, on the 1st of December 1897. At the age of 11, he began the study of solfeggio while working in the local agriculture industry, then later on with his sisters in the Zaragoza district. It was in Zaragoza in 1917, at the age of 20, he first appeared on stage, participating in the Jota-festival of Villanueva de Gállego, decisive for his entry into a singing competition in the city of Zaragoza the same year. He did not win but received certain recognition from the jury who, declared that his vocal qualities were superior to the other contestants.
In late 1917, he moved to Barcelona, where he stayed with his brother, who managed to gain an audition with the Director of the Music Conservatory of the Liceu (Isabel II). His application was declined as there were no vacancies in the male classes. However, Fleta had been overheard by the reputed vocal pedagoge Luisa Pierrick, who taught at the conservatory and with a substantial career as a singer behind her. Pierrick considered the potential of Miguel Fleta to be of such an extent that she admitted him into her own classes, which were confined to female voices.
Puisqu’on ne peut fléchir ces jalouses gardiennes,
Ah! laissez-moi conter mes peines
Et mon émoi !
Vainement, ma bien aimée,
On croit me désespérer :
Près de ta porte fermée.
Je veux encore demeurer !
Les soleils pourront s’éteindre,
Les nuits remplacer les jours,
Sans t’accuser at sans me plaindre,
Là je resterai toujours !
Je le sais, ton âme est douce,
Et l’heure bientôt viendra,
Où la main qui me repousse.
Vers la mienne se tendra!
Ne sois pas trop tardive
A te laisser attendrir !
Si Rozenn bientôt n’arrive,
Je vais, hélas mourir!
Since these jealous retainers will not be softened
ah, let me tell you of my suffering
and my emotion!
In vain, my beloved,
do they think they can put me off:
close by your shut door
I am determined to stay!
The stars may fade,
nights replace days,
without blaming you and without complaining
I shall stay here forever!
I know what a sweet soul you are,
and the hour will soon come
when the hand which now pushes me away
will reach out towards mine!
Do not take too long
to allow yourself to melt;
If Rozenn does not appear soon,
Alas, I shall die!
Se quel guerrier
Io fossi! se il mio sogno
S’avverasse!… Un esercito di prodi
Da me guidato… e la vittoria… e il plauso
Di Menfi tutta! E a te, mia dolce Aida,
Tornar di lauri cinto…
Dirti: per te ho pugnato, per to ho vinto!
Celeste Aida, forma divina.
Mistico serto di luce e fior,
Del mio pensiero tu sei regina,
Tu di mia vita sei lo splendor.
Il tuo bel cielo vorrei redarti,
Le dolci brezze del patrio suol;
Un regal serta sul crin posarti,
Ergerti un trono vicino al sol.
If only I were that warrior!
If only my dream might come true!
An army of brave men with me as their leader
And victory and the applause of all Memphis!
And to you, my sweet Aida,
To return crowned with laurels,
To tell you: for you, I have fought,
For you, I have conquered!
Heavenly Aida, divine form,
Mystical garland of light and flowers,
You are queen of my thoughts,
You are the splendor of my life.
I want to give you back your beautiful sky,
The sweet breezes of your native land,
To place a royal garland on your hair,
To raise you a throne next to the sun.
I’m giving you Roberto Alagna as a comparison to Fleta. I will only say two things about Alagna’s performance. He is not singing the right notes, that is he is really off key. And he is not singing the portamento after “Celeste Aiiiida”. His high notes aren’t there (that’s three things).
Mi batte il cor! Spettacol divin
Sognata terra ecco ti premo al fin
O paradiso,dal onda uscito
Fiorente suol, splendido suol
In voi rapito io son
O nuovo mondo
Alla mia patria ti posso ti posso offrir
Nostro e questo terreno fecondo
Que l’europa puo tutta arricchir
In te rapito, Io son
O nuovo mondo
Tu m’appartieni (rep)
A me, tu m’appartieni a me
O nuovo mondo tu m’appartieni
Tu m’appartieni a me ame, a me, a me
My heart throbs…wondrous scene!
At last I embrace you, land that I’ve dreamed of!
O paradise, emerging from the sea,
Lowering earth, brilliant sun,
You entrance me!
You belong to me!
Oh new world,
I can offer you to my homeland!
This fertile earth is ours,
Which can enrich all Europe!
You ravish me!
Oh new world,
You belong to me!
Fleta was one of the reigning tenors after Caruso, famous for his vocal virility and passion, a recording superstar, creator of the role of Calaf in Puccini’s Turandot, and a figure almost as dramatic in his personal life as on the opera stage. Like his compatriots Alfredo Kraus, Giacomo Aragall, Luis Lima, and Plácido Domingo, he made a point of performing and recording zarzuela music, contributing to its continued popularity in the non-Hispanic countries. His command of dynamics was remarkable, with an exceptionally fine diminuendo, though he was often accused of over-using this effect, and his high notes had a powerful ring, though again, he was accused of drawing attention to them at the expense of the rest of the vocal line.
His singing potential showed at an early age, though he had only basic musical education from a local priest. He entered a Jota competition (a song/dance style from Aragon, Spain), and while he did not win, was advised to persist. His brother arranged for him to audition for the Liceo Conservatory, and one of the teachers, Luisa Pierrich, became his mentor there. She later took him to Italy, where she introduced him to Riccardo Zandonai. Fleta made his opera debut as Paolo in a production of Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini in 1919 at the Teatro Comunale in Trieste. He was given other roles, and soon appeared at the major theaters in Europe. He and Pierrich married after her divorce was final. In 1922, Zandonai engaged him to create Romeo in the world premiere of his Giulietta e Romeo. In the same year, Fleta began a series of performances in Mexico and Central and South America, and also made his famous recording of Osman Perez Freire’s song (a Chilean composer), which sold more than 100,000 copies, incredible sales for that time. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut the following year. His La Scala debut was in 1924, as the Duke in Rigoletto. He was scheduled to sing at the Met for the next two seasons, but decided to sign with the Teatro Apolo in Madrid instead. The Met’s general manager, Gatti-Casazza successfully sued Fleta for breach of contract. In 1926, Fleta returned to La Scala to appear in the world premiere of Puccini’s Turandot, specifically chosen by Toscanini to sing Calaf.
In the late ’20s and early ’30s, he experienced vocal problems, as well as divorcing Pierrich and marrying Carmen Mirat in 1927. In 1936, he began teaching at the Madrid Conservatory, and also became active in politics, strongly supporting the Falangists (Generalissimo Franco – right wing conservative). He died at the age of 41 from kidney disease.