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Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Spinto Tenor

By June 3, 2020March 19th, 2023No Comments

Lauri-Volpi enjoyed one of history’s longest careers, making his last opera performance at the age of 67 and astonished the world of opera by releasing a recital disc when he was 81, having survived three generations of singers. His splendid vocal technique allowed him to excel in lyrical as well as dramatic tenor roles. He was a living legend already in his prime years and when he died at the age of 86, he left a legacy of one of the most outstanding tenor careers of the 20th century.

Scorgendo il Comandante, vinto da profonda emozione, erompe in uno straziante singhiozzo mentre le sue braccia che stringevano Manon si sciolgono.

No! pazzo son!al Comandante Guardate,pazzo son, guardate,com’io piango ed imploro …come io piango, guardate,com’io chiedo pietà! …

Il Sergente avvia le Cortigiane verso la nave, e spinge con esse Manon, la quale lenta s’incammina e nasconde il volto fra le mani, disperatamente singhiozzando.

La folla, cacciata ai lati dagli Arcieri, guarda silenziosa con profondo senso di pieta.

con voce interrotta dall’affanno

Udite! M’accettate
qual mozzo o a più vile mestiere,
ed io verrò felice! … M’ accettate!
Ah! guardate, io piango e imploro!
Vi pigliate
il mio sangue … la vita! …
V’imploro, vi chiedo pietà!
Ah! pietà! ingrato non sarò!
S’inginocchia davanti al Comandante, implorandolo.

Seeing the Commander, overcome by profound emotion, he erupts into a heartbreaking sob as his arms tightening Manon loosen.

No, I’m crazy! to the Commander look, how I cry and implore … how I cry, look, how I ask for mercy! …

The Sergeant starts the Courtesans towards the ship, and pushes Manon with them, who slowly walks and hides her face in her hands, desperately sobbing.

The crowd, chasted to the sides by the Archers, looks silently with a profound sense of pity.

with a voice interrupted by breathlessness

Listen! Take me in
as a ships boy or into a vile trade,
and I will come happily! … Take me in!
Ah! look, I cry and beg!
Take my blood … my life! …
I beg you, I ask you for mercy!
Ah! mercy! I will not be ungrateful!

He kneels before the Commander, imploring him.

“La Fleur Que Tu M’avais Jetée” is sung by Don José in the opera’s second act when he is about to return to the army barracks. Through song, he tells Carmen that the flower she gave to him (in act one) allowed him to remain strong while serving his time in prison

La Fleur Que Tu M’avais Jetée” French Text

La fleur que tu m’avais jetée,
Dans ma prison m’était restée.
Flétrie et séche, cette fleur
Gardait toujours sa douce odeur;
Et pendant des heures entiéres,
Sur mes yeux, fermant mes paupières,
De cette odeur je m’enivrais
Et dans la nuit je te voyais!
Je me prenais à te maudire,
À te détester, à me dire :
Pourquoi faut-il que le destin
L’ait mise là sur mon chemin?
Puis je m’accusais de blasphème,
Et je ne sentais en moi-même,
Je ne sentais qu’un seul déisr,
Un seul désir, un seul espoir:
Te revoir, ô Carmen, ou,
te revoir!
Car tu n’avais eu qu’à paraître,
Qu’a jeter un regard sur moin
Pour t’emperer de tout mon être,
Ô ma Carmen!
Et j’étais une chose à toi
Carmen, je t’aime!

The flower that you had thrown me

The flower that you had thrown me,
I kept with me in prison.
Withered and dry, the flower
Still kept its sweet smell;
And for hours,
On my eyes, my eyelids closed,
I became intoxicated by its fragrance
And in the night I saw you!
I began to curse you,
and hating you, I began to tell myself:
Why should fate
put you on my path?
Then I accused myself of blasphemy,
And I felt within myself,
I only felt but one desire,
One desire, one hope:
To see you again, Carmen, oh,
you again!
For all you needed was to be there,
to share one glance with you
To long for you with all my being,
O my Carmen
And I was yours
Carmen, I love you!

A te, o cara

A te, o cara, amor talora
Amor talora mi guido furtivo e in pianto
Or mi guida a te d’accanto
Tra la gioia e l’esultar.

Al brillar di si bell’ora,
Se rammento il mio tormento
Si raddoppia il mio contento,
M’e piu caro il palpitar.

To you, dear

To you, dear, love sometimes
Sometimes I drive myself stealthily and in tears
Now guide me to you next
Between joy and exultation.

At the brightest hour,
If I remember my torment
My happiness doubles,
My heart beats more dearly.

Recondita armonia

Recondita armonia! Di bellezze diverse!
É bruna Floria… l’ardente amante mia!
E te, beltade ignota! Cinta de chiome e bionde…
Tu azzuro 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!
Ah, mio solo pensiero!
Tosca, sei tu!

Esoteric harmony

Esoteric harmony!
Of different beauties!
Floria is brunette … my ardent lover!
And you, unknown beauty!
Crown of blond locks
You have blue eyes … Tosca has black eyes …

Art in its mystery …
The different beauties come together!
But in portraying her … My only thought
Ah, my only thought!
Tosca, it’s you!

This next selection is from Gounod’s Faust. Lauri-Volpi’s French is not great, but I thought that the singing was.

Salut! demeure chaste et pure

Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Où se devine la présence
d’une âme innocent et divine!
Que de richesse en cette pauvreté
En ce réduit, que de félicité!
Que de richesse,
Que de richesse en cette pauvreté!

Ô nature, C’est là
que tu la fis si belle!
C’est là que cet enfant
A dormi sous ton aile,
A grandi sous tes yeux.
Là que de ton haleine
Enveloppant son âme
Tu fis avec l’amour épanouir la femme
En cet ange des cieux!

C’est là! Oui, c’est là!

Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Salut! demeure chaste et pure,
Où se devine la présence
d’une âme innocente et divine!
Salut, salut, demeure chaste et pure, etc.

Greetings, chaste and pure dwelling

I greet you, home chaste and pure,
I greet you, home chaste and pure,
Where is manifested the presence
Of a soul, innocent and divine!
How much richness in this poverty!
In this retreat, how much happiness!
How much richness
What richness in this poverty!

O nature, it is here
That you have made her so beautiful!
It is here that this child
Slept under your wing,
Grew up under your eyes.
Here that your breath
Enveloping her soul,
You made, with love, the woman blossom
Into this angel from heaven!

It’s here! Yes, it is here!

I greet you, home chaste and pure,
I greet you, home chaste and pure,
Where is manifested the presence
Of a soul, innocent and divine!
I greet you, home chaste and pure, etc.

Giacomo Lauri-Volpi

December 11, 1892 – March 17, 1979

Giacomo Volpi (Lauri was a later addition to distinguish him from two other tenors of the same name) was born on December 11, 1892 in the little Italian village of Lanuvio to the south east of Roma. Orphaned at the age of 11, he was sent to the seminary of Albano for secondary education and continued with law studies at the University “La Sapienza” of Roma. After graduation, he won second place at a singing competition and began vocal studies at the Academia di Santa Cecilia in Roma under the tutorship of the legendary baritone Antonio Cotogni, then 83 years of age, reputed as one of the finest vocal teachers in Italy. Their relationship and Lauri-Volpi’s studies were cut short by the onset of the First World War, and when Lauri-Volpi returned, a captain with a distinguished fighting record behind him, Cotogni had died. He fell out with Cotogni’s successor, Enrico Rosati, and eventually left the Academy.

He made his debut in Viterbo nearby Rome on September 2, 1919, at the age of 27, as Arturo in Bellini’s I Puritani. The success was immediate and only four months later, on January 3, 1920, he appeared at the Costanzi of Roma as Des Grieux in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, alongside Ezio Pinza and Rosina Storchio, now under his own name. News of this talented new tenor spread quickly and within short he was in demand at all the major theaters worldwide.

Lauri-Volpi made a name for himself in New York and enjoyed immense popularity and status as the Met’s prime tenor during the 20’s, appearing in some 232 performances in a total of 26 operas.

He stayed with the Met until 1933. He then returned to Italy.

The fascist uprise in Italy prevented him from leaving the country and Mussolini regarded him highly both as a singer and writer. However, high exponents of the fascist regime as well as the media considered Lauri-Volpi to be an enemy and extraneous to their propaganda, partly why he sought “exile” in Spain. Lauri-Volpi had planned to return to the Met for the 1940-41 season, but the onset of World War II changed his plans. Mussolini made him a full colonel in the Italian Army and he often served singing at patriotic and military functions.

After the war, Volpi kept touring a large part of Europe incessantly. His international reputation was not damaged due to his alleged fascist sympathies, and his reputation for having been the favorite tenor of Mussolini son, Bruno, did not prevent him from appearing in allied countries.

Lauri-Volpi died in Burjasot near Valencia in Spain, at the age of 86.