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Franceso Maria Bonini, Italian Baritone

By April 22, 2023No Comments

Francesco Maria Bonini (1865 – January 11, 1930) was an Italian baritone who had a major international opera career from 1896 through 1927. He was one of the first wave of musicians to be recorded, having made a number of recordings with Fonotipia Records in Milan in 1905–1906.

The recordings that are posted here are from very early in the 20th century; as such, they are acoustical recordings. The have been fixed in ways that allow you to hear Bonini. Without knowing exactly what was done to them, it is hard to comment on the voice itself. I can tell you that these recordings are missing a great deal of Bonini’s overtones. Even so, they are well worth listening to.

Di Provenza il mar, il suol – chi dal cor ti cancello?
Al natio fulgente sol – qual destino ti furò?
Oh, rammenta pur nel duol – ch’ivi gioia a te brillò;
E che pace colà sol – su te splendere ancor può.
Dio mi guidò!
Ah! il tuo vecchio genitor – tu non sai quanto soffrì
Te lontano, di squallor il suo tetto si coprì
Ma se alfin ti trovo ancor, – se in me speme non fallì,
Se la voce dell’onor – in te appien non ammutì,
Dio m’esaudì!

The sea and soil of Provence —
who has erased them from your heart?
From your native, fulsome sun —
what destiny stole you away?
Oh, remember in your sorrow
that joy glowed on you,
and that only there peace
can yet shine upon you.
God has guided me!
Ah, your old father —
You don’t know how much he has suffered!
With you far away, with misery
has his house become full.
But if in the end I find you again,
if hope did not fail within me,
if the voice of honor
didn’t completely become silent in you,
God has heard me!

con dolcezza
Ascolta. Se tu amasti me, un istante fu di tua vita…
Che il tuo cor non sia chiuso, mentre prego rivolto a te…
M’intenda l’anima tua ch’è buona… Di Giorgio l’avvenir,
sta solo in te… La tua pietà , l’amor tuo concedi a Giorgio.
Io m’aspetto da te tal sacrifizio pio!
supplichevole, s’inginocchia
Sii generosa e buona… Amica,
son io che per lui ti parlo in ginocchio e t’implora!…
Son io, son io che mi prostro a’ tuoi piè…
Che il tuo sorriso sia l’aurora d’un lieto dì
che per Giorgio mai non brillò!

with sweetness
Listen. If you loved me, an instant of your life was…
Let your heart not be closed, while I pray to you…
Your good soul understands, me… Di Giorgio in the future,
it is only in you… Your mercy, your love grant to Giorgio.
I wait for such a pious sacrifice from you!
pleading, he kneels
Be generous and good… Friend,
it is I who speak to you on my knees and implore you for him!…
It is I, it is I who prostrate myself at your feet…
May your smile be the dawn of a happy day
that never shone for Giorgio

Il balen del suo sorriso
D’una stella vince il raggio!
Il fulgor del suo bel viso
Novo infonde in me coraggio!…
Ah! l’amor, l’amore ond’ardo
Le favelli in mio favor!
Sperda il sole d’un suo sguardo
La tempesta del mio cor.

The dazzle of her smile
Vanquishes a star’s ray.
The radiance of her beautiful face
Newly infuses courage in me.
Ah, love, love burns,
Speak to them in my favor!
The sun loses in one of her glances,
The storm in my heart.

Francesco Maria Bonini
1865 – January 11, 1930

Bonini studied singing with Beniamino Carelli at the Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella in Naples. He made his stage debut in 1896 at the Teatro Mercadante in Foggia as Don Carlo di Vargas in Giuseppe Verdi’s La forza del destino. In 1897-1898 he made appearances at the Amazon Theatre in Brazil, the Valletta Royal Opera House in Malta and at the Cairo Opera House in Egypt. In 1899 Bonini returned to Italy to appear in operas in Brescia and Cremona. He sang at the Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater in 1900 and 1902 and in 1901 he was committed to the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. In 1903 he made his debuts at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo and at La Scala in Milan, the latter in the role of Arnoldo in Ponchielli’s I Lituani. On October 17, 1903 he portrayed the role of Athanaël in the Italian premiere of Jules Massenet’s Thaïs at the Teatro Lirico Internazionale in Milan opposite Lina Cavalieri in the title role. On December 19, 1903, Bonini made his debut at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples as Michonnet in that house’s first staging of Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur with Solomiya Krushelnytska in the title role. He remained committed to that theatre through 1905, portraying such roles as Walitzin/Commissario in Giordano’s Siberia and Johannes Rathenow in the Italian premiere of Leoncavallo’s Der Roland von Berlin. He also made appearances in the world premiere of Leopoldo Mugnone’s Vita Brettona and the Naples premiere of Lorenzo Filiasi’s Manuel Menendez. From 1905-1907, Bonini was engaged at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Lisbon. While there he appeared in the world of premiere of João Arroyo’s Amor de Perdição. He sang at the Teatro Regio di Parma in 1907-1908, portraying such roles as Carlo Gérard in Andrea Chénier, David in L’amico Fritz, Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde, and Rinaldo in Amica among others. From 1909-1911 he appeared mostly at the Teatro Regio in Turin in such roles as Kurwenal, Wolfram von Eschenbach in Tannhäuser, and the title roles in Boris Godunov, Falstaff, Hérodiade, and Rigoletto. In 1911-1912 Bonini returned to La Scala where he was seen as Hidraot in Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Armide, King Raimondo in Isabeau, and Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. He returned to the Teatro Regio in Turin in 1913 where he sang the role of Friedrich of Telramund in Lohengrin for the first time. That same year he made a few appearances at the Teatro Real in Madrid. Bonini spent the latter part of his career working as a freelance artist, mainly in Italy. In 1918 he made his first appearance at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome as Falstaff. That same year he had a major success at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna as Germont in La traviata with Ester Mazzoleni as Violetta. He returned to Bologna numerous times through 1922 in such roles as Comte de Nevers in Les Huguenots, Rigoletto, and Wolfram. In 1919 he portrayed Amenofi in Ponchielli’s Il figliuol prodigo at the Arena di Verona Festival. In 1922 he sang Germont at La Fenice and in 1923 he sang Nevers and Germont at the Teatro Municipale Piacenza. He also made several appearances at the Teatro Regio di Parma in the 1920s. Bonini retired from the stage in 1927, after which he lived in Milan, where he taught singing. Other roles which he performed during his career included Alfonso in La Favorita, Amonasro in Aida, Barnaba in La Gioconda, Nélusko in L’Africaine, Renato in Un ballo in maschera, Scarpia in Tosca, and Valentin in Faust.