Pasquale Brignoli

1824 Naples – 30 October 1884 New York City

Picture of Pasquale Brignoli
Very rare cabinet photo of Brignoli

Picture of Pasquale Brignoli

Already as a child, Brignoli took piano lessons, and there is a wonderful anecdote (or legend?) on what started his vocation as a singer: he is said to have composed an opera at age 15, and during the rehearsals, he was so dissatisfied with one of the singers that he burst on the stage and sang the aria in question himself – and thus his voice was discovered. True or ben trovato, he began studying voice only at age 21 in Naples. From 1850, he appeared as a concert singer. Then he went to Paris to take further lessons at the conservatory, and to make his stage debut at the Opéra on February 17th, 1854 in Moïse et Pharaon. (What he had done earlier in life, i.e. before 1850, remained a mystery forever; he adamantly refused to talk about it, even when asked by the judge in a 1864 court case.)

In 1855, he went to America with the impresario Maurice Strakosch – and decided to stay. He would reside in the US for the remainder of his life, and only return to Europe on tour (1864 Madrid, 1865/66 and 1879 Covent Garden). He was the celebrated first tenor of the New York Academy of Music, where he was America's first Manrico on May 2nd, 1855, and would premiere three more works by Verdi: Traviata (1856), Vespri siciliani (1857) and Ballo in maschera (1861). From the very beginning of his life in the US, he also sang in Philadelphia and in Boston. He was also successful as a composer.

In the 1870s, he had his own touring opera company together with his wife, soprano Isabelle McCullough. In 1879, he made his third and last European tour (Covent Garden and other British theaters), but it was no success: his voice had declined. In the US, he appeared on stage until 1881. Although he had earned a fortune with his singing, he lost it all, and died in poverty.

Reference 1, reference 2: Kutsch & Riemens, reference 3

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