Heinz Arensen – Enrico Aresoni – André Arensen

about 1870 – August 8, 1943

Singers who falsify their date of birth are certainly not a rarity; singers who even falsify their place of birth are a far less usual species, and a singer who used four family names and six first names is most probably unique. That singer is most often quoted as either Enrico Aresoni, André Arensen or Heinz Arensen, but also as Enrico Areson, Enrico Arensen or Andrea Arensen; and we're also going to encounter him as Victor E. Arensen, Henry Arenson, Enrico Arenson and André Enrico Arensen – neither was his real name. Almost everything that is common knowledge about him nowadays (among the relatively few who have heard of him at all) is all myth and invention – his own invention, more precisely.

His German self, Heinz Arensen, is as good a starting point as any. His biography in Kutsch-Riemens (reproduced on Operissimo), gives the most complete account of that one (among his multiple) identities: Born in 1884 (unknown where), he made his debut in Oldenburg in 1908, from 1909 he was in Toruń/Thorn (then Germany, now Poland), next in Poznań/Posen (again, then Germany, now Poland), Essen and, from 1912 to 1916, at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Then, he would only have sung as a guest, according to Kutsch and Riemens, e.g. in Vienna, Graz and with the Opéra Russe in Paris. Even later on, he'd have lived in Berlin. (Spontaneous question: why the Opéra Russe, if he was obviously German?).

Next, we have his Italian identity, Enrico Aresoni. Roberto Marcocci's list of performances, which is not based on rumors but on real material (programs, newspaper reviews and so on), has him making his debut, again in 1908, in Mirandola however, next singing in Ferrara the same year, then in some other provincial Italian opera theaters in 1909 and 1910, next in Boston in 1910, next a gap and then only a few more performances in the USA and Puerto Rico in 1916 and 1917, and in Puerto Rico and Milano in 1919.

Finally, we have the Russian tenor André Arensen (or Enrico Arensen, following other sources), whose wild WWI adventures have been narrated in many of Lawrence Holdridge's auction catalogues (with more than just a grain of salt, since Holdridge knew there was something wrong with Arensen's story): a member of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, he was, as a Russian subject, arrested when WWI broke out. The Kaiser, who was a huge Arensen fan, allowed him to leave for – the USA. (Spontaneous question: why the USA, if he was Russian?) En route, he was arrested once again in France, due to his German affiliations. (Spontaneous question: how should the French police have known that the Kaiser – allegedly – loved Arensen's singing?) His colleague, soprano Nadine (Nadia) Legat, the daughter of an important Russian general, happened to serve as a nurse (???) in a hospital in Monte Carlo, happened to learn of Arensen's problems with the French authorities, and managed to free him – by marrying him! They "were permitted to return to the United States" (two Russians! return! to the US! why "return"?), where they seem to have evaporated in 1918.

To be added to all that: lots of accounts that have him as a US singer...

Now let's see what primary sources we can find on our split-personality tenor. As far as the early stages of his career, there's a newspaper clip from Il teatro illustrato: undated, but obviously from 1909 if compared with Marcocci's list of appearances, which it's absolutely congruous with, adding, however, more Trovatore performances: at the Teatro dal Verme in Milan, specifically. Our tenor is called Enrico Areson at that time – and an American, particularly stressed by the reviewer, who was generally not fond of American singers.

Around the same time, first evidence is to be found for the German career of Heinz Arensen. What Kutsch and Riemens were relying on are the Deutsche Bühnenjahrbücher (German Theater Year Books), which listed, well, not all artists active in Germany, but almost all: every member of the Deutscher Bühnenverein (German Theatrical Association), kind of an artists trade union, where membership was by no means obligatory but customary. Heinz Arensen first appears there for the 1908/09 season in Oldenburg, as a "singer and actor". Whether he made his debut there or, as Enrico Areson, in Mirandola, remains undecided, however; I'm inclined to give Mirandola the preference since he was there in October and November 1908, i.e. at the start of the season; and his next appearance in Italy is documented for March 1909 (in Pistoia), so he could have spent December 1908 and January and February 1909 in Oldenburg, and returned there after his Pistoia performances.

The Deutsches Bühnenjahrbuch for the following season, 1909/10, lists him (as Heinz Arensen, as always in Germany) for the theater of Toruń/Thorn, just as Kutsch and Riemens said. He cannot, however, have spent a great part of the year there.

In early September 1909, he (Enrico Aresoni, this time) was in Oostende (Belgium) for the concert season (Le Figaro, September 1st, 1909).

In early December, he was in Los Angeles... but that's an altogether different story that we'd better discuss somewhat later. For the moment, suffice it to say that he was there. From Mr. Marcocci's list, we know that he was in Pavia (Lombardy) that same month, so he must have been busy traveling. In 1910, let's recapitulate that, Marcocci has him in Italy in May and October, and in Boston in November. The Deutsche Bühnenjahrbücher list him, for the 1910/11 season, as a member of the theater of Poznań/Posen.

Next comes a newspaper clip from February 11th, 1911 (unfortunately the source wasn't taken down, probably it's from Musical America or The Musical Courier) – American tenor Enrico Areson has been discovered by a New York singing teacher, Wilfried Klamroth. (Memorize that, please, the subject of teachers is going to be a funny one.)

In 1911/12, he was, according to that season's Deutsches Bühnenjahrbuch, a member of the Essen theater as German tenor Heinz Arensen.

In January 1912, he was a native Italian and sang Samson in Lyon in his "native language" (which the French reviewer – Revue française de musique, January 14th, 1912 – didn't obviously know the slightest bit, or he had been bound to notice Aresoni's horrible accent when singing Italian). In June and again in August he was, still being Italian, in Oostende once more for concerts, where he obviously scored huge successes ('t Getrouwe Maldeghem, June 16th, 1912; Le Figaro, August 19th, 1912; and Le Figaro, September 9th, 1912).

From October 1912, we have one of the most interesting documents concerning our tenor: a list by the Immigration Authority at Ellis Island of the passengers of the Majestic, which had departed from Cherbourg on September 25th and landed in New York on October 3rd. That list strictly comprises US citizens only, it gives each passenger's age and US address, and there is also a column that tells, for naturalized US citizens, the rationale of their naturalization. And Enrico Aresoni is on that list: according to it, he was 31 years old, married, residing in 81 East 7th Street, New York, and naturalized because his father had been a US citizen. So he was a US citizen, but not born in the US. That he acquired the US citizenship because his father was a US citizen means that he acquired it before attaining his majority: under the US nationality law, citizenship of the parents is only relevant for citizenship conferrals upon infants – after the age of legal majority, he would have had to acquire US citizenship on his own, independently from his father's, cf. US Citizenship and Immigration Services or Wikipedia; and this means he must have lived in the USA already as a minor since that's what the legal requirement is if only one parent is a US citizen. So there are two possibilities: either his father was a born American who had lived and founded a family abroad before returning to the States; or his father was a migrant, who first came to the USA alone, and only when he had made a living there, he brought also his family or part of his family (which is a more than common pattern, of course, in migration history). Try to memorize all that; it's going to play an important role in our tenor's biography. Also note that according to that official document, he must have been born in 1881 or eventually late in 1880, so as to be 31 on October 3rd, 1912.

In November 1912, he had to be replaced by Léon Lafitte for a Don José in Montréal (according to a theater almanac archived at the University of New Brunswick). Montréal brought him no luck that year. In December (New York Times, December 16th, 1912), he was supposed to be in Boston for Il trovatore, but found missing – after having disappeared between two acts of Aida in (again!) Montréal two days earlier, he hadn't yet resurfaced. The newspaper article tries to sum up his career, saying that he had been born Henry Arenson in New York, had been a Lower East Side tailor until 1909 and had been discovered when singing privately at a Yiddish wedding. The article also says that his operatic debut had been in the 1910 Boston Trovatore that appears also in Mr. Marcocci's list (not his debut, as we know) – and recounts how he had lost his voice during that performance. The same Boston impresario, says the newspaper, had now re-engaged him after huge Aresoni successes in Italy – only to be again let down by the tenor. One day after that article, Aresoni had already got in touch with the New York Times (December 17th, 1912) – he was home in New York instead of Boston, due to voice problems, but had his secretary deny that he had run away from the Montréal theater in his stage clothes. Again one week later (December 24th, 1912), Aresoni intervened personally to present the New York Times a letter from the Boston impresario, confirming that neither he, the impresario, nor his staff had been the source of the flight-in-costume story nor of the 1909-Yiddish-wedding story, which Aresoni both claimed to be untrue. Rather, said Aresoni, he had been residing in Italy in 1909 (which is true, as we know, at least for part of the year). Aresoni also said he had turned down an invitation to come to the Vienna Royal Opera for five years, just in order to be able to sing in Boston.

He must have cleared his name with Eastern US audiences pretty soon: I don't know from which newspaper and from which date this fragmentary clip is, but it chronicles Aresoni's success in Cavalleria rusticana with the Aborn Company after not even having been mentioned on the program in order not to stir up bad memories of his recent failures; and Santuzza was sung by Enrica Clay Dillon, who ended her career shortly before the outbreak of WWI, hence my "pretty soon" dating.

Having been so busy in North America during the 1912/13 season, it's not probable that he spent very much time in Europe that year; and yet, the Deutsche Bühnenjahrbücher list Heinz Arensen for the Charlottenburg Opera (i.e. the Deutsche Oper) in Berlin; actually, I doubt that he ever appeared there during that season; whence this doubt, I'm going to explain soon. However, the Bühnenjahrbücher list him again for the same opera theater for the next season, 1913/14, and this time, it's no question that he actually sang there.

Referring to his German identity, as well, is a newspaper clip in English (alas, no source and date available). It tells of Heinz Arensen's huge successes in Berlin, but also in Kassel and Wiesbaden. It says Arensen had been given a four-year-contract at the Charlottenburg Opera through 1918 (so the article is from 1914, quite obviously). By the way, the article is quoting a new teacher: Richard Lowe in Berlin (which seems very much like a corrupted spellling of Richard Löwe, though I've never heard of any "famous" voice teacher of that name, either).

As far as Arensen's four year Berlin contract, he wasn't to perform it, presuming that such a contract ever really existed. It has to remain undecided whether he proved unsuccessful, or whether he eschewed traveling to Europe during the war; in any case, he was again listed in the Deutsches Bühnenjahrbuch of the 1914/15 as a member of the Deutsche Oper, but for the last time; and press date for that publication was September 1914, so it only proves that he was scheduled to appear in Berlin, not that he really did. In any case, he wouldn't, once again, have had very much time for Berlin that season. In June 1914, anyway, our tenor was in Columbia, Missouri, for a concert at the university, now again as an American singer (but trained in Italy): University Missourian, May 7th, 1914, May 28th, 1914 and June 2nd, 1914. In those years, and that season in particular, he sang regularly at American universities: at Judson College in Marion, Alabama (cf. The conversationalist. A yearbook of Judson College, vol. 16, 1914); at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, on December 11th, 1914 (cf. Northfield News, December 4th, 1914, available at the Northfield Historical Society Archives); at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (cf. The M.S.C. Record, vol. 20, 1915). And at Athens State University in Alabama, which is a colourful story (not Aresoni's fault, in this particular case): at Athens University, there is a well-known ghost story about the October 1914 dedication of McCandless Concert Hall. A beautiful, 22-year-old soprano named Abigail Burns sang Traviata on that occasion, on a stormy night; she scored a huge success, and promised to return. After the performance, she had to leave immediately to reach her next booking in time; in the midst of the thunderstorm, the carriage fell off a bridge, and Ms. Burns died. However, she kept her promise to return to McCandless Hall, and appears there every now and then in her evening robe, up to this day. Sadly, the whole story is nonsensical not only because of the ghost part, but also because a singer named Abigail Burns never existed, and because La traviata was not given at McCandless in 1914 – the only operatic singer who appeared there that year was Enrico Aresoni (cf. Alan Brown: Haunted Places in the American South, Mississippi 2002, p. 15 ff.).

To sum it up, he was constantly in the USA from June to December 1914. It may be (but there is no proof) that he went to Berlin in early 1915 to perform at the Deutsche Oper.

But not for long: a May 1915 newspaper clip (which newspaper is unfortunately unknown) informs us that American tenor Enrico Aresoni, a pupil of Giacomo Guinsbourg in New York (his third teacher so far!), has been engaged by the Chicago-Philadelphia Opera Company for the upcoming season, and that he will sing Manrico, Samson, Radames, Otello and the like. The article also says that he had been at the Nice opera for one season (without saying when), and had sung Samson there under Saint-Saëns' baton.

Merely one week later, Musical America reports the furious protest of New York voice teacher Percy Rector Stephens, who claims Aresoni had been his pupil from January to summer of 1913, to overcome his vocal problems. And that's the reason why I'm quite sure that at least back in the 1912/13 season, he had never really made it to Berlin; he spent the fall of 1912 in the USA, and he obviously interrupted his career in spring 1913 for studies with Percy Rector Stephens.

It would seem that the effect of Mr. Stephens' teaching efforts did not last. After a Canio in St. Louis in January 1916 (cf. Marcocci's list of appearances), our tenor – now called Enrico Arensen – became so hoarse in the first act of Rigoletto during the season opening of the Boston National Opera Company in Springfield, Massachusetts, on October 9th of the same year that he had to be replaced for the second act. By the way, Gilda was Nadine Legat on that occasion (remember the story that she saved Andre Arensen from French internment by marrying him in southern France?). Since Enrico Arensen was also scheduled to sing in Rubinstein's Demon, the Boston National Opera Company allegedly had to cancel that production altogether due to his vocal problems (cf. Cardell Bishop: Boston National Opera Company and Boston Theatre Opera Company, 1981, p. 27). Vocal problems? From October 16th on, Enrico Aresoni sang a series of concerts in Balboa Park, San Diego, California (Balboa Park Notes, 1916, for a text only download) – on the far end of the United States! Could his "vocal problems" have been the result of wishing to perform elsewhere instead? For November, Enrico Arensen was again announced to be singing in Rigoletto (together with Legat) and in Les contes d'Hoffmann, as well, with the Boston National Opera Company at Lexington Theater, New York (The Sun, October 15th, 1916). It's probable that he did fulfill his contract, this time, for both he and Legat were definitely in New York in mid-December and sang the love duet from Rigoletto as an opening act to a movie premiere at The Strand on Broadway (New York Tribune, December 11th, 1916; the new name given here, Enrico Arenzen, may just have been a typo).

On February 11th, 1917, a remarkable event follows, one that seems completely uneventful at first glance: the New York Tribune announces the second week of the Cosmopolitan Opera Company's New York City season at Garden Theater – with, among many others, André Arensen as Radames. So this is our first encounter with André Arensen... four days later, a clip from an unknown newspaper quotes several other newspapers reporting on a huge success of Andre Enrico Arensen, as he is called this time, in the Cosmopolitan Opera Company's season opening back on February 5th with Carmen. And those reviews that our anonymous clip is quoting narrate a bit about our new acquaintance, saying Andre Arensen was Russian and had been at the Charlottenburg Opera in Berlin until the war broke out. A newspaper ad announcing that Carmen performance can be found here (unknown from which newspaper).

The undoubtable reason why Enrico Aresoni morphed into Andre Arensen and hence an American (or, if need be, Italian) tenor into a Russian, is revealed by an Ogden Standard article that appeared another few days later, on February 21st: in San Diego, California, a diamond theft is being investigated. Diamonds worth $ 20,000 (an enormous sum at the time!) have been stolen in Los Angeles; the victims are two wealthy ladies from Chicago, Jessie Ullray (a misspelling, her name was really Ullrey) and her mother, one man has been arrested, the other is missing and being sought in the east. The missing man's name: Enrico Aresoni, his profession: operatic singer, his relationship to Ms. Ullrey: her voice teacher, later her (misspelled) fiance. "He is believed to be in New York the police say." Well, but in New York, there was no Enrico Aresoni at the time; just a Russian called Andre Arensen!

The same piece of news was reported in The Day Book on February 24th – the very same day on which Musical America first told the fascinating wartime adventures of Russian tenor Andre Arensen in full length: his internment in Berlin at the war's outbreak; his release granted by his groupie, the Kaiser; his second internment en route in France, due to the obvious fact that every French border guard knew Mr. Arensen, and knew also that he was on friendly terms with the Kaiser; his eventual rescue-by-marriage by soprano and nurse Nadia Legat: this is the article Mr. Holdridge has been quoting often, and I wish to thank him sincerely for providing me with a copy (as well as with several other newspaper clips dealing with our tenor).

Still for February 1917, Mr. Marcocci chronicles an Otello in San Juan de Puerto Rico; it would be interesting to know whether it was Arensen or Aresoni who appeared there. In April and in New York City, the split personality of our tenor unfolded further. Aresoni was still missing (presumably: still hiding from the police), but there were two Arensens in the meantime, and both on the same page of the New York Tribune on April 29th: in the far left column, Andrea Arensen (Italo-Russian perhaps?) is announced to be singing with the Aborn Company at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (together with Nadia Legat, his alleged wife), while in the far right column, Enrico Arensen is announced for concert performances of two novelties at the Manhattan Opera House: La redenta and L'ebrea, both composed by a certain Raffaele Baccellieri. The Aborn performances with "Andrea Arensen" were also announced in The Sun that same day; in Mr. Marcocci's list, they are assigned (probably erroneously) to March 1917 instead of April.

In October 1917, Andrea Arensen was singing Manrico in Tacoma with La Scala Grand Opera Company (cf. two articles in the Tacoma Times of October 4th, 1 and 2).

The La Scala Grand Opera Company... still in 1917 (I don't know when exactly), a war propaganda book was issued in New York: "True stories of the Great War" by Francis Trevelyan Miller – telling, among many others, the story of (now) Enrico Arensen's German and French stampedes and the touching story of marriage with Nadia (Nadine) Legat in great detail. Of course, any book whose title claims to tell "True stories" should be read with healthy suspicion, and Miller's opus is no exception. Every verifiable fact in the Arensen-Legat tale is actually falsifiable, and the rest of it will hardly be any more trustworthy. For example, Arensen-Aresoni never sang at La Scala in Milano; just, as noted above, with the touring La Scala Grand Opera Company in Tacoma, Washington. It would be very interesting to know, though, whether Miller really talked to Ms. Legat, as he claimed, in which case she'd have backed our tenor's fantastic story – or whether the Legat "quotations" in the book are mere inventions, by Miller or by Arensen. Anyway, let's repeat how obvious it is that the whole escape-from-Berlin-escape-from-France story was profoundly untrue; Aresoni-Arensen's presence in the USA from June 1914 onward (so well before WWI broke out!) is proven and tested, so he cannot have been a prisoner in Europe at the same time; and even if he had returned to Berlin in early 1915 (which is possible), he wouldn't certainly have been interned since he was no Russian, but an American citizen, and the USA entered WWI only in 1917, when Heinz Arensen had no longer any German contract.

As Andre Arensen, he was scheduled to sing Trovatore in Philadelphia in June 1918, but was replaced at short notice by Forrest Lamont (poor audience!): Evening Public Ledger, June 18th. However, Arensen was in town, and gave the Evening Public Ledger (July 6th) an interview, in which the adventurous how-I-got-out-of-Berlin story is told once more – with completely fresh gory details on German WWI cruelty, but without the French part and hence without any reference to Ms. Legat. The actual motive for the interview follows, somewhat abruptly, at the end: Arensen had sued the Philadelphia impresario for breach of contract (quite obviously, he'd have preferred to sing Manrico himself) – news that would have hardly resulted, without the spine-chilling tales from Germany, in such a long and prominent newspaper article.

We have not very much information for 1919. For March, Mr. Marcocci lists a Rigoletto in San Juan de Puerto Rico, and an unpublished chronology of baritone Vicente Ballester (made available by Mr. Nouvion) details that Puerto Rico visit further: our tenor (here again called Arensen) sang in Aida on March 9th, in that Rigoletto mentioned by Marcocci on March 12th, Trovatore on March 16th and Faust on March 25th (all with Ballester, all at the Teatro Municipal of San Juan). Other than that, all we have for 1919 is an October concert at the conservatory in Milan, again on Mr. Marcocci's list. One wonders what became of the jewel theft case?

The answer (or kind of) is provided by some 1920 and 1921 newspaper articles, and it's definitely a surprising one. On April 30th, 1920, the New York Supreme Court issued a verdict, and the convicted offender was – Ms. Jessie Ullrey! No mention of any jewel theft here (New York Tribune, May 1st, 1920), merely of jewels presented by Ms. Ullrey to her voice teacher "Enrico Aresoni, formerly Arenson". Ullrey's conviction was for alienation; she was found guilty of destroying Aresoni's affection for his wife Lillie, the plaintiff. The Aresoni-Ullrey love affair had lasted, as to the verdict, from 1914 to 1918. The offender had to pay Mrs. Aresoni a fortune: 50,132 $! Annual per capita net income was below 700 $ in the US in 1920, and the verdict against Ms. Ullrey was one of the highest ever issued for alienation in New York. Three attempts by Ullrey to set the judgement aside were all turned down, and it became final and subject to execution in May 1921 (New York Tribune, January 29th, 1921 and May 17th, 1921).

Amusing detail: remember that I dared doubting his "vocal problems" that prevented him from singing in Springfield, Massachusetts, in October 1916, if he was healthy enough to sing in San Diego, California, one week later? The last of the articles on the alienation verdict says that he lived with Ms. Ullrey in – San Diego! And what is more important: Ullrey alienated him from his wife between 1914 and 1918 – which means that all that time, Lillie Aresoni had been his wife. Not Nadia Legat! So in the escape-from-Europe fairy tale, even the whole marriage with Legat was invented!!

Another step back in time, towards the early stages of his career: I said much earlier that our tenor was in Los Angeles in December 1909, and that I would explain the details later. Only the Lillie Aresoni vs. Jessie Ullrey lawsuit makes clear that it was really he who showed up in Los Angeles in December 1909... and that's a story about another lawsuit. Mrs. Lillian B. Peters, a voice teacher, had been charged by a pupil with "obtaining money under false pretenses for singing and dancing lessons" (by inventing a concert that was never even scheduled in reality), and arrested; the case was about 15 Dollars. After one of her bondsmen had withdrawn his support, Mrs. Peters had to spend one night in jail until her husband had found substitute bondsmen. The name of her husband: Dr. Victor E. Arensen! Victor is a first name that we didn't have so far; obviously, our promising tenor didn't want to be recognized in newspaper articles that charged his wife with fraud (Los Angeles Herald, December 5th, 1909 and December 7th, 1909). What should be noted (we're going to come back to it soon) is that the Los Angeles reporter stressed how young Victor E. Arensen was: twenty years Lillian's junior!

Back (or forward) to the 1920s, when his career seems to have petered out. On April 1st, 1922, he was, as Enrico Arenson, in Russia for a concert at a grammar school in Zelenogorsk near St. Petersburg. He sang at the Rialto movie theater in New York as an opening act to a Buster Keaton comedy in summer of that year (The Film Daily, July 6th, 1922).

The remainder of his career may have been spent in Europe, where he resurrected Heinz Arensen: remember that Kutsch-Riemens state that he, in the late stage of his career, sang only as a guest, e.g. at the Vienna Staatsoper, at the Opéra Russe in Paris and in Graz, and that he lived in Berlin. Evidence can be found for the Vienna Staatsoper part, even though it was only a single performance that he sang there: Aida on October 4th, 1924. However, that he was living in Berlin at the time is not at all probable: though he continued, for several years and even during WWI, to pay his membership with the German artists union, the Deutscher Bühnenverein, he was listed in their year books without any German address and without any German contract from 1915 onwards – and ceased to be their member in 1922, so just about the time when, according to Kutsch and Riemens, he returned to Europe. We'll come back to the living-in-Berlin question in a moment.

In 1925, an ad in the Third Annual Musicians' and Allied Artists' Directory of Chicago (page 116), praises the abilities of voice teacher Sebastian Burnetti – and lists Enrico Aresoni among his former pupils. So Burnetti is his voice teacher no. 5!

Silence reigns for the next 15 years, before we encounter our tenor in the 1940 US census: Enrico Aresoni, vocal instructor in the musical industry, living in the household of his brother-in-law C. Calvin Meyers in 7149 Boyer Street, Philadelphia, together with his wife Elsie T. Aresoni. A new wife, thus (but not Ms. Legat!). Aresoni, this time, is 55 years old; since the census was made on April 15th and 16th, 1940, he would have been born between mid-April 1884 and mid-April 1885 – and in Rhode Island! So we have a new place of birth and a new date of birth (which latter made it into most of his available biographies, such as the one in Kutsch-Riemens).

Three years later, we meet Enrico Aresoni one last time in the New York Times, which reports that he died in Philadelphia on August 8th, 1943, where he had been a voice teacher for twenty years – which, if true, would make it even more impossible that he did, at the same time, Kutsch-Riemens the favour of living in Berlin later than 1924. However, there is perhaps little reason to trust that New York Times obituary since it also says that he was 59 when he died (hence building upon the most recent version of his year of birth, 1884), and that he had been born in Providence, Rhode Island (again congruous with his 1940 census statements). Both is plain wrong, of course, as we know from that 1912 Ellis Island immigration file quoted above: he must have been born outside the US (having been conferred his father's US citizenship when still under age) – and according to that official document, he must have been born in 1881 (or late 1880).

Well, not quite. Cut! In 2010, Russkij Pust, a Moscow based publishing house, brought out a scholarly volume by Natalya Krugljanskaja, "Sukonshchiki Popovi", The Popov Clothiers, telling the story of a wealthy family of artistically inclined Moscow merchants, and editing the hand-written memoirs of three of the family members. By far the most extensive of those memoirs is Sergej Aleksandrovich Popov's; and he tells (on pp. 126–127 of the quoted volume) how he founded an amateur orchestra in his senior high school year, i.e. 1891/92. His and his friends' musical aspirations were high, and they won a graduate violin student of the Moscow conservatory as their regular conductor; his name: Heinrich Karlovich Arenson. His fate was interesting, writes Popov: already during their rehearsals, he used to present himself as a tenor and to sing in a very high voice. After graduation from the conservatory, he played the violin in a St. Petersburg orchestra; later, he moved to Berlin to Popov's surprise, and was a member of an opera orchestra (Popov doesn't say of which one). About 20 years after their joint amateur orchestra efforts, Sergej Aleksandrovich Popov learned by chance that his old friend Heinrich Karlovich Arenson had become a tenor and gained huge success in Berlin, above all in Wagner operas. "I don't remember under which name he sang there", concludes Popov, which is actually quite funny for us who know the rest of the story.

So this means that a not insignificant part of the story that we have so far is still wrong. Heinrich Arenson (at long last, we know his real name!) received, let us repeat this, US citizenship when immigrating as a minor, and because his father was a US citizen; that citizenship conferral was based on his having been born between October 1880 and October 1881, so obviously, he must have brought forward evidence for such a date of birth. False evidence, evidently: because if he was a "graduate student" at the Moscow conservatory already in 1891, he must have been considerably older. Roughly ten years older, to be precise; his real date of birth would have been about 1870! (Which would also fit in much better with his end of career by the mid-1920s.) So in any case and beyond doubt, he had been lying to the US authorities when immigrating, probably presenting counterfeit documents: obviously, he was by no means under age when coming to the USA. A very good reason indeed to obscure his biography for the rest of his life!

How this deceit could seem plausible is made clear by the Los Angeles newspaper reporter who met him in person in front of the jail where his wife Lillie had to spend the night in December 1909: the husband is, wrote that reporter, twenty years his wife junior. Not so! But he must have looked incredibly young, young enough to fool even a criminal justice journalist.

So far, this biographical sketch has been based on evidence. What I'm going to add now is pure guesswork, though not entirely improbable. There was a well-known tenor in Tsarist Russia, called Arentsi (cf. Arkadij Pruzhanskij, Otechestvennye pevtsy 1750–1917, vol. 1, Moscow 1991). Arentsi was born on March 23rd, 1864 in Riga, sang at the Bolshoj Theater from 1890, using the stage name Charov, then in Naples, using the name Ahrens, and then embarked on a both Russian and international career under the name Arentsi, as I said – but this, too, was a stage name. His real name was Ludwig Karlovich Arenson. So we have two tenors named Arenson but each using various stage names; two tenors who had German first names, two tenors whose father was named Karl (hence their middle name Karlovich). One of them born in 1864, one about 1870. I for one wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised had they been brothers.

Add to this two further hints: Ashot Arakelyan published a few lines on our tenor (calling him Enrico Arenson), spreading the tale about the marriage with Legat, but also knowing that he studied violin in Moscow and saying he had been born in Riga into a family of merchants. I'm convinced that piece of information must come from a Russian source unavailable to me (not quoted, unfortunately, by Arakelyan).

And when I started my exploration of Arenson's biography, his nationality was of course completely mysterious, and I and a couple of other collectors tried to determine his native language from his accent in various languages (he has recorded in German, Italian, Russian and French, all with marked accents). I played some of his recordings to Axel Weggen, one of the foremost experts on Middle and East European singers, who has also a basic knowledge of some East European languages. When hearing "Heinz Arensen" sing German, Mr. Weggen said "this is an accent like Jadlowker's, so in my opinion, he may very well have been from Riga". In other words, his native language would have been Yiddish. (That was long before the above mentioned entry on Arakelyan's website had even been published.)

Now let's develop this guesswork one step further: if – if! – he was the brother of a successful singer like Arentsi, and if – if!! – he was born into a family of merchants, how probable is it that his father Karl emigrated to the USA after Ludwig was already famous? If we think it's not terribly probable, then Heinrich Arenson would not only have falsified his date of birth, but also his father, or to put it bluntly: paid some not-so-well-off immigrant named Arenson (a very common name in Eastern Europe), who had already obtained US citizenship, to play his father, and probably even produced counterfeit documents testifying to this. Just guesswork, as I said, but it doesn't seem completely fanciful.

I wish to thank a few people who have greatly helped me in compiling this biography:
- Yuri Bernikov, to whom I'm greatly indebted for translating the two relevant pages from the Russian book on the Popov dynasty for me (I don't speak a single word of Russian)
- Lawrence F. Holdridge for generously providing me with his newspaper clip collection on Arenson
- Axel Weggen for browsing the Deutsche Bühnenjahrbücher
- François Nouvion for drawing my attention to Ludwig Arentsi, and for providing information from an unpublished chronology of Vicente Ballester
- Frances Kutasi-Szabo for proofreading (and finding a mistake that nobody else would likely have found)
- and Carol Donelan of Carleton College for doing the Northfield part of the research for me.
Robert Schlesinger
Enrico Aresoni sings Sred shumnogo bala (In the midst of the ball)
In RA format

Enrico Aresoni sings La Juive: Recha, als Gott dich einst
In RA format

Enrico Aresoni sings La Juive: Gott, erleuchte meine Sinne
In RA format

Enrico Aresoni sings Pagliacci: Vesti la giubba
In RA format

Enrico Aresoni sings L'Africaine: Ô paradis
In RA format

Enrico Aresoni sings Aida: Celeste Aida
In RA format

Enrico Aresoni sings Rigoletto: È il sol dell'anima, with Nadine Legat
In RA format

Chronology as Enrico Aresoni by Roberto Marcocci
10 Mirandola Teatro Nuovo SANSONE E DALIDA (Sansone)
11 Ferrara Teatro Borghi Tosi TROVATORE (Manrico)
03 Pistoia Politeama Mabellini TROVATORE (Manrico)
09 Cividale del Friuli Teatro Ristori LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR (Edgardo)
10 Cosenza Teatro Rendano AIDA (Radames)
12 Pavia Teatro Fraschini SANSONE E DALIDA (Sansone)
05 Lecce Politeama Principe di Napoli  
10 Soresina Teatro Sociale TROVATORE (Manrico)
11 Boston Opera House AIDA (Radames) / TROVATORE (Manrico)
01 St. Louis Teatro Odeon PAGLIACCI (Canio)
02 San Juan de Puerto Rico Teatro Colón OTELLO (Otello)
03 Brooklyn Academy of Music LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR (Edgardo) / RIGOLETTO (Duca)
03 San Juan de Puerto Rico Teatro Colón STAGIONE COMPAGNIA MANCINI
10 Milano Conservatorio CONCERTO


Gramophone, Berlin 1913-10-17 (as Heinz Arensen)
1206s   Juive (Halévy): Recha, als Gott							042439, E42516, 65470, 19201
1207s   Juive (Halévy): Für ihn, für mich erflehe (w. Gottlieb & Hansen)		044246,  E44201,  65257
1210s   Juive (Halévy): Allmächt'ger blicke gnädig (w. Gottlieb & chorus)		044245,  E44200,  65257
1211s   Juive (Halévy): Gott erleuchte meine Sinne (w. ensemble)			042438,  E42515,  65470,  19201

Gramophone, Berlin 1913-11-26 (as Heinz Arensen)
13384r   Martha (Flotow): Schlafe wohl (w. van Endert, Lordmann & Mareck)		3-44109, 62115
13385r   Martha (Flotow): Was soll ich dazu sagen (w. van Endert, Lordmann & Mareck)	3-44110, 62115
1274s    Undine (Lortzing): Welche Freude (w. van Endert, Hassler, Mareck & Fuchs)	044247,  0944058, E44202, 15878

Victor, New York 1918-02-27  (as Andrea Arensen)
trial-03 Pikovaja dama (Chajkovskij): Romance test					unpublished

Victor, New York 1918-03-21 (as André Arensen, label in Russian and English)
B21593-1 Rusalka (Dargomyzhskij): Aria							unpublished
B21593-2 Rusalka (Dargomyzhskij): Aria, sung in Russian					72769

Victor, New York 1918-03-28 (as André Arensen, label in Russian and English)
B21714-1 Sred shumnogo bala (Chajkovskij)						unpublished
B21714-2 Sred shumnogo bala (Chajkovskij)						72769

Victor, New York 1918-04-04 (as André Arensen)
B21733-1 Tell her (Kochubej)								unpublished
B21733-2 Tell her (Kochubej)								72512
B21734-1 The lark (Glinka)								unpublished
B21734-2 The lark (Glinka)								72512

Gennett (H&D), USA (as Andrea Arensen/Enrico Arenson)
1420 Africaine (Meyerbeer): O paradiso							15002
1421 Pagliacci (Leoncavallo): Vesti la giubba						15002
     Aida (Verdi): Celeste Aida								15004
     Rigoletto (Verdi): È il sol dell'anima (w. Legat)					15004
Discography Source

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