Giuseppe Anselmi

Picture of Giuseppe Anselmi

Picture of Giuseppe Anselmi
Born in Nicolosi (Sicily) on November 6th, 12th, or 16th (according to various sources), 1876, he was known as a child prodigy on the violin in his native province of Catania, where he gave his first concert at the age of 13. The following year already found him on concert podiums in Tunis and Athens. Still in his teens, he also started composing (he studied at the Conservatory of Naples), and took a growing interest in professional singing. At the age of 15, he joined a touring operetta company as a chorister. At 17, he was among that company's "stars" on a Southern Italy tour. On that tour, obviously, the famous music publisher Giulio Ricordi heard Anselmi by chance, and arranged for his further vocal studies with Luigi Mancinelli. His debut as an operatic tenor is not entirely certain: it took place in Greece, definitely, but while most sources agree it was in Athens in 1896, in Cavalleria rusticana, there is also a second version by Anselmi himself who once stated in an interview it was in Patras in 1898. However it may have been, he may well have sung in Patras in 1898 – for he remained mostly in Greece, Turkey and Egypt for the first years of his career. Full documentation of his career starts from the 1898-99 season, for which appearances in Smirne (today Izmir) are confirmed in Mignon and Ballo in maschera; Anselmi was there as a member of the touring Gonzales company. They moved on to Alexandria (Egypt) and performed Rigoletto, Traviata, Pagliacci, Favorita, Cavalleria rusticana and Gioconda, and then to Cairo, where they also added Lucia di Lammermoor, Bohème and Barbiere di Siviglia to the repertory. In fall of 1899, he was in Alexandria again, this time at the Alcazar theatre, in Bohème, Manon, Pagliacci and Favorita, and from December on in Smirne/Izmir, once more, singing an enormous number of operas: Mignon, Manon, Manon Lescaut, Bohème, Carmen, Cavalleria, Sonnambula, Lucia, Traviata, Rigoletto, Favorita, Faust and Il trillo del diavolo by Falchi. In spring 1900, he was in Athens and Cairo, again. His Italian debut took place at the Politeama in Genova in fall 1900, where he sang in Bohème, Lucia and Sonnambula (or, according to a more doubtable source, in Rigoletto), and very soon, he sang in major theatres throughout Italy: the first was the San Carlo in Naples (in Carnival 1901), in Sonnambula, Rigoletto, and in one of the seven simultaneous world premieres of Mascagni's Le maschere, which was a terrible failure, in Naples as well as in the six other cities, and thus certainly not by Anselmi's fault (just listen to his wonderful recording from this opera!).

spring 1901: Teatro Massimo, Palermo: Lucia, Tosca, Rigoletto, Barbiere
             Covent Garden, London: Rigoletto, Cavalleria, Bohème (with Nellie Melba)
             Queen's Hall, London: Requiem (Verdi)
winter 1901-02: Sao Carlos theater, Lisbon: Tosca, Fedora, Barbiere, Don Giovanni, Lucia, Ero e Leandro (by his teacher Mancinelli), Sonnambula
spring 1902: Teatro Massimo, Palermo: Tosca and Manon Opera theater, Buenos Aires: Rigoletto, Manon, Favorita, Iris, Don Giovanni Solis theater, Montevideo: Manon, Iris and Don Giovanni
autumn 1902: Teatr Wielki, Warsaw: Rigoletto, Lucia, Bohème, Manon, Werther, Gioconda, Traviata, Ero e Leandro, Barbiere
winter 1902-03: Municipal theater, Odessa: Tosca, Rigoletto, Lucia, Jevgeny Onegin, Fedora
March 1903: Teatro San Carlo, Naples: Tosca
autumn 1903: Teatr Wielki, Warsaw, for a long season
January 1904: La Scala, Milan: Rigoletto (with Titta Ruffo) Teatro San Carlo, Naples Conservatory, St. Petersburg
spring 1904: Teatro San Carlo, Naples
autumn 1904: Covent Garden, London (with the company of the San Carlo of Naples, this time): Tosca, Cavalleria, Rigoletto, Adriana Lecouvreur (British premiere)
winter 1905-06: Municipal theater, Odessa Opera theater, Buenos Aires Solis theater, Montevideo Teatro San Carlo, Naples: Rigoletto (with Bastianini), Cavalleria Petit theater, St. Petersburg

His repertory now included Roméo et Juliette, Amica (by Mascagni), Don Pasquale, Pêcheurs de perles.
spring 1906: Opera theater, Buenos Aires (with Storchio, de Luca and Toscanini) Solis theater, Montevideo: Rigoletto, Don Pasquale, Manon, Barbiere, Don Giovanni
late 1906: Kiev: Werther, Roméo et Juliette, Tosca
April 1907: La Scala, Milan: Cavalleria (with Toscanini)
Mai 1907: Jean de Reszke's private theater, Paris: Barbiere (Adelina Patti's last operatic performance)
autumn 1907: Liceu, Barcelona
winter 1907: Real, Madrid Conservatory, St. Petersburg: Tosca (with Bellincioni and Battistini), among others
winter/spring 1908: Real, Madrid Salle Garnier, Monte Carlo: Gioconda (with Ruffo), Tosca and Rigoletto (both with Selma Kurz) Petit, St. Petersburg Opera Theatre, Buenos Aires Solis, Montevideo
late 1908: Real, Madrid Solodovnikov Theatre, Moscow Salle Garnier, Monte Carlo: Gioconda, Roméo et Juliette, Iris, Tosca
spring 1909: Conservatory, St. Petersburg: Fra Diavolo (among others) Covent Garden, London
1910: Real, Madrid Solodovnikov Theatre, Moscow Conservatory, St. Petersburg Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires
1911: Real, Madrid Théatre de la Monnaie, Brussels Teatro Costanzi, Rome: Sonnambula
1912: Real, Madrid Municipal Theatre, Odessa Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires: Manon, Don Pasquale, Bohème (with Toscanini), Werther, Rigoletto, Roméo et Juliette
1913-14: St. Petersburg Buenos Aires Madrid: Rigoletto (with Galli-Curci), Manon and Tosca (both with Storchio) Zimina theater, Moscow
This list, though extensive, is not complete; he also sang in Austria (Vienna), Germany (Berlin) and France, and his repertory, in mature years, included heavy roles like Manrico and Radames. By the time he was 37, his voice was already in severe decline, and he had to reduce his activities. In 1916, he was at the Principal of Valencia, and in Madrid; in 1918, Madrid as well, then at the Cervantes in Malaga, in Gibraltar, at the S. Fernando in Sevilla, in Granada, Barcelona, Santander, at the Campos Eliseos in Bilbao, at the Campoamor in Oviedo, in Gijon, S. Sebastian and Pamplona. This was the end of his career – he sang his final concert on November 21st, 1918, in his beloved Madrid. As the list of appearances immediately makes clear, he was a particular favourite with the Russian, Argentine and Spanish audiences; the place where he was adored more than anywhere and more than anybody else was Madrid, no doubt, but also his fame in Russia was enormous (he even recorded two Russian lieder in Russian language!). After his singing career, he lived in his spacious villa in Rapallo near Genova, composing works for orchestra, for piano, but also songs (specialists judge his compositions as technically brillant, but lacking any hint of charisma); teaching voice; and collecting rare and precious books. He also returned to giving occasional concerts as a violinist, and had his last public appearance as such in Rapallo in 1926. He died as early as May 27th, 1929. He was buried in the cathedral of Catania (near his Sicilian birthplace), but his heart, much like the hearts of emperors and kings of earlier centuries, was buried apart, at the Conservatory of Madrid (of course), according to Anselmi's last will. By the way, anybody who is eager to find Anselmi's tomb at the Catania cathedral, be discouraged: I've tried many years ago, and nobody responsible there knew anything of the tomb, or had ever heard Anselmi's name. It seems to be found in one of the private funerary chapels not open to the public, nor to the parish. Anselmi is a singer with quite many faults (poor intonation, quite regularly; poor legato, sometimes; a tendency to force the top notes), and yet of extraordinary musical personality, with outstanding beauty of tone, poetic imagination, style, and grandiosity. I just love, for example, his Il mio tesoro recording with that self-composed end that must have made poor Mozart rotate in his grave, and yet it's great. Anselmi left more than 100 recordings, mostly Fonotipias, but also a few Edisons.
(reference: various sources, the most important being Tom Kaufman's and S. D. Randazzo's article in the Tima Club "Le voci dell'Etna" LP booklet)
I wish to thank Robert Schlesinger for the notes and recordings.
Giuseppe Anselmi sings Le maschere: Io sono come nube
In RA format

Giuseppe Anselmi sings Les pêcheurs de perles: Mi par d'udir ancor
In RA format

Giuseppe Anselmi sings Evgenij Onegin: Lontan, lontan da me andaste
In RA format

Giuseppe Anselmi sings Don Giovanni: Il mio tesoro
In RA format

Giuseppe Anselmi sings L'infinito
In RA format

Note on the recordings: L'infinito is a composition by Anselmi himself. The Mi par d'udir ancor recording is an originally unpublished Edison version. Io sono come nube is from Mascagni's Le maschere, hence a creator's record. Lontan, lontan da me... is nothing else than Kuda, kuda.


La bohème – Smyrna, December 1898
La traviata – Smyrna, December 1898
Manon – Smyrna, December 1898
Mignon – Smyrna, February 25?, 1899
Un ballo in maschera – Smyrna, February 28, 1899
Rigoletto – Alexandria, April 1899
Pagliacci – Alexandria, April 1899
La favorita – Alexandria, April 1899
La Gioconda – Alexandria, April 1899
Lucia di Lammermoor – Cairo, 1899
Faust – Cairo, 1899
La sonnambula – Cairo, 1899
Il barbiere di Siviglia – Cairo, September 1899
Carmen – Smyrna, December 1899
Cavalleria rusticana – Smyrna, December 1899
Manon Lescaut – Smyrna, December 1899
Trillo del diavolo – Smyrna, February 21, 1900
Le maschere – Napoli, January 19, 1901
Tosca – Palermo, April 12, 1901
Fedora – Lisboa, December 31, 1901
Don Giovanni – Lisboa, February 24, 1902
Ero e Leandro – Lisboa, March 8, 1902
Werther – Buenos Aires, June 1902
Iris – Buenos Aires, June 27, 1902
Eugene Onegin – Warsaw, November 26, 1902
Adriana Lecouvreur – Warsaw, November 30, 1903
I pescatori di perle – Warsaw, December 24, 1904
Roméo et Juliette – Warsaw, December 31, 1904
L'elisir d'amore – Warsaw, January 7, 1905
Don Pasquale – Buenos Aires, July 15, 1905
Amica – Buenos Aires, August 8, 1905
Mefistofele – Buenos Aires, June/July 1906
Fra Diavolo – St. Petersburg, May 1, 1909
Principessa Zabawa – St. Petersburg, April 10, 1913
Reference: The Record Collector, Volume 32, April 1987.

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