Gianfranco Cecchele

25 June 1938 Galliera Veneta – 12 December 2018 Galliera Veneta

Picture of Gianfranco Cecchele as Canio
Picture of the last performance of Gianfranco Cecchele in Pagliacci (Canio) on the 13th of Februar 2006, Zagreb/Croatia. He was 68.

Picture of Gianfranco Cecchele

Gianfranco Cecchele singsNorma: Meco all' altar di Venere ... Me protegge
In RA format

The rest of that evening turned unfortunately into a fiasco:
Elena Suliotis sings Norma: Mira, o Norma, with Nancy Tatum
In RA format

Picture of Elena Suliotis
Elena Suliotis sings some pretty awful notes in her scene. The booing (quite massive – much worse than for girlie man Alagna) starts around 7:10. Suliotis left the stage and did not want to come back. According to eye witnesses, Callas and Créspin were in the audience. While Créspin (a soprano with shaky high notes herself) shook her fist and screamed "lâche, lâche", Callas (a soprano used to get booed) went backstage to console Suliotis. The chaos starts at 8:20 when she does not want to come back. The entire waiting-for-Suliotis to come back is not uploaded as it lasted about 20 minutes or so. This reminds me of Scotto getting booed after her aria in Ballo in maschera. She waited for the tenor to come on the scene for the duo, and then left him not to return at all.
Gianfranco Cecchele singsAida: Celeste Aida
In RA format

Gianfranco Cecchele singsTurandot: Nessun dorma
In RA format

Gianfranco Cecchele singsErnani: Come rugiada al cespite ... O tu che l'alma
In RA format

Gianfranco Cecchele singsOtello: Esultate
In RA format

Gianfranco Cecchele singsAroldo: Sotto il sol di Siria ardente
In RA format

Gianfranco Cecchele singsAttila: Ella in poter del barbaro ... Cara patria
In RA format

Gianfranco Cecchele singsLa forza del destino: O tu che in seno agli angeli
In RA format

Gianfranco Cecchele singsIl trovatore: Di quella pira
In RA format
Cecchele's early ambitions to become a boxer were crushed by his father's opposition. In 1962, he started studying voice with Marcello Del Monaco – for not quite two years, then he made his debut at the Teatro Bellini in Catania (in La zolfara by Mulè) on 5 March 1964.

A meteoric rise ensued: the same year, he sang already at La Scala (Adriano in Rienzi!), in Rome and at La Fenice; in 1965, at the Paris Opéra (Pollione), in Parma and Naples, and in Rome and at La Scala again. In 1966, he was at the Vienna Staatsoper (Radames, Cavaradossi and Alvaro). He sang a lot at La Scala and in Naples in those years, made his US debut in Chicago, returned to Rome, and sang at the Arena di Verona and the Sferisterio in Macerata. Recordings from that period reveal a good strong voice and powerful singing, though the musicality leaves a lot to be desired.

But his insufficient training had consequences very soon. After several cases of tonsillitis, he needed tonsillectomy in 1969; after the surgery, he had to re-learn singing. In 1970, he was back at La Scala and sang in São Paulo, Florence and Munich. Throughout the 1970s, he returned to La Scala almost every season, sang a lot in Rome, Trieste and Vienna, made his debuts in Monte Carlo and at Covent Garden (both in 1976) and in Tokyo. But the voice was not what it had been before his tonsil problems. In 1980, his Scala career came to a scandalous end as the management uninvited him from an already signed contract, invoking vocal problems as the reason. Cecchele went to court for breach of contract and reputational damage – and won, albeit only twelve years later.

Well, the Scala management of 1980 certainly broke Cecchele's contract, but – reputational damage? I heard Cecchele only once, as Canio in 1986 at the Vienna Staatsoper. His singing was unspeakably awful: helpless, hopeless, pathetic. I have rarely heard anyone sing so miserably, and never anyone worse. The whole thing got a tragicomical touch by a handful of die-hard Cecchele fans who celebrated him as if he had invented classical singing on that very evening. I didn't know much about Cecchele at the time, and was convinced he must be 75 or so years old. Of course, I was wrong, and he was not even 50... And he continued singing for another 20 years on stage, and until 2012 in concert!!

Reference 1 with an excellent chronology of Cecchele's career; reference 2: Il Corriere della Sera, 6 December 1992

I wish to thank Daniele Godor for the recordings (Norma).
I wish to thank Alessandro Pagliazzi for the picture (Canio).
I wish to thank Thomas Silverbörg for the recordings (Forza, Otello, Ernani, Attila, Aida, Aroldo).
Reference: R. Schiavo: "Il tenore Gianfranco Cecchele – l'emozione d'una voce veneta", Montecchio Maggiore 2000
Source for Suliotis picture

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