Franco Corelli

8 April 1921 Ancona – 29 October 2003 Milano

Picture of Franco Corelli

Picture of Franco Corelli with hus car

Picture of Franco Corelli as Manrico
Courtesy Harmonie Autographs and Music, Inc., NY
Picture of Franco Corelli as Enzo
Courtesy Harmonie Autographs and Music, Inc., NY
Picture of Franco Corelli

Picture of Franco Corelli
I wish to thank Daniele Godor for the picture with the car.
Franco Corelli sings Carmen: Il fior che avevi a me tu dato
During a performance of Carmen, sung in French in Italy, Corelli sings La fleur in Italian and gets audience disapproval.
Franco Corelli sings La Gioconda: Cielo e mar
In RA format

Franco Corelli sings Silenzio cantatore & Tu ca nun chiagne
In RA format

Franco Corelli sings I puritani: A te, o cara
In RA format

Franco Corelli sings Andrea Chénier: Sì, fui soldato
In RA format

Joint interwiew with Franco Corelli and Birgit Nilsson
At the end, Corelli sings L'ultima canzone, and Nilsson sings Wien, Wien, nur du allein.

Franco Corelli sings Tosca: E lucevan le stelle (2)
In RA format
Here some operatic idiots tried to cause trouble during this aria and the entire evening.
Franco Corelli sings Tosca: E lucevan le stelle (1)
In RA format
The lengthy applause is cut in this version.
Franco Corelli sings Les huguenots: Bianca al par

Franco Corelli sings Les huguenots: Stringe il periglio, with Giulietta Simionato

Franco Corelli sings Norma: Meco all'altar & Me protegge
In RA format

Franco Corelli sings Turandot: Nessun dorma (1)

Franco Corelli sings Turandot: Nessun dorma (2)
In RA format

Franco Corelli sings Il trovatore: Di quella pira

Corelli's career was not particularly long: studying to be a naval architect first, and working as a public official in Ancona while taking voice lessons (with a lot of teachers since he had a difficult time trying to find the one who was right for him), he made his debut only in 1951, as Don José at the Teatro Nuovo in Spoleto. After further studies at the studio of the Opera di Roma, he sang there throughout the period 1952 to 1955, while making debuts at other important theaters throughout Italy – above all at La Scala in December 1954.

His success there started his world career, which centered around La Scala itself (through 1965), the Arena di Verona (1955 to 1976), and the New York Met (1961 to 1975), but also encompassed lots of other theaters, of course.

The late start notwithstanding, Corelli quit the stage in 1976, and gave his last concert appearance in 1981, with no desire to ever sing again in public.

Now Corelli is always quoted as the paradigm of a male diva, and of a dumb tenor. What is true is that he and his wife and manager, Loretta Di Lelio, terrorized theaters, conductors, colleagues and everybody else wherever he sang: obviously the result of Corelli's unparalleled stage fright, which terrorized himself, to start with. So he was certainly difficult to work with; but unlikeable or even dumb, he was not. Stefan Zucker's long public interviews with Corelli, long after the latter's retirement, reveal a thoughtful, nice and actually very smart person, and the only singer ever that I've heard saying that booing in the opera theater is sometimes indispensable so as to make the concerned artists understand that their career has taken a wrong turn. Kudos! And also his timely (and definitive) retirement proves that he was anything but dumb.

Admittedly, it took me decades to learn to appreciate Corelli as a singer. The voice is spectacular, no doubt, but the tone he produces often reminds of disgorging rather than of singing; this feature has been described as "animal-like", where it's regularly just plain vulgar. His piano, whenever he's in that condition, seems like the wind howling in the chimney, and his embellishments (think of "Di quella pira") are a mere joke. Practically all his studio recordings are like that, and also many of his live recordings – particularly those from famous theaters like the Met or the Vienna Staatsoper: never forget his stage fright! I still cringe at the mere thought of ever again having to hear his "Solenne in quest'ora" with either Giangiacomo Guelfi (studio) or Ettore Bastianini (live from Naples), two kindred spirits who join with to Corelli so as to shout the music down until it gives in and perishes.

But... but there are also those other live recordings, typically from smaller theaters like Pasadena or Parma, where all of a sudden all goes well: Corelli's voice is well-projected, the piano well-supported, the breath seems infinite, the high notes are fantastic – and that way, it's finally possible to enjoy the fact that he never bores (not even in his worst efforts), and is actually capable of exciting interpretations. He was quite probably the best Cavaradossi ever (perhaps together with – Corelli's counter-example par excellence – Tito Schipa), and also the best Don Carlo. No, not in all his attempts. But in quite many of them!

Reference 1, reference 2

I heard through a friend that a person in Milan who went to Corelli's funeral, said that only two hundred people were there, and she found out about it by listening to the radio, that announced it only two hours before the fact. Nothing from La Scala. No music of any importance at the funeral except for some terrible organist there who played junk music. Hardly anything on the TV either. Media has been rubbish for so long, why should we be surprised?
It is sad that incredible artists who gave people so much joy, voices of the century who offered up their entire lives, are just ignored and forgotten.
When Gayarre, the great Spanish tenor died, thousands of people attended the funeral, all the streets were closed in Madrid and with no internet, radio and TV, the news came out rapidly among the media of those days.
It is strange! Two well known tenors and two Francos (Corelli and Bonisolli) depart at the same time. Don't expect the big names (great tenors) to come out publicly with some nice words. That's how it is. No sensitivity nor respect. Always a feud and a perpetual rivalry.
I wish to thank Tom Silverbörg for the recordings (Gioconda, Silenzio cantatore/Tu ca nun chiagne, Andrea Chénier, Huguenots, Norma).
I wish to thank Jacques Franken for the recording (Puritani).

More Corelli is to be found in Daniele Godor's article on Verdi singing.


Carmen – Spoleto, Teatro Nuovo, 26 August 1951
Giulietta e Romeo – Roma, Teatro dell'Opera, 31 January 1952
Adriana Lecouvreur – Roma, Teatro dell'Opera, 8 May 1952
Boris Godunov – Roma, Teatro dell'Opera, 14 December 1952
Enea – Roma, Teatro dell'Opera, 11 March 1953
Norma – Roma, Teatro dell'Opera, 9 April 1953
Guerra e pace – Firenze, Teatro Comunale, 26 May 1953
Pagliacci – Roma, Terme di Caracalla, 2 July 1953
Aida – Ravenna, Open air, 12 September 1953
Romulus – Roma, Teatro dell'Opera, 28 January 1954
Don Carlo – Roma, Teatro dell'Opera, 4 March 1954
Ifigenia in Aulide – Roma, Teatro dell'Opera, 17 April 1954
Agnese di Hohenstaufen – Firenze, Comunale, 6 May 1954
Tosca – San Remo, Teatro delle Palme, 27 July 1954
La vestale – Milano, Scala, 7 December 1954
La fanciulla del West – Venezia, La Fenice, 26 January 1955
Giulio Cesare – Roma, Teatro dell'Opera, 26 December 1955
Fedora – Milano, Scala, 21 May 1956
Andrea Chénier – Napoli, San Carlo, 3 March 1957
Simon Boccanegra – Lisboa, S. Carlos, 25 April 1957
Khovanshchina – Lisboa, S. Carlos, 3 May 1957
La forza del destino – Napoli, San Carlo, 15 March 1958
Turandot – Pisa, Verdi, 12 April 1958
Il pirata – Milano, Scala, 19 May 1958
Il trovatore – Bologna, Comunale, 6 November 1958
Eracle – Milano, Scala, 29 December 1958
Ernani – Milano, Scala, 25 February 1959
Poliuto – Milano, Scala, 7 December 1960
La battaglia di Legnano – Milano, Scala, 7 December 1961
La Gioconda – New York, Met, 9 March 1962
Gli ugonotti – Milano, Scala, 28 May 1962
Cavalleria rusticana – Minneapolis, Northrop Auditorium, 17 May 1963
La bohème – New York, Met, 29 February 1964
Roméo et Juliette – Philadelphia, Academy of Music, 14 April 1964
Lucia di Lammermoor – New York, Met, 11 January 1971
Werther – New York, Met, 27 February 1971
Macbeth – Memphis, Municipal Auditorium, 15 May 1973

Reference: Giancarlo Landini Franco Corelli, l'uomo, la voce, l'arte, Idea Books, 2010
Reference: René Seghers Franco Corelli – Prince of Tenors, Amadeus Press, 2008
Reference: Marina Boagno Corelli, a man, a voice, Baskerville Publishers, Inc., 1996

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