Alfonso Garulli

1857 (?) Bologna – 22 May 1915 Bologna

Picture of Alfonso Garulli
Many sources give Garulli's year of birth as 1866; yet it seems likely that the earlier date 1857, found in some Italian literature, is correct.

Garulli was a bank employee before first joining the Bergonzini operetta company (where he appeared in Milan in La fille de Madame Angot), and subsequently the Tomba company.

Garulli underwent a laryngeal operation which was claimed to be responsible for improving his voice sufficiently to undertake an operatic career.

He made his operatic debut in Ravenna in 1881 as Rambaldo (Rambaud) in Robert le diable. Garulli's career advanced to the extent that he was singing regularly at La Scala (for example in 1887 appearing in Flora mirabilis and Les pêcheurs de perles). He was a frequent visitor to the major European opera houses (sharing, for example, the role of Canio with De Lucia in Lisbon in 1900) and travelled further afield to the Americas.

Garulli's repertoire was, like with many tenors of his day, wide-ranging: it included Carmen, Tannhäuser, La traviata and the "new" verismo works. He worked with the composer Giordano, with the intention that he should create the role of Andrea Chénier; Garulli fell ill at the eleventh hour, and the role was taken by Borgatti.

Indeed, ill health seemed to dog Garulli throughout his career. In 1896, for example, Massenet was adamant that the tenor should appear in the role of Araquil in La Navarraise at La Scala. Again Garulli fell ill; yet such was Massenet's faith in the singer's art that he suggested that the 'romanza' might be played by the cello to orchestral accompaniment, so as to spare Garulli for the rest of the work. In the event Garulli was so ill that De Lucia assumed the role.

Massenet and Giordano were not the only composers to admire the tenor. Mascagni, writing of an enterprise in Vienna in 1892, by the publisher Sonzogno, stated: "...all the greatest Italian artists were there: Stagno, Bellincioni and Garulli..." Verdi and Puccini also mentioned the tenor and attended his performances.

Garulli retired from the operatic stage in 1903, emerging onto the concert platform until at least 1907.

In 1887 Garulli had married the soprano Ernestina Bendazzi-Secchi (1866–1931), and in his short retirement from the stage, opened a school of singing with her in Trieste.

He returned to Bologna at the outbreak of the Great War where he died in 1915. The couple's son Valdo became a music teacher and composer.
J. P. Myerscough

Picture of Alfonso Garulli

Alfonso Garulli sings Pagliacci: Vesti la giubba
In RA format

Alfonso Garulli sings Mefistofele: Forma ideal, purissima
In RA format

Alfonso Garulli sings Mireille: O Magali, with Ernestina Bendazzi-Garulli (in Italian)
In RA format

Alfonso Garulli sings Aida: Morir sì pura e bella
In RA format

Alfonso Garulli sings Ovunque tu
In RA format
I wish to thank Ashot Arakelyan for the recording (Mefistofele).
(D = duets with Ernestina Bendazzi-Garulli)
All with piano accompaniment.

Light Blue International Zonophone, Milano, April 1903
X-1540	Aprile (Tosti)
X-1542	Ovunque tu (Van Westerhout)
X-1543	Sera di paradiso (composer unknown) (D)
X-1545	Ideale (Tosti)
X-1547	Lohengrin (Wagner): Mercè, mercè, cigno gentil
X-1548	Mireille (Gounod): Canzone di Magalì (D)
X-1549	Pagliacci (Leoncavallo): Vesti la giubba (without recit.)
Note: Ernestina Bendazzi-Garulli recorded the song Ogni sabato by Gordigiani
on Zono X-1544; it is believed that Alfonso Garulli recorded that song, too,
but the matrix/catalogue number is not known.

Anglo Italian Commerce Company (AICC), Milan 1902
("Hill and Dale" cylinders, later Pathé discs)
80132	Norma (Bellini): Ah! troppo tardi
84002	Ideale (Tosti) 
84080	Aprile (Tosti)
84082	Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner): Nel verno a piè del focolar
84085	Mireille (Gounod): Canzone di Magalì (D)
84086	Aida (Verdi): Morir sì pura e bella
84088	Mefistofele (Boito): Forma ideal purissima

All items are sung in Italian.
Comments on the records
Garulli's few records are very rare and, it must be said, very sad. The voice is a tired and shaky remnant of what must have been a fine instrument. One feature of this infirmity is a rather alarming separation of the registers (most apparent in Tosti's Ideale). We hear a relatively firm lower register, which contrasts with a disembodied, ill-supported upper register, drained of all colour. The phrasing is, at least in intent, broad, with remnants of a legato style (for example in the Aida fragment, and the Van Westerhout song). As for Garulli's dramatic credentials, we might turn to the truncated "Vesti la giubba" where, if again in intent only, Garulli rises to the climax of the piece. At the end of Tosti's 'Aprile' however, similar vehemence seems somewhat out of place. The duets with his wife (Ernestina Bendazzi-Garulli) contain some light touches, an ability to differentiate between piano and mezzoforte, and some sense of rhythm; they are, sadly, more a touching memento of their relationship than examples of great vocal art. Garulli (and his wife) recorded for the International Zonophone company and AICC; these were in fact sister companies. The Zonophones had a short life, the company being taken over by the Gramophone Company in 1903, and most of the records deleted soon after; the AICC cylinders eventually found their way onto double sided Pathe discs, and are found occasionally in this form. The gaps in the catalogue/matrix numbers in the discography given above are filled mostly by solo items by Garulli's spouse.
References: Pietro Mascagni (D. Stivender), Fernando De Lucia (M. Henstock), Record of Singing (M. Scott), CD inserts (M. Henstock)
I wish to thank Julian Philip Myerscough for the biographical & discographical information and recording (Ovunque tu).

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