Francesco Portelli

Picture of Francesco Portelli Record Label

Francesco Portelli sings Addio, mia bella Napoli
In RA format

This is one of the stranger mystery tenors. His few recordings (six sides) are not exactly rare, at least four of them, so he is rather well-known to collectors. All six sides feature Italian songs (four of them Neapolitan), all were made in Berlin in 1928, and all are labelled "Franzesco Portelli". Now Franzesco was a name form that did exist in medieval Italian, but nobody in the 20th century was certainly called Franzesco (in modern Italian, it's Francesco of course). A mistake by the German record company, Franz being the German equivalent of Francesco? Or a pseudonym? In any case, other than those six sides, he didn't leave any trace of his existence.

Francesco (?) Portelli was Italian, his pronunciation leaves no doubt about that; but, as they would put it in Italy, non parlava un'acca del napoletano (he didn't speak a jot of Neapolitan, but the Italian expression is much prettier: he didn't speak an H of Neapolitan – the H inevitably never sounds in Italian, of course). The voice is not bad, though very short (a weak low register, and no top); the style of the songs is expertly mastered. My guess is, with all due precaution, that he may have been some music hall or café-concert singer who was engaged somewhere in Berlin in fall 1928.

I wish to thank Daniele Godor for the recording and label.

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