Before the Three Tenors, There Was One Tenor
Before the three tenors, there was the one tenor, Franco Corelli, and this Sunday Evening November 3 at 8 on the Lyric Stage, he will
sing arias and duets from Andrea Chenier, Turandot, and Cavaleria Rusticana.
Franco Corelli's career spanned 25 years from his debut in Italy in 1950 until his retirement at the age of 54 in 1975. He was one of if not the major international tenor star from his debut at the Met as Manrico in Il Trovotore in 1961 until his retirement. His debut was opposite Leontyne Price - who was also making her Met debut. This most remarkable night in the history of the Metropolitan was not without its backstage drama, as Price got more applause. This upset the sensitive Corelli, and he vowed to never appear with her again. But he soon ignored his vow, and the two went on to sing together in many memorable live performances and recordings.
Corellli retired at 54 because he felt he was not singing as well as he had in his prime, an unusually honest self-assessent for a singer who would have been very much in demand for years beyond his retirement. But he had always found performing stressful, and finally it was too much. He enjoyed a long and happy retirement until his death in 2003 at the age of 82. The retirement included teaching voice in New York City, which is ironic, because Corelli disliked voice teachers for himself after a bad early experience, preferring to study the recordings of the tenor masters of the past such as Caruso, Gigli and del Monoco.
His voice live was beautiful and enormous, as is his recorded legacy.