Opera Tenors: Top Historical Spanish Singers June 18 2021
MANUEL DEL POPULO VICENTE GARCIA (Sevilla 1775 - Paris 1832)
A tenor of historic importance, the creator of Almaviva in the world premiere of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia in 1816.
He also excelled as composer and teacher of singing, and wrote one of the most important and referential treatises on voice.
Garcia Sr. was the father of an important saga of opera singers such as Manuel Garcia the son, Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot, becoming the most influential teacher of singing of the XIX century.
PEDRO MARIA DE UNANUE (1814-1846)
Though he died at the very young age of 32, tenor Unanue developed a short but important international career performing in the leading opera theaters of Europe, singing opposite stars of the time such as Rubini and Pauline Viardot.
Unanue was a disciple of maestro Reart, and promissory performances in Madrid, Seville and Granada earned him a reputation to be engaged with the Maryinsky Theater in San Petersbourg in 1844 and in Italy in 1845.
His voice was robust and had a wide range, with extreme ease in the upper registry. His last performance was in Trieste in 1846, dying some weeks later due an unknown illness.
BUENAVENTURA BELART (Tarragona 1828 – Ivry-sur-Seine 1862)
Being a lawyer, ended up devoting himself to singing thanks to the
beauty of his voice.
He was heard in Madrid in 1851 and toured Europe afterwards, performing in London, Paris, and other important cities. He was a reputed tenore leggero with a warm mezza voce and brilliant top notes.
His best portrayals were Almaviva, Ernesto and Elvino. Mr. Belart passed away at 34 and was remembered not only as an important opera singer in his own right but also as posessor of a good sense of humor and a kind personality.
LORENZO ABRUÑEDO (Oviedo 1836 – Madrid 1904)
A former blacksmith turned into opera singer, Mr. Abruñedo took the operatic stage by storm in 1864 in Cagliari, Italy, with La Sonnambula, his debut in Madrid, also in 1864, was with Ernani, and at the Liceu in Barcelona in 1866 with Ernani as well.
Blessed with a voice of unusual beauty and musical gifts, he enhanced his repertoire including roles with extreme different vocal demands such as Alvaro in La Forza del Destino.
Thanks to his controlled singing technique, Abruñedo was heard performing even advanced in years both in America and Europe, becoming one of the most respected tenors of the second half of the XIX century.
CRISTOBAL ALTUBE (Aretxabaleta 1838 - Madrid 1951)
Mr. Altube studied under the guidance of tenor Raffaello Grani. He
developed an international career in Europe and America.
Altube excelled in dramatic roles including Radames, Samson, Andrea Chénier, Tannhäuser, Siegmund, Alvaro and Canio which also were the roles he performed the most along his career. Picture shows Altube in Aida.
Nevertheless it was Verdi’s Otello, the role he was closely associated with whose performance at the Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona was widely acclaimed among the critics of his time.
From 1945 he dedicated part time to being a teacher at the Real Conservatorio in Madrid until his death in 1951.
ANTONIO ARAMBURO (Erla 1840 - Montevideo 1912)
Dramatic tenor considered one of Enrico Tamberlick’s successors.
Being a young tenor, he spent six years under maestro Cordero’s tutelage, building a solid technique and gaining an impressive knowledge of opera and song literature. His operatic debut occurred in 1869 as Faone in Pacini’s Saffo at Milan’s Teatro Carcano.
Aramburu performed a wide variety of roles in the top opera theaters of his time. These were roles such as Duca, Manrico, Ferrando, Poliuto and Radames. He was acclaimed to great success in London and Milan.
Being a prestigious tenor he also created a fame as an extravagant person. He founded in 1900 a Record company called “Compañía de Impresiones Fonográficas by the famous tenor Antonio Aramburo» recording 48 cylinders.
JULIAN GAYARRE (Roncal 1844 – Madrid 1890)
Being one of the most admired and loved opera singers of the late
XIX century, tenor Julian Gayarre was the creator of the role of Marcello in Donizetti’s Il Duca d’Alba and Enzo in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda.
Having been rejected in Madrid, he traveled to Milan where his performance as Fernando in Donizetti’s La Favorita – which became his signature role, was highly acclaimed, securing him a career throughout the most important opera theaters of Europe. He died prematurely at 46 a couple weeks after his last performance as Nadir in Les Pecheurs de Perles in Madrid in December, 1879. Gayarre loved his hometown greatly and today there is a Museum in his honor. Three films honor his life.
FERNANDO VALERO Y TOLEDANO (Ecija 1856 - San Petersburgo 1914)
Debuted in 1878 in Madrid. His voice of tenore lirico of clean emisión and timbre plus the mastery of his technique made him one of the most famous opera singers of the second half of the XIX century.
A friend and protegee of the great Julian Gayarre, was compared to him on several occasions.
Valero made headlines in 1883 for his performance of Faust in Gounod’s opera at Teatro La Scala, securing him future engagements.
Turiddu was a role he sang many times and his warhorse at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for which he was greatly acclaimed. He also was one of the favorite stars of the Maryinsky Theater in San Petersburg. He left six historic recordings made in 1903 for Gramophone.
ANGELO ANGIOLETTI (Barcelona 1862 - 1909)
His real name was Jaume Bachs i Rosés. Considered a tenor of
international success, debuted at the Liceu in Barcelona in 1888 in a small role, as the herald in Lohengrin, with Gayarre in the title role.
A couple of years later, Angioletti moved into the tenor realm and had a permanent presence in the operatic stages of the Teatro del Liceu, Teatro Costanzi in Rome, San Carlos in Naples or La Scala in Milan, where he replaced Leo Slezak in 1905 as Tannhäuser.
Angioletti possessed a luminous voice and concentrated in Wagnerian and late Verdi roles, leaving some recorded arias as discographic legacy.
MANUEL UTOR (Barcelona 1862 – 1946)
Nicknamed “El Musclaire” because of the neighborhood he was raised in, Utor had a short but very interesting career as opera singer in Spain given the power of his voice and brilliant high notes, though short in technique and dominion over it.
Utor debuted in 1901 at the Teatro Gran Via, Barcelona, with “Marina”, and sang in many theaters, including in New York, Buenos Aires, but at the end of his career he performed mostly in zarzuelas.
FRANCISCO VIÑAS (Barcelona 1863 – 1933)
A specialist in Wagner roles, Francisco Viñas debuted as Lohengrin
in the Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona, in April 1888. Lohengrin would be a role he would sing over 100 times during his career.
Viñas toured extensively throughout Italy and Europe during the following years and debuted in Cavalleria Rusticana at the Metropolitan in 1893, next to Emma Calvé.
In 1913, Mr. Viñas sang Parsifal in Barcelona during the first ever legal performance of that opera outside Bayreuth, given the prohibition in force for 30 years.
His voice was elegant, stylish, with a perfect diction. Francisco Viñas left a wide variety of recordings made between 1903 and 1912 for Gramophone & Typewriter and Fonotipia.
JULIAN BIEL (Zaragoza 1869 - Barcelona 1948)
A former baker and painter, dramatic tenor Julian Biel enjoyed international success. His heroic voice and ease in the top register, made him a favorite among the operatic public. Debuted in 1889 at the Teatro del Buen Retiro in Madrid, with Meyerbeer’s opera L’Africaine.
He was a pupil of Antonio Cotogni and his performances of Il Trovatore at Teatro La Scala conducted by maestro Toscanini are warmly remembered. He suffered from mental illness and had to retire from the stage in 1917 temporarily, giving music lessons to make a living. Some recordings of arias sung for Gramophone survive today.
FLORENCIO CONSTANTINO (Vizcaya 1869 – México D.F. 1919)
As a young man, Florencio migrated to Argentina where he took
singing lessons and debuted at the Teatro Argentino in La Plata, in 1896 in Bretón’s La Dolores.
Awarded with a scholarship traveled to Italy where his career took off singing the repertoire or light-lyric tenor, debuting at Teatro Real in Madrid in 1899 as the Duke of Mantua.
He moved to North America in 1906 adding some more robust roles such as Enzo and Don Jose, debuting at the Metropolitan in 1910.
After some legal issues in the USA his career came to an end and was found in Mexico D.F. diagnosed with psychiatric problems and died there in a hospital in 1919.
FRANCISCO GRANADOS (Almodóvar 1870 – 1946)
Granados studied singing in Madrid, perfected his Italian and studied later in Russia, his debut was in 1895 at the Teatro Principal de Córdoba, Spain.
In 1896 debuted in Savona, Italy as Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, and tackled Lohengrin in 1898 in Pavia. By 1901 and 1902 he appeared at the Teatro Real in Madrid as Rodolfo in La Bohème and as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor.
Granados championed those roles better suited for his lyric instrument, with sporadic incursions in some heavier roles. Mr. Granados recorded some arias for Gramophone between 1908 and 1909.
MANUEL IZQUIERDO (Valencia 1875 – Milan 1951)
Tenor Izquierdo, also known as Emanuele Ischierdo, debuted in the
title role of Meyerbeer’s Robert Le Diable in Lisbon in 1895, following engagements in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico and Brazil as Otello, Andrea Chénier, Radames and Vasco da Gama.
Izquierdo also performed in Europe, where he was engaged by the Teatro Regio in Parma in 1907 as Andrea Chénier and Faust and tackling Siegmund in Wagner’s Die Walküre at the Teatro Real in Madrid in 1911.
Izquierdo recorded some Verdi and Wagner duets for Gramophone between 1906 and 1911.
He retired from the stage in 1914 with the beginning of World War I, concentrating in teaching the rest of his life.
JOSEP PALET (Martorell 1877 – Milan 1946)
Palet studied in Barcelona under Joan Goula, debuting in 1900 as Ferrando in Donizetti’s La Favorita at Teatro del Liceu, with which his international career took off, singing in the most important theaters of Europe and America.
His definitive consecration came in 1911 at Teatro La Scala in Milan, the city where he established his residence from then on. Mr. Palet had more than 90 roles in his repertoire, including some Wagnerian roles, given the almost perfect technique he was a posesor of. He also recorded extensively.
Palet died unexpectedly in 1946 while traveling on a trolley car.
FULGENCIO ABELA (Barcelona 1880 – Buenos Aires, ¿?)
Spanish-born Argentine-raised tenor Fulgencio Abela received music training in Buenos Aires under maestro Ivan Goula, debuting in 1904 at the Politeama Argentino as Gennaro in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia and in 1905 as Ferrando in La Favorita at the Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona.
His career spanned 20 years, performing mostly in Europe and South America, being Faust, De Grieux, Almaviva and Rodolfo his signature roles, tailor-made to his lyric voice.
Abela recorded an excerpt from Arrieta’s Marina for Columbia Records in 1905 and for Edison Records in 1912 Des Grieux’s aria Ah, fuyez douce image (sung in Italian).
JOAN RAVENTÓS (Barcelona 1883 – 1947)
Raventós studied music in Barcelona, his debut was at the Teatro Novedades in Barcelona, in 1903.
where he was acclaimed for his portrayal as Hoffmann in Offenbach's opera (a role he sang 163 times), concentrating his repertoire in French opera by then.
Afterwards he tackled more heroic roles such as Siegmund in Wagner’s Die Walküre, Walther in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Tannhäuser, and Erik in Der Fliegende Holländer.
His last public performance on stage was as Siegfried in Wagner’s opera in 1916 at Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona. He retired and established his residence in Munich where he became a teacher during the following 20 years.
MIQUEL MULLERAS (Barcelona 1883 – 1972)
His first appearance, while still a young tenor was in May 1903,
singing songs at Teatro Romea in Barcelona. His professional debut was on June 23rd, 1907 at the Teatro Pizarro in Valencia, performing in La Bohème.
His career concentrated mainly in Spain in a wide range of lyric roles such as Alfredo in La Traviata, Pinkerton, Turiddu and Faust.
Mulleras´ career spanned more than 20 years, being known in Italy, Spain and South America. His last known public performance was as the Duke in Rigoletto in 1947, with sporadic appearances in private concerts from then on.
The tenor recorded a disc in 1918, with an aria from La Favorita.
HIPOLITO LAZARO (Barcelona 1887-1974)
Considered the natural successor of the great Enrico Caruso and
heir of the great Rubini, Hipolito Lazaro debuted in opera in Barcelona in 1910 (with La Favorita).
Lazaro hit operatic stardom in 1910 as the Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto at Ferrara. Lazaro built his career mostly on Verismo and Verdi roles and developed a well-known rivalry with his fellow tenor Miguel Fleta, later in life focusing on concerts, retiring after a recital in Cuba, 1950, sang zarzuela at an older age.
After retirement, Lazaro wrote 2 books, one autobiography, one teaching his singing method.
JUAN DE CASENAVE (Madrid 1888 – Buenos Aires 1961)
The Spanish tenor De Casenave was born into a French-Spanish
family. He studied Engineering but also music, singing and piano.
De Casenave debuted in 1913 in Bilbao as Almaviva en Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and also appeared as Des Grieux and the zarzuela Bohemios by Amadeo Vives at Teatro Real (Madrid), the following year, beginning his professional career performing lyric roles of the standard repertoire, leaving some recordings.
De Casenave also devoted himself to zarzuela during the following decade. During the mid-1920s, Casenave moved to Argentina where he resumed his stage career with some appearances to finally retire in the early 1930s.
PAU CIVIL COSTA (Barcelona 1889 – 1987)
Known for his velveted lyric voice, Pau Civil debuted as the Duke in Rigoletto in El Masnou in 1925, and soon after his European career began, debuting at La Scala in 1937 in Respighi’s Lucrezia.
During the following decade he tackled heavier roles such as Maurizio in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur and Walther in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, among others.
By 1943, the tenor returned to his native Barcelona to perform regularly at Teatro de Liceu where he retired in 1953, becoming a teacher.
Pau Civil was admired for his musical gifts and the extensive repertoire of more than one hundred operas.
AMADOR FAMADAS (Girona 1884 – Barcelona 1962)
Catalonian tenor Amador Famadas studied under maestro
Bonaventura Frigola and debuted in Barcelona in 1907 at Teatro Palau de Belles Arts in Barcelona.
Soon after he was in demand in most of the capital cities of Europe and in the United States (Philadelphia and New York).
By 1933 he premiered Joan Manen’s opera Nero i Acté, which would be his last public appearance and the world of opera would lose trace of him during the Spanish Civil War and the posterior regime under dictator Francisco Franco.
ANTONIO CORTIS (Valencia 1891 – 1952)
Blessed with an outstanding instrument, tenor Cortis was acclaimed by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, specializing in Verdi, Puccini and verismo operas.
Cortis international career included performances in Buenos Aires, Stockholm, Milan, Rome, Chicago, Madrid & Berlin. Regarded as one of the best interpreters of his time, he sang with remarkable ease in heavy-duty roles such as Dick Johnson and Calaf.
Cortis withdrew from the operatic stage in the mid-1930s but returned from a brief period after World War II, dying in 1952 in Valencia. Antonio Cortis made some top-quality recordings for arias and songs between 1925 and 1930 for HMV and Victor labels.
TINO FOLGAR (Barcelona 1892 – Buenos Aires 1983)
Debuted as Rodolfo in La Bohème in 1922 in his native Barcelona
and went to Italy to perfect his technique and performed in different theaters most of the repertoire for tenore di grazia.
Between 1927 and 1928 sang the Duke in the first complete recording of Rigoletto opposite Lina Pagliughi, Luigi Piazza and Salvatore Baccaloni, conducted by Carlo Sabajno.
Folgar added zarzuelas to his repertoire during the 1930s and established in Buenos Aires where he kept performing until his retirement in 1952 and later founded an Academy of Singing and performed for radio stations.
MIGUEL VILLABELLA (Bilbao 1892 – Paris 1954)
A former businessman and sportsman, Villabella is regarded as one of the most important tenors of the French repertoire during the first half of XX century.
Villabella debuted in 1917 and in 1920 became part of the Opera Comique and since 1928, a member of the Grand Opera in Paris, adding some Italian roles to his regular repertoire. He retired in 1946, to become a full time teacher of singing.
Villabella left recordings of his portrayals as the Duke of Mantua, Almaviva, Lalo’s Roi d’Ys¸ Gounod’s Mirelle and Boieldieu’s La Dame Blanche.
JESUS DE GAVIRIA (San Sebastian 1892 – 1975)
Mr. De Gaviria was known in the operatic world because of his
powerful voice and excellent high notes, specializing in roles better suited for his virile tone such as Manrico, Radamés, Andrea Chénier, Pollione and Dick Johson, considered his signature roles by the critics.
Jesus de Gaviria performed during the 1920s and 1930s both in Europe as in South and North America and debuted in 1932 at La Scala.
His repertoire was rather short including 36 operas, and his career ended in 1948 to become a teacher for the rest of his life until his death in 1975 in his hometown.
EMILIO VENDRELL (Barcelona 1893 – 1962)
Vendrell devoted most of his career to zarzuela and catalonian popular music, becoming one of the most loved tenors in his day in Spain, sharing his gift in concert halls, radio stations and records.
He began his training as singer performing oratorio and lieder to turn definitively to zarzuela in the 1920s, though tackling couple opera roles such as Lohengrin and Des Grieux, given the masterful dominion over his technique.
Fernando in Vives’ Doña Francisquita was his signature role, a role he performed about 1300 times in his lifetime. His recording legacy includes several complete zarzuelas and other excerpts for Odeon and Columbia Records, between 1923 and 1932.
ISIDORO FAGOAGA (Vera de Bidasoa 1895 – San Sebastián 1976)
Considered perhaps one of the most important Spanish tenors
specialized in Wagner repertoire during the first half of XX Century, Isodoro Fagoaga was greatly underrated in his country, though celebrated in Italy, Argentina and Portugal.
Owner of a virile and warm voice, Fagoaga debuted in May 1919 with the opera Amaya by Jesús Guridi, moving into the heldentenor becoming a Tannhaüser, Siegfried, Siegmund of reference.
In 1936 Fagoaga sang Gotterdammerung in Trieste and Parsifal in Catania, 1937, retiring at the end of that year, spending the rest of his life devoting himself to literature, and living in Buenos Aires until 1963, returning then to San Sebastián.
ADOLFO SIRVENT LLINARES (Alicante 1894 – Caracas, VEN 1973)
His first important appearance was at the Teatro del Bosque in Barcelona, December 1920. Tenor Sirvent possessed an exquisite and smooth tone, light, with a beautiful sound.
After a tour around Spain, he went international, giving performances of La Favorita at teatro Dal Verme in Milan, Italy, and soon afterwards, Berlin where he also recorded some 78 rpm for the Parlophone label.
By 1930 he concentrated mostly in zarzuelas and by 1937 moved to South America because of the Civil War in Spain, performing throughout the continent and establishing finally in Caracas, Venezuela where he died in 1973, aged 79.
VICENTE SEMPERE (Alicante 1895 – 1974)
Mr. Sempere studied singing under Lorenzo Simonetti and
Concepcion Callao, and debuted as Jorge in Arrieta’s Marina.
In the 1920s performed regularly in Europe, being Lohengrin and Enzo his most appraised roles in these years.
Later in the 1930s turned to Zarzuela, touring throughout Spain and made occasional appearances in opera. Sempere recorded two complete zarzuelas: La Dolorosa (1931) and Moros y Cristianos (1931).
LUIS CANALDA (Tarragona 1896 – Barcelona 1962)
Debuted in 1915 as Samson, next to Conchita Supervia, at the Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona.
Given the power and the dark color of his voice he mastered the Wagnerian repertoire and was regarded as a favorite heldentenor during the 1910s and 1920s both in Spain and Italy, becoming a Tristan of reference.
Canalda left us some recordings of his Wagnerian interpretations and some other dramatic roles for Odeon during 1920-1921.
MIGUEL FLETA (Albalate 1897 – La Coruña 1938)
Owner of lyric spinto voice, tenor Miguel Fleta had a brilliant though
short career between 1919 and 1935 with an important international career at the Metropolitan Opera and Teatro La Scala.
Creator of Calaf, the leading tenor role in Puccini’s Turandot, Fleta specialized in the lirico spinto roles such as Radames, Don Jose, Lohengrin and in some other more lyric roles.
Miguel Fleta left an interesting discography in 78 rpm, basically in opera and zarzuela. An active member of the Falange during the Spanish Civil War, died aged 41 due to health issues.
PEPE ROMEU (Lorca 1900 – Alicante 1985)
Tenor Pepe Romeu was known in his younger years mostly as a zarzuela singer, he also performed regularly as an stage and film actor.
Romeu´s debut as singer came in 1928 as Enrique in the world premiere of El Ultimo Romantico, zarzuela by Soutullo y Vert, a role he was unrivaled by anyone.
Pepe Romeu also starred in 1924 the films Diego Corrientes and Carceleras, directed by José Buchs, earning popularity. He also starred in different stage plays during his life.
GIOVANNI VOYER (Benicarló 1901 – Lisbon 1976)
Known also as Jean Boyer, the Spanish tenor succeeded in both the
romantic standard repertoire as the Wagnerian because of the warmth, homogeneity and flexibility of his voice.
Voyer debuted in Italy in 1927 as Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and sang in most of the important cities of the península since then.
His Wagnerian roles included Tristan, Parsifal, Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, though his repertoire included more than 130 roles.
Retired in 1953, Giovanni Boyer devoted to teaching in Amsterdam, The Hague and Lisbon until his death in 1976. Some of his recordings recorded in the early 1930s are still available.
FAUSTINO ARREGUI (San Sebastián 1904 - 1964)
Lyric tenor, with a brilliant voice. He premiered many famous zarzuelas during the 1930s, such as La fama del Tartanero (1931), Luisa Fernanda (1932), Don Gil de Alcalá (1934) and La tabernera del Puerto (1936).
Arregui was highly regarded for the extension of his voice, with ringing and powerful top notes, very appreciated among critics and fellow singers.
He retired from the stage in the 1950s and died in his hometown in 1964.
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