excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 99-101 (448 words)

excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 99-101 (448 words)

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Thirty Years of Musical Life in London

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[There] belong to the years 1877 and 1879 some experiences which, for me at least, will ever be replete with interest...Gayarre was not a great tenor in the highest sense of the term. Nevertheless, he possessed vocal and histrionic attributes of a very distinguished kind, and chance so willed it that he was destined to "bridge over" to a large extent the interval that separated the final retirement of Mario from the advent (as a tenor) of Jean de Reszke. By birth a Spaniard, and hailing from Pampeluna (the town in which Sarasate was born), Giuliano Gayarre had studied and won his early successes in Italy. He was an exponent of the new quasi-nasal school of tenor singers, which already had Tamagno for one of its leading protagonists. To my ears his production, on the night he made his debut at Covent Garden (April 7, 1877), sounded strange and not wholly pleasant. Still, the voice traveled well, and he sang the music of Gennaro with so much tenderness, so much charm, allied to genuine dramatic feeling and expression, that the crowded house forthwith accorded him a splendid reception.

I declined to join in the general chorus of "Another Mario!" It struck me as little less than sacrilege to compare with the divine voice of that tenor an organ which could occasionally descend, or ascend, to the utterance of tones that quickly earned the name of the "Gayarre bleat. " My criticism drew forth several rejoinders, among them the following from the Covent Garden conductor, Signor Vianesi:

Wait to hear Gayarre two or three times. You will appreciate him as a true artist. If I can correct him of too much dragging (the present Italian style), he will be "Number One"!

In a measure, this prediction proved to be correct. Of the operatic tenors heard in London during the succeeding ten years, Gayarre was easily the most interesting. Campanini and Fancelli had finer voices; while of the French school Nicolini and Capoul were perhaps more attractive. But in certain operas Gayarre stood, for the time being, upon an eminence by himself. As Fernando in "La Favorita" (his best part), as Jean de Ley den in "Le Prophète," as Enzo in Ponchielli's "Gioconda" (his original creation), and as Gennaro in "Lucrezia Borgia," he was for a long time positively without a rival. He was an admirable Lohengrin, and was the first singer in this part to vary the charm of the love music in the bridal duet by the judicious employment of a particularly lovely mezza voce. He was also excellent in Glinka's opera "La Vie pour le Czar," which he introduced to English audiences for the first time at Covent Garden in 1887.

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excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 99-101 (448 words)


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