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Franco Corelli (1921 - 2003)


Franco Corelli was born into an operatic family: his grandfather had been an operatic tenor, his elder brother sang as a baritone and two of his uncles sang in the chorus of the opera house in Ancona; although his father was a ship-builder for the Italian navy. Initially Corelli intended to follow a similar career, studying naval engineering at the University of Bologna. Encouraged by a friend, however, he entered a singing competition: he did not win, but was sufficiently encouraged to enroll as a vocal student at the Conservatory at Pesaro, subsequently leaving when he became convinced that his teachers there were damaging his voice. Henceforth Corelli studied tirelessly on his own, largely by listening to recordings of the great tenors of the past, such as Caruso, Pertile, Lauri-Volpi and Gigli, often imitating their nuances and effects.

In the summer of 1951 Corelli entered and won the singing competition associated with the Maggio Musicale in Florence, the prize for which was an appearance at Spoleto that autumn. Although he had studied Radamès/Aida for this, he judged himself not to be vocally ready, so made his début instead as Don José/Carmen. Shortly afterwards, in November 1951, he appeared at the Rome Opera House as Manrico/Il trovatore, singing opposite Maria Caniglia. This was followed by appearances at several of the Italian provincial opera houses and on radio broadcasts. Corelli joined the Rome Opera’s roster of tenors in 1953, singing there regularly until 1958.

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