This third volume of an opera series on tenors gathers interviews with Franco Corelli—along with accounts of peers, rivals, and possible successors—with a focus on techniques, teaching, and booing.
The author, an accomplished singer, former host of Columbia University’s radio show Opera Fanatic, and a pre-eminent scholar, shares transcripts of salon-style interviews in the 1990s with Corelli, the “prince of tenors.” The Italian superstar answers a variety of questions regarding his technique, teaching—which he rarely did—and the stage appearances of fellow tenors. On the subject of evaluating performances, the controversial topic of booing artists is raised with Corelli, with numerous positive opinions on it from hard-core fans, singers, ushers, and even Miss Manners herself, presented practically in sports terms. Moving beyond Corelli, interviews on methods with the likes of tenors Roberto Alagna (who sang through the pain of a tumor and blood clots) and Alfredo Kraus, renowned voice teacher Bill Schuman, and others speak at length about larynx-lowering, glottal attacks, and diaphragmatic breathing. There is a wealth of operatic terminology that will go over uninitiated readers’ heads, but fans of this series will likely be properly informed. Modern singers are evaluated by the author with an eye toward who might be the next great tenor. Unlike the first two installments, Zucker (Franco Corelli & a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200 Years, Volume 2, 2018, etc.) feels a bit freer to editorialize here. This welcome development, coupled with Corelli’s own wit and wisdom, makes the interviews with the other performers pale in comparison. They just don’t have the same charisma or enthusiasm as Corelli and the author. As with the other volumes, the photographs included here, particularly those featuring singers in full costume, are quite stunning, capturing the visual glamour alongside the work’s deep, rich dissection of methods. The wide array of interview subjects and the concentration on teaching, techniques, and booing—along with the ending’s look at modern tenors—make this book slightly more piecemeal than the previous ones. But, in the name of comprehensiveness, leaving any of it out would have been a huge misstep.
Strictly for opera connoisseurs, but for those in the know, a treasure trove of information on tenors, methods, and performances.