Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One of the greatest sopranos ever. Louisa Tetrazzini 1871-1940

The great Tetrazzini. She was by far one of the greatest singers ever!

She was not only a good singer, but also a good musician. He had many talents, but one of them she lacked was finding a good husband.
She sang for many years. Starting her days in Italy and later working in Europe and the United States.

Her earliest recordings like this Zonophone from the dawn of the 20th century are somewhat disappointing. However once she started to record for the Victor and the Gramophone companies she made so many stellar recordings that are beyond what any other singer could do. She scared the daylights out of many great sopranos. Even in her later days when all she had left was some voice and an ever sunny disposition. She said, "I may be old and I may be fat, but I am still Tetrazzini."

I recall one evening at Jerome Hines home and talking to Franco Corelli and the subject came as to who our favorite soprano was. Corelli told me his favorite soprano was Tetrazzini. I have to confess she is mine as well. She possessed a voice like no other I have ever heard. When you listen to her recordings, you hear a voice that is unlike any.
That is why when the great Nellie Melba (who ruled Covent Garden) heard Tetrazzini sing at Covent Garden. She made sure she was not invited again. Although she was not as polished a singer as Melba, but she possessed a far greater instrument. The hatred they felt for each other was legendary. One day when Melba came into a hotel that she knew Tetrazzini was practising in and she asked, "Do you allow cats?" But Tetrazzini never let the jealous battle axe Melba to spoil her day and went on her way and her life.
Sadly there are no films of her performing and no electrical recordings of her singing except for one when she was well past her prime at 62. It was not a performance, but he was in a office listening to one of the newly "re recorded" Enrico Caruso records issued in 1933. She listened to a record of Caruso and started to sing along quite well. That is all we have of her from the age of electrical recording. But what she left us from the early age of recording in nothing short of breath taking.
I have heard many great sopranos on record from Patti (who was also an Tetrazzini fan) to Callis. But she seems to reach me in ways that few can. She was not the actor that Callis was, but she was singer of such power and accurateness that I have never heard any to compare. I hope to write more about her soon.