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Friday, December 20, 2013

Arthur Endreze: An American in Paris

Arthur Endreze – An American in Paris
by Darren Seacliffe


America has long been known to be a fertile breeding ground for opera singers. From Lilian Nordica at the close of the nineteenth century to today’s ‘’Rossinian’’ couple, Lawrence Brownlee and Ms Joyce DiDonato, American opera singers have attained resounding success in almost every genre of opera from baroque to modern. There is no vocal fach or category of singer which does not have an American among its leading representatives. Since the dawn of the record age, America has been blessed with world-class female opera singers. Three of the singers who took part in the legendary ‘Night of the Seven Stars’ Met performance of Les Huguenots were American (Lilian Nordica, Emma Eames and Edyth Walker). However, a considerable period of time would elapse before America produced its first great male opera singers.  One of them was the legendary American baritone Lawrence Tibbett, widely considered to be the first son of America to break into the musical circuit of opera hitherto dominated by Europeans and to rise to the top of his profession. I can still remember how enthusiastic and excited the author of The American Opera Singer was in recounting the Met performance which gave Tibbett his big break, the Falstaff where Tibbett’s Ford stole the show from Scotti’s Falstaff. On the other hand, a debut by another American son across the Atlantic some time later, no less significant than Tibbett’s, was sadly given not as much attention. The name of this son of America was Arthur Endres Kraeckmann, better known by his stage name, Arthur Endreze, of whom I will speak  in this article today.

 It’s an irony that Arthur Endreze is now better remembered in his adopted country, France, than in the place of his birth. However, this isn’t surprising given the fact that Endreze spent more of his career on the Continent than he did at home.  It would be my hope to eventually contribute to the restoration of Arthur Endreze’s name to its rightful place in the pantheon of illustrious American opera singers whose names continue to be fondly remembered by the American opera connoisseur.

 Arthur Endreze was born as Arthur Endres Kraeckmann on 28 November,1893, in Chicago. Endreze was at first an amateur singer until he attracted the attention of the conductor Walter Damrosch, who persuaded him to go to Europe to pursue his studies in music. In 1921, Arthur Endreze joined the Conservatoire Americain in Fontainebleau, where he studied singing with Amedee Louis Hettich, a singing teacher at the Paris Conservatoire. (One of his classmates at the Conservatoire Americain was the great American composer Aaron Copland.)  After taking first prize in singing at the Conservatoire, Arthur Endreze decided to stay in Paris where he would give his first recital on 8 May, 1922. The recital was a considerable success, where Endreze not only received good reviews but a letter of introduction to the top French tenor of the previous century, Jean de Reszke, who eventually accepted Endreze as his last important pupil.

Under Jean de Reszke’s tutelage, Arthur Endreze would eventually become the baritone who continues to be regarded by the French as one of their greatest baritones from the inter-war era. His recordings of extracts from the standard French baritone roles like Valentin and Escamillo have a degree of authority and authenticity which is not to be taken lightly. Even though I personally feel that Valentin and Escamillo weren’t the French baritone roles that showed him to his greatest advantage, being the French baritone roles my readers would most likely be familiar with, I thought it would be best if I used Endreze’s extracts from Faust and Carmen as an introduction to his art.


(For Faust, where Endreze sings Valentin, I have chosen his rendition of ‘Mort de Valentin’ [Death of Valentin). Don’t you think the way Endreze’s Valentin sings his last words to Marguerite makes you sympathize with his character? Endreze truly sounds as though his character is in his death throes towards the end of the aria. It was Endreze’s gift for tragedy that makes this performance literally tug at your heartstrings.)



(For Carmen, instead of the better known Toreador Song, I have selected the duet between Escamillo and Don Jose ‘’Je suis Escamillo’’, where Endreze is partnered by the great Corsican tenor Gaston Micheletti. Endreze’s Escamillo is noble and refined but it lacks the flamboyance we’re so used to seeing in characterizations by many other great baritones. It’s a pity Endreze is a bit too reserved as Escamillo. If he was more emotionally involved, given Micheletti’s tastefully exciting Don José, this would have been a performance for posterity.)

 After listening to the two extracts, don’t you find that there’s nobility and elegance in Endreze’s singing? Such refinement was typical of French opera singers of his day. It was a characteristic unique to the French school of singing which has recently become extinct. When you listen to singers of the old school from Edmond Clement in the first half of the twentieth century to Alain Vanzo in the second half, you’ll notice that their singing is generally lyrical. The words tend to flow from them more smoothly and evenly. If you want to have a better idea of this distinct feature of the French school of singing, I would like to refer you to recordings of the staple French operas like Manon, Werther, Faust and Carmen with all-French or predominantly French casts. More accessible examples of such recordings would be the Manon by Victoria de los Angeles and Henri Legay as well as the Werther by Georges Thill and Ninon Vallin. This style of singing gave the performances charm, which singers from other schools have in most cases been unable to replicate. A lack of charm could severely compromise performances of operas by certain composers like Jules Massenet and Ambroise Thomas, for charm is needed to make their music come to life.

In an era where refinement was commonplace among French singers, nobility and elegance alone would not be enough for Arthur Endreze to rise above his colleagues. There must have been something more. What was it? For me, the qualities which made Arthur Endreze different from other leading French baritones of his time, like Vanni-Marcoux and Hector Dufranne, were his beautiful, warm and rich voice (Vanni-Marcoux’s voice sounds ordinary in comparison), his penchant for high tragedy and his emotional and dramatic sensitivity to the underlying nature of the operas he sang. (Dufranne can be moving but his singing doesn’t leave the same amount of impact Endreze does, probably because of his lighter voice). In addition, through the training Arthur Endreze received under Jean de Reszke, it is highly probable that Endreze would have been schooled in the way to perform French operas according to the way their composers intended them to be sung. (Jean de Reszke premiered Massenet’s Le Cid and it is believed he may have taught Endreze to sing the role of Hamlet and Nelusko [L’Africaine] like his friend, Jean-Baptiste Faure, who created these roles.)  To showcase these attributes of Arthur Endreze’s singing, I have chosen 3 recordings from the French repertoire so central to his career.


(Arthur Endreze’s rendition of Athanael’s aria from Massenet’s Thais: ‘’Voila donc la terrible cite’’. Not only does he sing the aria with earth-shaking gravity, he makes it sound so beautiful as well. A first-class performance which few baritones can match.


(Arthur Endreze and Yvonne Gall sing the Duo de l’Oasis from Massenet’s Thais. Endreze is very much the religious fanatic besotted with his new follower. There’s nothing much I can say after hearing this poetically beautiful duet.)



(Arthur Endreze sings Nelusko’s aria ‘’Fille des Rois’’ from Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine. Unlike the role of Athanael, he seems not to have performed the role on stage but it is believed that he may have studied this role with his teacher de Reskze. It is commendable that Endreze was not only able to sing the aria at a time when this opera was no longer in the standard French repertoire, but he was also able to execute the trills with reasonable flexibility and smoothness. I believe that such technical skill was rare for singers of that period.)
Besides giving Arthur Endreze vocal instruction, Jean de Reszke introduced his pupil to one of the leading musical personages of the time, Reynaldo Hahn, who was then in charge of the opera season at Cannes. It was Hahn who would arrange for Endreze’s debut as an opera singer, in the role of Escamillo at Cannes on 18 December 1925. During his time at Cannes, Arthur Endreze’s repertoire expanded considerably, to include roles like Valentin, the High Priest in Samson et Dalila, Tonio (Pagliacci), Alfio (Cavalleria), Rigoletto, Scarpia, Athanael, d’Orbel (the French version of Germont), Nilakantha (Lakme) and Hamlet.

 By the time Arthur Endreze made his debut at the Opéra-Comique in Paris as Karnak in Lalo’s Le Roi d’Ys on 4 October 1928, Endreze had already a sizable repertoire under his belt through his work at Cannes. In less than a year, he would make his debut at Paris’ other great opera house, the Opéra, in the role of Valentin, on 12 September 1929. His debut received rave press reviews from the critic Raymond Ballimand, who praised Endreze for his ‘’convincing conception of the role’’, his ‘’experience, intelligence and ease’’, his ‘’fine musicality’’ and his ‘’clear declamation’’. After listening to the musical excerpts above, I feel that the reader would have to agree with the critic’s opinion of Endreze’s musical virtues.

 After his debut at the Opéra, Arthur Endreze would go from strength to strength. The turning point in his career came when he was asked to participate in the premiere of Magnard’s Guercoeur on 24 April 1931, in which Arthur Endreze sang the title role. His excellent performance eventually made him the star baritone of the Paris Opéra. Though Tibbett’s rise to stardom at the Met was certainly praiseworthy for paving the way for future American male opera singers to succeed in opera, I honestly feel that Endreze’s conquest of one of the peaks of opera, the Paris Opéra, was no less significant a milestone in America’s musical history. (The Paris Opéra was then one of the top opera houses on the Continent, which had seen numerous premieres. Some of these operas like La Favorita and Don Carlos continue to hold their places in the repertoire. You can imagine how significant the Opéra was in terms of culture.) At a time when Europeans still regarded Americans as the new kids on the cultural scene, Endreze must have achieved a great triumph for America by earning recognition from the French as a great opera singer.
As a star baritone of the Paris Opéra, Arthur Endreze was given the honor of being included in the cast of world premieres like Milhaud’s Maximilien in 1932 and Christophe Colombe in 1936 as well as Honegger’s and Ibert’s L’Aiglon in 1937 and Sauguet’s La Chartreuse de Parme in 1939. He would also have the chance to sing alongside several legendary guest opera singers of the time like Frida Leider, Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior. At the same time, there were operas which were revived to be star vehicles for him; operas such as  Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet. Arthur Endreze would be the last important baritone to have the role of Hamlet in his active repertoire. For anyone who wishes to have an idea of how big Endreze was as an opera star, here are 2 excerpts from 2 of Endreze’s star’s vehicles, Hamlet and Guercoeur. After hearing the 2 performances below, I think the reader can understand how critical Endreze’s championship was for the survival of these operas in the repertoire.

(Arthur Endreze sings the most famous excerpt from Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet, the Drinking Song. It is sad that unlike the other great Shakespearian tragedies, Otello and Macbeth, Hamlet has not been set to music by a composer capable of realizing its dramatic potential. By the time Hamlet came into Ambroise Thomas’ hands, the librettist had reduced Hamlet from one of Shakespeare’s 4 great tragedies to the level of a singer’s vehicle that did not have much to its credit. The only redeeming features as far as I can see are Ophelia’s coloratura displays and Hamlet’s arias. )


(‘’Etre ou ne pas etre’’ from Thomas’ Hamlet and the better of the 2 extracts Arthur Endreze recorded from Magnard’s Guercoeur, ‘’Ou suis-je’’. In my humble opinion, even when Arthur Endreze is placing all his artistic and vocal gifts at the disposal of these 2 arias, there is little more he can do other than to make these 2 arias acceptably interesting to the listener. If placed into the hands of a less talented baritone, you can imagine how the arias would turn out, let alone the operas where they come from. It’s hardly surprising that Guercoeur and Hamlet both dropped out of the repertoire after Endreze’s retirement. Even though Hamlet has been revived recently, its status is no longer what it used to be in Endreze’s time. Now, it’s more of a soprano showpiece than a baritone showpiece. If it were a baritone showpiece, I’m sure Hvorostovsky would have sung the role by now, which I doubt he has.)

If you look at Arthur Endreze’s repertoire, a large part of it would be made up of French opera roles, something natural for a French baritone like him. Other parts of his repertoire were dedicated to Italian operas by Verdi and the verismo composers like Leoncavallo, Mascagni and Puccini and German operas by Wagner. Though Arthur Endreze did sing Wagner in German when he was partnering guest singers like Flagstad, Leider and Melchior, most of the time he sang the operas of Wagner and the above-mentioned Italian composers in French. After all, during his time, it was the norm for opera houses in Europe to stage operas in their native language rather than the original. (This practice would continue till as late as the early 1960s, possibly even later in Russia and Eastern Europe). I foresee that some opera connoisseurs may not take kindly to listening to opera sung in languages other than their original so they may underestimate Endreze’s work in these operas. In response, let me point out that language does not bear any relation to the quality of a performance. There are great singers of the past who have left recordings of Italian opera arias in French, German and Russian that measure up to the standards set by their Italian counterparts in every aspect. The same applies to Wagner. The French, German, Italian and Russian singers of the past had styles of singing unique to their respective countries. Thus, an opera performance in French can sound quite different from the same opera in German, Italian and or Russian since the differences in the schools of singing of these countries result in variations in the way these operas are interpreted and sung. If you don’t believe me, try a popular opera you know well like Carmen or Traviata in the original, German and Russian. To the untrained ear, they may appear to sound the same but to the trained ear; there are some slight differences which can be perceived.  As a result, one piece of music like Rigoletto or Tosca can take on so many different incarnations. It’s indeed a great loss to the genre that internationalization has taken all this away.

 After listening to Arthur Endreze’s Verdi recordings, I sincerely feel that in general, Verdi’s baritone roles truly fit him as nicely as well-made gloves. Most of Verdi’s baritone roles, if I’m not mistaken, all have either noble pedigrees or high-class backgrounds. With his aristocratic singing, Endreze was capable of doing more than adequate justice to the music written for them. Nevertheless, this has a slight drawback. If you listen to his Iago (, you’ll find that there’s something missing despite his beautiful singing. In comparison to several Italian baritones like Apollo Granforte, Aldo Protti and Tito Gobbi, his Iago doesn’t generate the same amount of excitement theirs do. His Iago sounds like a gentleman villain compared to the wolf in sheep’s clothing these baritones make Iago sound to be.

There are 3 extracts which I have selected to exhibit Arthur Endreze’s work in Verdi:

(Arthur Endreze sings the classic baritone aria ‘Di provenza il mar’ from La Traviata in French. Based on my experiences in listening to his recordings, I find that roles which were father-figures were those he was best at. There is a certain amount of authority in his singing which lends power to his renditions of extracts from such roles. Together with his beautiful and rich voice, such power’s bound to leave its mark on the listener.)



(Simply put, this was one of Arthur Endreze’s most beautiful and noblest moments on record. Arthur Endreze sings ‘Eri tu’ from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera in French with a refinement most baritones would envy.)



Arthur Endreze sings ‘’Pari siamo’’ in French from Verdi’s Rigoletto. Endreze sings well here, but I have to say that many great French baritones sing it as well. The competition of singers such as Michel Dens, Ernest Blanc, Robert Massard, and others is formidable!

To oblige any opera connoisseurs who truly love the ‘’blood-and-guts’’ style of verismo, here are 2 extracts of Arthur Endreze’s work for them to hear him try his hand at this genre:



(Arthur Endreze sings ‘Il cavallo scalpita’ in French from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. In most cases, he doesn’t give me much excitement but I have to confess that this is one surprising exception. Perhaps the invigorating music of the cabaletta might have roused Endreze into giving such a thrilling performance.)



(I think this scene is Scarpia’s Death Scene from Tosca. It sounds like it. I can make out Scarpia’s last moments. Scarpia was one of Arthur Endreze’s most acclaimed roles. Here, you have one of the best French sopranos of all time, the great singing actress, Ninon Vallin, facing off with Arthur Endreze in this duet. By all accounts, this is definitely worth listening to.)

 Though Arthur Endreze’s reputation today may largely be based on his work in the French repertoire, to tell you the truth, I genuinely feel that the best examples of his work on record are not his recordings of his French opera roles, beautiful and dramatic as they may be. The recordings which I consider to be Arthur Endreze’s best are his Wagner ones. I’m pretty certain that Endreze had the benefit of Jean de Reszke transmitting his knowledge and experience in singing Wagnerian operas to him. Unlike his successor at the Met, Enrico Caruso, Jean de Reszke, Arthur Endreze’s teacher, had been a noted Wagnerian tenor who notched successes in Heldentenor roles like Lohengrin, Siegfried, Walther von Stolzing (Meistersinger) and Tristan

(For anybody who wants to hear what Endreze’s teacher was like, if he or she’s okay with straining his or her ears a bit, here is a  video:

During the course of his career, Endreze spent a considerable amount of time singing Wagner Heldenbariton roles like Telramund (Lohengrin), of Kurwenal (Tristan und Isolde). Though it’s a great loss that he did not commit anything from these 2 Wagner operas to disc, we are very lucky that he made these recordings which I shall be sharing below:


(Arthur Endreze sings Wotan’s Farewell from Wagner’s Die Walkure in French. This is truly a magnificent performance, don’t you think? Endreze’s formidable Wotan not only radiates authority but also expresses his love for his daughter Brunnhilde with such poetic beauty. I reckon that the quality of this performance is more than equal to the recording made by his predecessor Marcel Journet.)



(Arthur Endreze sings the Dutchman’s monologue, ‘’Die Frist ist Um’ from Wagner’s Der Fliegende Hollander, in French. If you think Endreze can’t give a performance better than the Wotan’s Farewell just now, this video will prove you wrong. Of all Endreze’s recordings, this was the one I liked most. Even though Endreze may have been singing the Dutchman’s monologue in French, there are few singers I have heard who have been able to convey the tragedy in the character as strongly as he did here. Rather than sounding remorseful and world-weary like Friedrich Schorr, Endreze’s Dutchman sounds as though the doom awaiting him is his way of doing penance for his sins. It’s a waste that Arthur Endreze never recorded any more extracts from this opera. This is one of the best examples of the aria you can find.)

Arthur Endreze’s career at the Paris Opéra in the 1930s was a relatively smooth  one, despite a period of time when he ran into personal difficulties that forced him to take a leave of absence from the stage from late 1933 to early 1934. It has been said that this could have been a nervous breakdown on the part of the singer, which could possibly have been connected to the death of his first wife. Reviews of the singer’s performances after his comeback to the stage show that his musical talents and dramatic gifts were not impaired in any way by this tragedy. This is proven by the Wagner recordings Endreze made after his return.

Despite the outbreak of World War II, Arthur Endreze continued to sing at the Paris Opera as before, until between late 1942 and 1943 when he was apprehended by the Gestapo or by French policemen obeying their commands. As an enemy alien due to Germany’s ongoing war against the United States, Endreze was eventually confined at Compiegne. In early 1944, Endreze would find himself deported to America, where he would stay till 1945.

By the time Arthur Endreze returned to France in 1945, he was already past 50. It was only a matter of time before the singer decided to call time on his thriving career. On 20 October 1946, Arthur Endreze gave his swan-song at the Palais Garnier, which had hosted several of his past successes, in Mehul’s Joseph as Jacob. Not long after, Arthur Endreze would give his last performance of a complete opera on 27 June 1947, when he sang Jorgen in the opera Le Pays by Guy Ropartz. After that, Endreze  returned to the United States where he had a teaching stint at the University of Kansas from 1948 to 1950. In 1950, he decided to return to Paris where he carried on with his activities as a vocal pedagogue. It was only after the passing of his second wife in 1973 that Endreze would decide to return to America for good. Two years later, on 15 April 1975, in Chicago, the legendary French baritone would breathe his last.

 To round off this essay, let me show you one of Arthur Endreze’s rare excursions into the comic repertory: Mercutio in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette. Unlike most of his peers, operetta and comic opera were not part of his repertoire. When I was listening to  this aria (, I could see the sword of Damocles hanging over his character in my mind.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Ballet Break III: The Great Ulyana Lopatkina

Ulyana Vyacheslavovna Lopatkina  (Ульяна Вячеславовна Лопаткина), was born October 23, 1973.  Although Russian, she was born in Ukraine (USSR), where she lived the first ten years of her life. While her parents were not at all thrilled about it, she was sent off at that age to Russia to the Vaganova Academy.  After 8 years of training,  Ulyana graduated from the  Academy in 1991, and  joined the Mariinsky, where in a remarkably short period of time she was promoted to principal dancer (1995). In 1999 she was awarded the State Prize of Russia, and in 2005 she was awarded the very prestigious title Peoples’Artist of Russia.  She is now married, and has one daughter, Masha, born in 2002. 

Today, after a fair number of years of both triumph and heartache, Ulyana, having been sidelined for years with a broken ankle, is back in force, and is considered by many to be the greatest of the modern classical ballerinas, greatly gifted with a near perfect, classically lithe and slender body, capable, through long training, of great purity of posture.  She is also remarkably musical.

While it may be perfectly legitimate to concede to others—most notably Diana Vishneva—a superior attainment in the area of modern avant garde, very athletic dancing, most balletomanes will stand by the classically inclined Lopatkina, whose elegant, classical virtuosity seems unrivaled. Her repertoire tells her story:  Giselle, Le Corsaire, Bayadère   Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, The Legend of Love: A veritable textbook of traditional ballet.

There is perhaps no better or clearer introduction to Lopatkina’s virtuosity than her stunning presentation of Mikhail Fokine’s  eternally popular “Dying Swan,” originally composed for Anna Pavlova on Camille Saint Saëns’ cello solo from The Carnival of Animals:

Isn’t that simply magnificent!   The quintessence of balletic classicism.  If one were to look up “classicism” in a good encyclopedia of ballet, there is a good chance they would find a photo taken from that film! The very long and slender limbs, coupled to the absolute control of the flow of their movement, is, I think it quite fair to say, hypnotic.  I can think of no better word.  And of course her posture, from the port de bras to the ram-rod straight elevated reach; from the arched back so beloved by the Russians, the back-flex of the wrists on the very long arms; all are text-book clean.  The truly important thing, of course, is how this astonishing collection of abilities and gifts is put to use in artistic creation, which is quite extraordinary and very moving

Here is a good chance to see the more aggressive and energetic Lopatkina, in the 3rd act pas de deux from Swan Lake, with Danila Korsuntsev, featuring Lopatkina performing 32 fouettes en tournant as smoothly as can be imagined:

A marvel of elegance, precision and traditional style.  There is little more to say in a brief celebration such as this.  Ulyana is 40 years old now,  and let us hope for more years from this extraordinary ballerina!



Saturday, October 12, 2013

James A. Drake - After The War: Six American Tenors of the 1920's

James A. Drake:      After the War:  Six American Tenors  of the 1920's


I am both honored and pleased to be able to once again present Dr. James A. Drake as our guest author today.  A recently retired college president, James A. Drake is a distinguished author of seven books, four of which are biographies of great opera singers of the twentieth century.  Although not a musician (he earned a doctorate in philosophy and taught primarily in social-science disciplines before he became a university administrator), Dr. Drake earned the confidence of the legendary soprano Rosa Ponselle, with whom he collaborated on her autobiography for Doubleday and Company. With a foreword by Luciano Pavarotti, the Ponselle-Drake collaboration yielded excellent reviews and was named "Music Book of the Month" by the National Book Clubs of America in 1982.  The book was also promoted during a Metropolitan Opera broadcast in the 1982-83 season. By that time, Dr. Drake had been selected by Sara Tucker, widow of the celebrated tenor Richard Tucker, to write an authorized biography of the great singer, who had died in 1975 while at the peak of his career.  For the Tucker book, Luciano Pavarotti again contributed a foreword, and the biography was officially released at a special event hosted by maestro James Levine at Lincoln Center.  Once again, Dr. Drake's newest work received a "Music Book of the Month" award.

As the United States settled into a period of tranquility and prosperity after World War One, a new phenomenon emerged in the nation's major opera houses:  the rise of American-born, American-trained singers who were engaged to perform leading roles without any significant experience in the operatic capitals of Europe.  This new phenomenon had been predicted by Giulio Gatti-Casazza, who was then the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera Company.

"Before the war," Gatti-Casazza told a New York Times interviewer in April 1918, "all aspiring young artists and students went to Europe ...  But that is finished now, for a long time [and] I doubt if such a state of things will ever return."  Acting on his prediction, Gatti-Casazza soon made an overnight star of Connecticut-born Rosa Ponselle, whose only experience had been in vaudeville, whom he cast with Enrico Caruso in the 1918 Metropolitan premiere of Verdi's La Forza del Destino.

From November 1908, when Gatti-Casazza began his tenure as the Metropolitan's general manager, and until his retirement at the end of the 1935-36 opera season, his administration engaged steadily increasing numbers of American-born singers, and featured them in both major and minor roles.  This was a far cry from the 1890s, when the Pennsylvania-born baritone, David Bispham, was described by the New York Times as  "the only American man singing upon the stage in either continent in grand opera."  The rise of the American-born opera singer coincided with the refinement of the phonograph and the growth of the sound-recording industry.  In turn, the recording industry owed a good portion of its initial commercial success to an opera singer--Enrico Caruso, the superstar tenor whom Giulio Gatti-Casazza had the good fortune to inherit from his predecessor at the Metropolitan Opera House.  If the long shadow of Caruso eclipsed the careers of any American-born tenors of the World War One era, the phonograph captured their singing--and from their recordings, some of which were made 100 years ago, we can experience and appreciate the uniqueness of their voices and their mastery of vocal technique. 

Riccardo Martin

 More than any other American tenor of the Gatti-Casazza era at the Metropolitan Opera, it was Kentucky-born Riccardo Martin (1873-1952) whose repertoire most closely approximated that of Caruso.  Like him, Martin sang the principal tenor roles in Aida, Il Trovatore, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Mefistofele, Manon Lescaut, La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, Carmen, Faust, L' Elisir d' Amore, Lucia di Lammermoor, Martha, La Gioconda, and La Fanciulla del West. As a youth, Martin (whose birth name was Hugh Whitfield Martin) had studied violin and had sung in a local church choir, but was increasingly attracted to composing rather than performing music.  He left Kentucky in the mid-1890s to attend Columbia University, where he studied composition, counterpoint, and orchestration until his singing voice was discovered by one of his professors.  

By 1901, Martin had gained a sufficient reputation as a concert singer to persuade Henry Flagler, the railroad magnate, to award him a grant to study with prestigious voice teachers in Paris, Florence, and Naples.  In Paris, his principal teacher was Jean De Reszke, the tenor luminary of the late nineteenth century.  In Naples, Martin studied and coached with Vincenzo Lombardi, who had figured prominently in Caruso's early career.  On November 20, 1907, Martin made what should have been an acclaimed debut at the Metropolitan Opera House, singing the role of Faust in Boito's Mefistofele.  The timing of his debut, however, could not have been more unfortunate for Martin:  the title role inMefistofele was sung by the incomparable Russian basso, Feodor Chaliapin, who was also making his Metropolitan debut that evening.  

Although Martin received generally good reviews in the major New York newspapers the next day, it was Chaliapin's stunning performance that led the New York Times critic to write, "One was reminded of Caruso nights, so boisterous were the demonstrations of approval ...."  For the remainder of the 1907-08 season, however--and for the duration of Martin's singing career, which ended when he decided to return to the study of composition in the early 1930s--his "pure and vibrant tenor" (as it was described by one critic) was increasingly appreciated by audiences, critics, and buyers of his Victor phonograph records.  This is Riccardo Martin's recording of the majestic "O souverain, o juge, o pere" from Massenet's Le Cid, which he made for the Victor Company's prestigious Red Seal label on December 8, 1910:


Paul Althouse

Like Riccardo Martin, Pennsylvania-born Paul Althouse (1889-1954) studied music and voice in college, at Bucknell University.  With the encouragement of Bucknell faculty members and alumni supporters, Althouse went to New York in the early 1910s to study privately with a number of prominent voice teachers including Percy Rector Stevens and Oscar Saenger.  When he was offered a Metropolitan Opera contract by Giulio Gatti-Casazza in 1912, Althouse became the first American-born, American-trained singer to debut at the Metropolitan with no previous European experience.  Although the leading tenor roles eluded him (his Met debut was as one of the guards in Die Zauberflote, with Leo Slezak as Tamino and Emmy Destinn as Pamina), Althouse earned the confidence of the Metropolitan management as he undertook more secondary roles from the 1912-13 season onward.   

During that season, Althouse was cast as Grigory in the American premiere of Boris Godunov on March 19, 1913, with Toscanini conducting and Adamo Didur singing the title role.  After one of Althouse's performances in Boris, the New York Times critic Richard Aldrich described him as "a young American tenor who ... has a voice of unusual beauty of quality and a style of vocalism that brings it forth to the greatest advantage."  Early in his career, Althouse's voice was a sizable lyric tenor, with lirico-spinto potential.  From 1920-1925, after being unable to secure any leading operatic roles, he limited his singing to recitals and concerts exclusively.  But the summer of 1925, Althouse had a transformational experience:  he traveled to Bayreuth, an experience which prompted him to re-direct his career and pursue the Wagnerian heldentenor roles.  

Althouse's first performance at the Metropolitan as a Wagnerian tenor took place on February 3, 1934, when he appeared as Siegmund in Die Walkure,  with Frida Leider as Brunnhilde.  He remained on the Metropolitan roster until the 1939-1940 season, after which he concertized sporadically and then decided to became a full-time voice teacher.  Although a number of Althouse's students went on to have successful careers in opera, concerts, and on radio, it was Brooklyn-born Richard Tucker who became Althouse's star pupil.  (Eleanor Steber, who also studied with Althouse for a time, was always quick to point out that unlike Tucker, she had previously studied with another teacher.)  One of Althouse's last lessons with the young Tucker took place a mere two weeks before Althouse passed away on February 5, 1954. 

During his pre-Wagnerian career at the Metropolitan, Althouse made a number of recordings for the Victor, Columbia, and Edison companies.  This is one of his memorable Victor records:  the finale of the Garden Scene from Boris, which Althouse recorded with the contralto Margarete Ober on April 23, 1915:

Orville Harrold

"From Plow-Boy to Parsifal" was how The Etude, a classical-music magazine of the World War One era, described the career of the American tenor Orville Harrold (1877-1933).  Born on a farm near Muncie, Indiana, Harrold sang in local and regional choruses while studying with a series of teachers.  The last of these local teachers was Alexander Ernestinoff, whose confidence in the young tenor's future led him to serve as Harrold's de facto agent and promoter.  A tall, muscular, large-framed man (critic Max de Schauensee once likened Harrold's concert-stage presence to "Paul Bunyan in a tuxedo"), Harrold began his career on Broadway, where he sang operettas from 1906-1910.  His light-opera career reached its zenith when the composer Victor Herbert chose Harrold to create the role of Captain Dick Warrington in the world premiere of Naughty Marietta in November 1910.  

Gifted with a sizable voice, ringing high notes, and a seemingly limitless upper range, Harrold experienced a vocal crisis after his success in Naughty Marietta.  On the advice of fellow tenor Paul Althouse, Harrold sought the help of Oscar Saenger to rebuild his voice and technique, which had been over-strained as a result of his frequent appearances on Broadway and in vaudeville.  Under Saenger's tutelage, Harrold not only rebuilt his voice but also made the transition from singing light opera to grand opera.  The Italian verismo roles proved to be an ideal fit for Harrold's voice, and in the Puccini-Leoncavallo-Mascagni repertoire he received some of his finest reviews.  After one of his performances in Pagliacci with the Hammerstein Opera, the New York Times reviewer wrote, “His success was marked at the end of the first act, when he was recalled until he repeated ‘Vesti la giubba.’ ... His voice is one of beauty, his high tones having especially good quality.”  

In Cavalleria Rusticana, which Harrold sang at the Metropolitan Opera for the first time on January 20, 1920, his performance as Turiddu was lauded by the New York Timescritic Richard Aldrich, who wrote that "his singing was remarkably fine in its power and pathos, in the beauty of his tone and the dramatic expression he brought to the role."  At the Metropolitan, Harrold sang in the American premiere of Korngold's Die tote Stadt (with Maria Jeritza), in Charpentier's Louise (with Geraldine Farrar), and in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Snow  Maiden.  But despite his success in opera, Harrold returned to Broadway and continued to tour in vaudeville until 1929, when he retired from the stage. 

On April 16, 1920, prompted by the acclaim he had received as Rodolfo in La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera, Harrold traveled to the Victor studios in Camden, New Jersey, to record Rodolfo's narrative, "Che gelida manina": 


Mario Chamlee

A native of Los Angeles, Mario Chamlee (1892-1966) was offered a recording contract by the Brunswick company when he was mustered out of the U.S. Army in 1919.  At the time, Brunswick's management was creating a recording division as a complement to the company's line of high-priced phonographs.  The recording executive who essentially discovered Chamlee was Gustave Haenschen, also a war veteran, who had been discharged from the Navy just prior to becoming Brunswick's director of popular-music recordings.  "Archer Cholmondeley, which was Mario's real name," Haenschen recalled in a 1973 interview, "was still in his khakis when we persuaded him to make a test recording for us at Brunswick.  We signed him to an exclusive recording contract, and he stayed with us for the rest of his singing career."

Before the war, Chamlee had graduated from the University of Southern California, and had also studied violin during his college years.  While still at USC, he began studying voice with local teachers and decided to pursue an operatic career.  Adopting the stage name "Mario Rodolfi," he made his debut with the Lombardi Opera Company in Los Angeles in 1916, singing the role of Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor.  "What a virile yet sensitive singer-actor Mr. Rodolfi is at his young age," one Los Angeles critic wrote of his performance.  "His is a trumpet of a voice when called for, but was tender and emotional in the Tomb Scene."

At Brunswick, Haenschen and Walter B. Rogers, who directed the company's classical-music division, persuaded the young tenor to adopt the name "Archer Chamlee" for record-making purposes.  The sales of the newly-named tenor's first Brunswick recordings made it clear that Chamlee had the potential for a substantial recording career.  "What made his voice appealing to our record buyers," Haenschen said, "was the uncanny similarity of timbre phrasing, and interpretation between Chamlee's recordings for Brunswick and Caruso's recordings for the Victor Company."  This was no mere coincidence, as Haenschen freely admitted.  "Our opera recording director, Walter Rogers, had worked for the Victor Company before he came to Brunswick, and he had conducted most of Caruso's recording sessions at Victor.  So when we signed a recording contract with Chamlee, Walter worked with him to mimic Caruso's phrasing, note by note.  "After two or three weeks of making test recordings under Walter's direction," Haenschen added, "Chamlee began to sound enough like Caruso, at least on records, to the point that we thought we had finally found a way to compete with the Victor Company and its star tenor." 

In November 1920, after finally settling on the stage name "Mario Chamlee," the young tenor made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Tosca with Geraldine Farrar in the title role, and Antonio Scotti as Scarpia.  Perhaps because of such illustrious onstage company, Chamlee received only passing notice in the critics' columns.  Reviews of the tenor's subsequent performances in a variety of Italian and French leading roles yielded generally lukewarm responses from the major New York critics.  Chamlee's Duke in Rigoletto, which he sang to Amelita Galli-Curci's Gilda in November 1931, was judged to have "suffered, vocally, from driving the voice unnecessarily in his upper tones."  When he first appeared in Gounod's Faust, however, he received more favorable treatment from the critics:  "Mr. Chamlee had sung Faust only once before and never at the Metropolitan," said the New York Times reviewer.  "Making allowances for a few slips in his cues, it was vocally very fine, and after the 'Salut demeure' especially, he was the recipient of well-deserved applause."

One of Chamlee's last significant operatic appearances took place on March 3, 1938, when Gian Carlo Menotti's Amelia Goes to the Ball had its Metropolitan Opera premiere.  Although the opera itself received tepid reviews (the New York World-Telegram likened Menotti's score to "lukewarm vanilla soda"), Chamlee received commendable reviews overall.  By the early 1930s, when the recording industry was reeling from the effects of the Depression, the Brunswick company had been sold to the Warner Brothers studios in Hollywood.  The sale of the company coincided with Chamlee's declining royalties from his recordings, as well as his decreasing interest in an operatic career.  By 1939, he had ceased singing opera at all, and limited his radio performances to popular music exclusively.  

Later, with his wife, the lyric soprano Ruth Miller, Chamlee became a full-time voice teacher.  (Anna Maria Alberghetti, of Broadway fame, studied with the Chamlees for a time.)  During the prime of his career, however Mario Chamlee had been a formidable tenor.  This is his 1924 Brunswick recording of Caruso's signature aria, "Vesti la giubba":


Charles Hackett

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Charles Hackett (1889-1942) began his operatic career in Boston’s Jordan Hall, where he appeared in Gounod's Faust  in 1910.  Reviewing one of the young tenor's early appearances in Rossini's Stabat Mater, the critic for the Musical Courier wrote, “He proved a revelation to the public who had never heard him before.  Not having much opportunity to show what he really could do except in the ‘Cujus animam’..., he availed himself so excellently of this one solo, even to the extent of ... a daring D-flat, [that] was immediately rewarded by the sort of applause which at once spells success.”  

After Hackett's Metropolitan Opera debut, as Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia on January 31, 1919, the New York Times reviewer said, "he disclosed such an agreeable and flexible voice and such finished singing and acting that the audience could not help recognize that a real bel canto artist was before them ...."  As the 1918-19 Metropolitan season progressed, Hackett received continuous praise from the major newspaper critics.  Of a Verdi Requiem that he sang with Rosa Ponselle, Margarete Matzenauer, and Jose Mardones, the critic Sylvester Rawlings wrote that "Charles Hackett ... surprised even his warmest admirers by the ease and distinction and beauty with which he sang the none too easy music that fell to his lot."  Hackett also earned the enthusiastic regard of Enrico Caruso.  “The night Caruso arrived at Buenos Aires," Hackett recalled in a newspaper interview, "he happened to hear me sing for the first time.  He had not been there for fifteen years, and was surrounded with influential friends.  Yet as I was going on in the second act he broke through the crowd, and with that generosity and great-heartedness which made him so loved, put his arm around my shoulders and said, ‘How you have sung tonight!  You make me feel old, for you have done things with your voice which remind me of what I used to do when I was younger'.” 

Hackett's last in-house performance at the Metropolitan Opera took place in April 1921, after which he decided to leave the Met and to relocate to Italy for additional musical study.  When he returned to the U.S. a year later, he joined the Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he sang the leading tenor roles in the Italian and French repertoire from 1923 until 1933.  On February 3, 1934, Hackett returned to the Metropolitan Opera to sing Romeo to the Juliette of Lucrezia Bori, one of his favorite colleagues.  The morning after the performance, one critic wrote that "Mr. Hackett ... sang the difficult role so beautifully as to command the admiration and respect of music lover and musician alike.  His voice is one of great appeal, his phrasing sensitive, his appreciation of the subtleties of the French language that of a true artist ...."  This is Charles Hackett's 1927 recording of "La reve" from Massenet's Manon:


Roland Hayes

The challenges faced by Riccardo Martin, Paul Althouse, Orville Harrold, Mario Chamlee and Charles Hackett were trebled, at the least, in the case of Roland Hayes(1887-1987), the first African-American tenor to make a debut on the concert platform as an aspiring opera singer.  In common with the other American-born tenors of the World War One era, Hayes was inspired by the recordings of Caruso.  "I had never heard any real music," Hayes later wrote in his autobiography, "but one day a pianist came to our church in Chattanooga, and ... he took me in hand and introduced me to phonograph records by Caruso.  That opened the heavens for me.  The beauty of what could be done with the voice just overwhelmed me."  

The son of freed slaves who became tenant farmers, Hayes was born in Curryville, Georgia, but relocated with his mother and his family to Chattanooga in 1898, after his father had died earlier that year.  Although he was able to attend school sporadically in the segregated, under-funded black schools in the Chattanooga area, Hayes was forced to leave school in order to help support his mother and his siblings.  By his own estimation, he had a sixth-grade education when he began working as a waiter and earning other small sums from any jobs he could find.  By the late-1890's, Hayes had matured into a lyric tenor under the tutelage of Arthur Calhoun, the director of a local church choir.  In 1905, Hayes was still supporting himself as a waiter and hotel porter when he was accepted into the college-preparatory program at Fisk University in Nashville.  There, a group of tutors helped him obtain a high-school diploma.  Decades later, Fisk University would award him an honorary doctoral degree, one of eight that he received during his long lifetime.

While enrolled at Fisk, Hayes was accepted into the elite Jubilee Singers, which traveled throughout the northern U.S. and much of Europe as a fundraising vehicle for the University.  From 1909-1911, a quartet from the Jubilee Singers (which originally consisted of ten male singers) was recorded and marketed by the Victor Company.   Although Hayes was not a member of the Jubilee Quartet at that time (Victor catalogs and advertisements of the era list the names and a photograph of the four members), he was in the group when they made a second series of recordings for the Edison Company in 1911.  After leaving Fisk, Hayes relocated to Louisville, Kentucky, but kept in contact with the Fisk University administration.  When the lead tenor of the Jubilee Singers left the ensemble in 1914, the president of Fisk contacted Hayes in Louisville and offered him the lead-tenor role in the Jubilee Quartet's upcoming concert in Boston.  

Hayes not only accepted the offer, but also decided to remain in Boston in the hope of establishing himself as a solo artist.  In 1915, he made his concert debut at Jordan Hall in Boston (where Charles Hackett had made his operatic debut five years earlier).  "His voice is rich, pure, and gracefully lyric," wrote Philip Hale in the Boston Globe.  "Not only has he a voice that many might envy, he also has the gift of interpretation.   He catches almost instinctively the mood of the poet and composer."  Another pioneering black artist, Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949), a conservatory-trained baritone, pianist, and composer-arranger, served as Hayes's piano accompanist when the young tenor made his New York City debut in Aeolian Hall on January 30, 1919.  (Five years later, Aeolian Hall would become the site of the premiere of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.)  The day after Hayes's concert, the critic for the New York Times wrote, "the young man's enunciation was remarkable, not least so in the dream from Massenet's 'Manon,' which he sang in good French."  

Because phonograph recordings had been a key to the artistic and financial success of the Jubilee Singers, Hayes decided to pursue a recording career as a supplement to his concert appearances.  First at Victor, and subsequently at the Columbia and Edison studios, he made test recordings but was unable to secure a contract from any of the three major record companies.  Left with no alternative but to finance his own recordings, he managed to raise enough money to pay the Columbia Company to produce a limited quantity of phonograph records of his singing.  In the February 1919 issue of The Crisis, the monthly magazine of the NAACP, the enterprising young tenor raised enough money to pay for a half-page advertisement entitled "Roland W. Hayes Phonograph Records."  The advertisement began with a question:  "Do you own a phonograph of any make and have you tried to purchase records which would bring to your home the singing and playing of the best Negro artists?"  

Noting that most record stores usually stocked "popular music and possibly a few records of quartet songs by Negro singers," the advertisement suggested that prospective buyers should be able instead to purchase recordings by "the individual Negro performer who would rank high among the invisible makers of music ... to cheer your spare moments after the grind of the day's work is done."  "At last this is possible," the advertisement stated.  "Roland W. Hayes, the acknowledged leading singer of the Negro race, has brought out his first record and ... has plans for many others in the very near future."  Four records were listed in the advertisement, three of which were spirituals.  The fourth recording was an operatic selection identified on the record label as "Arioso from 'Pagliacci'."  This is Roland Hayes's performance of "Vesti la giubba":


Long after Riccardo Martin, Paul Althouse, Orville Harrold, Mario Chamlee and Charles Hackett had retired from the stage, the indefatigable Roland Hayes was still concertizing.  Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, he sang nearly eighty concerts per year.  Although an operatic career had eluded him, he continued to give concerts until 1973, when he was in his mid-eighties.

James A. Drake