Fernando De Lucia
TOSTI Ideale [2.15]
MASSENET Werther Ah! non mi ridestar [2.04]
GIORDANO Fedora Amor ti vieta [1.45]
GOUNOD Faust Il se fait tard with Celestina Boninsegna [3.58]
THOMAS Mignon Adieu, Mignon! [3.55]
BIZET Les pêcheurs de perles Ton coeur n’a pas compris with Josefina Huguet [4.03]
MASSENET Manon En fermant les yeux (Il sogno) [3.00]
ROSSINI Il barbiere di Siviglia, Ecco ridente in cielo [4.28]; Se il mio nome [3.10]; All’idea di quell metallo with Antonio Pini-Corsi [3.57]; Ah! qual colpo with Antonio Pini-Corsi & Josefina Huguet [3.13]
VERDI La traviata, , De’ miei bollenti spiriti with Josefina Huguet [2.49]; Parigi,o cara [4.23]; Rigoletto E il sol dell’anima with Josefina Huguet [4.08]
WAGNER Lohengrin Nun sei bedankt [4.04]; Mein Held, mein Retter with Josefina Huguet [4.17]; Das süsse Lied with Josefina Huguet [4.13]
BELLINI La sonnambula Prendi, l’anel ti dono with Maria Galvany [3.59]; Son geloso with Maria Galvany [3.53]
MOZART Don Giovanni Il mio tesoro [2.40]
BARTHÉLEMY Sulla bocca amorosa [2.46]; Serenamente [2.07]
DE CURTIS A surrentina [2.53]
Fernando de Lucia (tenor)
Celestina Boninsegna (soprano); Josefina Huguet (soprano); Antonio Pini-Corsi (baritone); Maria Galvany (soprano)
rec. 1902 – 1909. AAD
NIMBUS PRIMA VOCE NI 7911 [78:00]
Only a few tenors could seriously rival Caruso once he had achieved fame in the early 1900s; Bonci was one and Fernando De Lucia was another. Indeed, the latter outlived Caruso by four years and despite not being a friend, as a fellow Neapolitan he sang at Caruso’s funeral in Naples in 1921.
The greatest obstacle to a modern listener appreciating De Lucia’s art is an objection to the rapid vibrato which was more common to the generation of singers before Caruso but surfaced with later singers such as Supervia. Otherwise, there is much to savour in this elegant tenor’s artistry: his perfect command of the “messa di voce”, the honeyed mezza voce, the pianissimo high notes and the seamless legato which was the sine qua non of bel canto before different criteria more suited to the demands of verismo singing prevailed.
All of the recordings here were made within a seven year period when the tenor was in his forties and at his peak; he is variously accompanied by an assortment of similarly esteemed singers whose vocal lay-out matched his own – although I admit to being unfamiliar with Josephine Huguet, the soprano who features most often here. De Lucia is capable of delivering the most meltingly voiced long phrases, such as those which open “Adieu Mignon!”; for the best of his recordings I would refer the tyro to his still unsurpassed accounts of Almaviva’s arias from “Il barbiere” and the perfumed delicacy of his arias from Massenet ‘s most celebrated operas. The beauty of his vocalisation in the opening of the Bizet aria is unearthly in its floated refinement – listen to the poised falsetto B flat at 1:23 - yet he was capable of stepping up to the slightly heavier repertoire of Verdi heroes such as Alfredo and the Duke and even the lighter Wagner roles such as Lohengrin. It is the Wagnerian recordings by such as De Lucia, Emma Eames and Emilio de Gogorza which remind us that Wagner’s more lyrical music responds magically to the treatment of singers schooled in 19th century vocal techniques as long as they have sufficient tonal resonance.
De Lucia’s freedom with tempi in Rossini and Donizetti is an indulgence we must allow him when he sings with such beauty and sensitivity. Although I doubt whether any modern conductor would tolerate such liberties I cannot fault his taste in his application of rubato when the results are so seductive. His scale work is a filigree marvel and his divisions flawless.
Many of the recordings here are accompanied by piano rather than the blatty orchestra which became the norm. This is by no means unsuitable to the subtlety of his style. The sound is tolerable for acoustic recordings made so early and we can easily hear what it what about his singing that enchanted his audiences. The orchestra and chorus in the “Lohengrin” items are barely audible but necessary where a piano simply would and could not do. Everything is sung in Italian; the pressure to perform in the original language clearly wasn’t operative during his career. That is clearly helpful to his sustaining open vowels and the famous legato. De Lucia is in many ways a tenor counterpart to the celebrated baritone Mattia Battistini, another “old-fashioned” singer who is a byword for elegance.
This Prima Voce anthology is as good and representative a sample of De Lucia’s art as any collector could wish. It holds intrinsic interest as a paradigm of a performing idiom which, for better or worse, was soon to be superseded by an earthier, more visceral style of singing.
As good and representative a sample of De Lucia’s art as any collector could wish.