FRANCO CORELLI, a revolution in singing, vol. 3 by Stefan Zucker


BelCanto Society 2018, 358 pp
ISBN 978-891456-01-5

Click here to order the volume

Of the three Zucker volumes in this project, this one is the best, though several of his literary trademarks are at play once more. It seems to this writer that Zucker didn’t put much effort into this last volume of the series; as again the main bulk of the book is made up of transcripts of several singer interviews he did on his former radio show ‘operafanatic’ including of course Corelli but also Bergonzi, Kraus and Araiza.

Although parts of the interviews are interesting, there is much that isn’t. Many pages are also wasted on callers asking rather stupid questions or giving some idiotic comments, especially in the chapter on booing. Moreover, as these radio shows were a local New York-area thing a lot of the content is not of particular interest to readers from other and different geographical areas. 

Yet, when Zucker is ‘on’ he can be very interesting and reveals himself as an astute observer and listener. A case in point is his assessment of Bergonzi on pages 137-141, or his discussion of several tenors and their recordings in the second part of the book. Still, what is good also gets marred by his sometimes chaotic writing and an inability to compose a well thought-through text.

And yes,  there’s the sex part again. Zucker with his obsession for sexual gossip has to tell us Helen Kamioner, a well-known press agent, “had a go” with Aragall in a car in a Munich side street and there’s also a part on Cecilia Gasdia giving fellatio. What’s the relevance of it all except that in the case of Mme Kamioner it seems like settling a score. (*see below for an important postscript) On  page 233 we learn that whenever Zucker “The World Highest Tenor” has an “orgasm he ‘cries out as a heavy baritone.”  Funny? Perhaps if you like this sort of topic.

A welcome Zucker trademark is the great amount of photos, but why on earth did he have to include a Peter Sellars photo in a Corelli-related book, goodness knows.

On page 176 Zucker claims Rina Del Monaco, Mario’s wife also studied with Arturo Melocchi (Mario’s teacher), yet as far as I know she studied only with Giannina Russ also the teacher of Margherita Grandi and Clara Petrella. Additionally Del Monaco never sang Forza in Hartford and certainly not before his Met debut as stated on page 190.  Zucker also writes Vittorio Grigolo (whom he hasn’t yet heard live) “is the loveliest Italian tenor since Gigli”. There you go Ferruccio Tagliavini, Giacinto Prandelli, Francesco Albanese and above all Giuseppe Di Stefano!

Instead of publishing these three large volumes Zucker should have invested all this effort and work on a book about the great tenors, provided a good editor (with knowledge of the subject) is at hand. Yet Mr Zucker seems to be more of a lose canon than I could ever have imagined. Yet a book on Gigli is announced, it makes me shiver to think what the result could/will be.

*After this review was published I received a mail (12.06.2018) from Mrs Kamioner stating "she never even met Aragall in Munich or anywhere else in the world."

Rudi van den Bulck, July 2018