Aroldo Lindi, the Swedish tenor born Harald Lindau is perhaps not widely known today, but his achievements during his prime years are of certain stature. Through his nephew, Richard Lindau, the story of the Swedish immigrant, who originally wanted to become a boxer, has survived.
Aroldo Lindi was born Gustav Harald Lindau, on 26 May, 1888, in Tuna, now Vimmerby, Sweden. Having left school at the age of twelve to work as a breaker boy in the coal mines, two years later he would sail before the mast to America. Landing in Boston, the young lad would find work as an auto painter and piano mover, but had dreams of becoming a professional boxer. Young Lindau would soon become known as the singing pugilist, amazing both seconds and antagonists by singing arias from Verdi’s Aida. This would lead first to a stint in musical comedy, then as a spear carrier in a production of Aida, and finally an audition before Maestro Giuseppe Bamboschek and Marie Sundelius. With their approval, a New York financier, John Aspergren, agreed to provide the tenor with the means to study with Mme. Dean Dossert and Cesare Sturani, in N.Y.C.
In 1916, Harold Lindau would make his operatic debut as Radames in Aida, with The Fleck Opera Company, in the Boston Opera House. The Boston American declares “this man has the same kind of voice as Caruso in his prime, and you’ll realize it when you hear him sing.” After another appearance at the same house, this time in the role of Canio, young Lindau will tour with the Fleck Company over the next three years, visiting major cities in the eastern U.S. In 1921, Lindau leaves for Italy, and further study with Renato Bellini. The Italian debut takes place in Asti, in November 1922, as Don Alvaro in La Forza del Destino. The name has been altered to Aroldo Lindau. Impresario Giuseppe Lusardi secures the next engagement at the Dal Verme, Milano, here as Radames, then moving on to the Costanzi in Roma, again as the Egyptian warrior. La Scala would soon beckon. Following an audition before Arturo Toscanini, he is engaged to open the season at the celebrated house. The date is 8 November, 1923, once more as Radames. He is the first foreigner to have this honor. Also, on the advice of the authorities, the name is changed once again, to the more Italianized Aroldo Lindi.
An interesting anecdote is revealed in a letter from Lindi, dated July, 1923. “Gatti told me he would take me to the Met this year, had I not signed with Scala.” It would be ten years before any further dialogue would take place, involving the Met. A meeting of minds would not be forthcoming, and Lindi would cast his future with Gallo and Salmaggi in N.Y. The next European debut would be at the Sao Carlo in Lisbon, March 1924, where they would hear his Radames, and four days later, Canio, in Pagliacci. The year 1925 brings the tenor to Covent Garden, with Jeritza as his Tosca, and Rethberg as Aida. It is here in London that Herbert Johnson, of the Chicago Opera Co. engages Lindi to open the next season with Aida. Following London, a special gala in Malaga, before King Alfonso and Queen Victoria. For this, he receives the title of Cavaliere.
The year 1926 would take Lindi to Hamburg, Rimini, Lisbon, Genoa, and Palermo. Back to America in the autumn, the San Francisco War Memorial would hear his Manrico, with Muzio, then on to Los Angeles for Trovatore and Aida, with Raisa, then the opening in Chicago, with Muzio as Aida, Trovatore with Loring, and a new role, Turiddu, in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, with Rosa Raisa. The next year is a return to Europe’s leading opera houses, including the Dal Verme, the Liceo, and the Vittorio Emannuele, all with Aida, and returning to Covent Garden as Puccini’s Calaf. This year also includes another new role, Don Jose, in Carmen at Turin. 1928 brings to Lindi the role of Enzo, in La Gioconda, with Tina Poli Randaccio. In Pisa, with Eva Turner, he creates the role of Calaf there. Followed by another new role, Andrea Chenier at the Politeama Fiorentino in October with Pacetti and Borgioli. A third season at Covent Garden would include Aida and Turandot, both with Turner. The year would end at Cremona with La Forza.
The early part of 1929 will take Lindi to Cairo, where along with Aida and Pagliacci, he will portray Janko in Fasma. It is here in Cairo that our tenor is awarded the hand made costume of Radames in the first act, made for the original performance of Verdi’s Aida. Alexandria, Tripoli, Zurich and Barcelona would be the itinerary. At the Liceo, Lindi would create the role of Calaf there in May. Included in a busy schedule is a tour of Germany, with The Max Sauter Group. The new year would bring La Scala, the Carlo Felice, debuts in Nice, Paris, and Monte Carlo, along with another Fasma in Malta and several concerts in his native Sweden. Surprisingly, news clippings show a performance of Aida in Philadelphia that year.
1931 is a memorable year for the tenor. In Lucca, Lindi is called upon to sing the part of Calaf, in a special performance in commemoration of Puccini’s death. He is the only foreigner to take part. The end of the year would add another role to his repertory, Otello, at the Vittorio Emanuele in Turin, with Norma Richter. In January 1932, Lindi appears in Andrea Chenier at the Degli Grossete for the final performance of his Italian career. As a foreigner, he is barred from the opera, due to Fascist regulations. With authorities refusing to allow any art objects to leave the country, Lindi is able to salvage a prize of his. A full size oil portrait is concealed in the lining of his overcoat, and he carries it out of his adopted land for the last time. It should be noted here that the major recordings, both acoustic and electric, were accomplished during the period 1926 through 1931, in Milan and London, including the complete Aida, with Arangi-Lombardi, all on Columbia.
Crossing the Atlantic for the last time, the next twelve years would be in the U.S. and Canada. Two seasons with the Philadelphia Opera Co, two with the Chicago Opera, then with the Cincinnati Zoo Opera, and with the Robin Hood Dell of Philadelphia. Lindi would alternate between the aforementioned Fortune Gallo’s San Carlo and Alfredo Salmaggi Chicago Opera, both touring companies. Performances would take him to every major opera house on the continent, even the Yankee Stadium in N.Y.C.
By 1935, Lindi will have performed his signature role of Radames over seven hundred times. By 1938, the repertory would include La Fanciulla Del West, Sansone e Dalila, Tannhauser, L’Africana, and Norma. Partners would be Coe Glade, Bianca Soroya. Ina Bourskaya, Rosa Raisa, Bruna Castagna, Dorothy Kirsten, Gladys Swarthout, Kirsten Thorborg, Rise Stevens, and Marie Powers.
The year 1944 would begin in Boston, where twenty eight years earlier the career had its beginning. Then on to Buffalo, Toronto, Milwaukee, Spokane, and on to San Francisco. February 29th would be opening night at the War Memorial for Gallo’s troupe, a portentous date perhaps. On the 8th of March, Pagliacci would be the offering, an opera with its own shadow of mystery. In the familiar role of Canio, Lindi begins his Vesti la Giubba, and is alone on the stage. “Laugh Punchinello, the world will cry Bravo ” Lindi sang on. “Go hide with laughter, thy tears and thy sorrow” As the last words come from his mouth, he staggers toward the footlights. “For though your heart’s breaking, you must play the part,” he manages, then pitches forward in full view of the audience, and is still. The orchestra continues to the end of the act, and the crowd roars, unaware. Lindi is dead of a heart attack, which had started in the middle of the aria. And so, from a breaker boy in his native land, to a leading tenor at La Scala, Covent Garden, and the San Carlo Opera Company, the golden voice out of Sweden is silenced. Aroldo Lindi was 55 years old.