Corelli & Lauri-Volpi

Franco Corelli and Giacomo Lauri-Volpi

Corelli was present, together with Martinelli, at the unveiling of a head statue of Giacomo Lauri-Volpi (LV) at the Met hallway in 1965. Why was Corelli present? The reason is that LV had been his friend and valuable artistic mentor. LV had taken Corelli under his wings and virtually reconstituted his voice technique and role interpretation in the late 50’s.

Lauri-Volpi made a significant contribution to Corelli’s voice technically and I strongly suppose that LV gave advice as to scenic deportment and role interpretation, so dear and fundamental to him. Remember Cotogni, his teacher, who instilled in him the great importance of interpretation, and LV’s second teacher, Enrico Rosati, fastidious with esercizi and vocalizzi. He wanted LV to spend some five years doing those things. LV left him because he felt he had precious little time to start on the stage (he was already 27 years of age). Then there was Emma Carelli, a theatrical impresario and a voice mentor, who kept drumming into him “musicalita’, non solo canto”, that is role acting not only singing. The eminent Italian critic Angelo Sguerzi refers to “Corelli si e’ rifatto una voce, sotto la guida magistrale di Lauri-Volpi” and I quote from the book.

There are proofs of Corelli/LV friendship (several photos, one of Corelli and Martinelli at the unveiling of LV’s statue at the Met in 1965, and the other of Corelli, LV and their spouses sitting at a restaurant in Italy, circa 1958) as well as LV having been his mentor (written documentation by Sguerzi, speaking of help and advice given by LV to Corelli, which re-launched the latter on the operatic stage).

I surmise that LV gave Corelli a series of lessons (most likely with piano accompaniment, which LV always used privately and in recorded recitals) of how to emit certain notes (using head voice and chest voice, where appropriate, for legato, mezza voce, top notes and squilli). He held lengthy discussions with his pupil, regarding the use of voice modulations to interpret different roles (Otello’s exasperated jealousy, Manrico’s fury to save his mother from the pyre, Pinkerton’s philandering attitude but final regret in “Addio, fiorito asil,” Radames’ heroic leadership but fatal infatuation with a slave girl, Johnson’s sincere, noble banditry and Calaf’s ecstatic passion for the cruel princess).

Moods for the tenor role in the same opera, say, in Tosca (Cavaradossi, a fiery and conspiring patriot in Act II “Vittoria, vittoria” but a tender, reminiscing lover in Act III “E lucevan le stelle”) and Luisa Miller (Rodolfo, a passionate and faithful suitor in Act I “Sono tuo sposo!”, feeling betrayed by Luisa and perpetrating revenge in Act II “Tradito m’ha colei” and remorseful for having poisoned Luisa unjustly in Act III “Si’, teco io vengo, spirto divino”). When Corelli recorded “E lucevan le stelle”, you could immediately appreciate LV’s stamp there. Beautiful messa di voce in the recitative (as it should be done in phrasing: ..ed olezzava la terra, stridea l’uscio dell’orto, un passo sfiorava l’arena, entrava ella fragrante..), followed by a powerful crescendo (..l’ora e’ fuggita e muoio disperato..).”

Watch Franco Corelli talk about Giacomo Lauri-Volpi in the video below.