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The World's Greatest Tenors - Franco Corelli

Updated on October 19, 2012

Franco Corelli And his birthplace, Ancona, Italy


The World’s Greatest Tenors – Franco Corelli


1921 was a great year for Italian tenors. On January 31, 1921, Mario Lanza, the son of Italian immigrants, was born in Philadelphia. Then on April 8, 1921, Franco Corelli was born in Ancona, Italy and finally Giuseppe Di Stefano was born on July 24, 1921 in a small village near Catania, Sicily.


I wrote about Mario Lanza in a previous article and I will cover Giuseppe Di Stefano in the future. This Hub is devoted to Franco Corelli who is often referred to as the "Prince of Tenors" because of his handsome features as well as his elegant and passionate singing.


Corelli was born in the Italian port city of Ancona located on the Adriatic Sea. His father was a shipbuilder for the Italian navy and neither of his parents were musical.


Corelli loved the sea and initially studied naval engineering at the University of Bologna. On a dare, he entered an amateur musical competition. Although he did not win, the judges encouraged him to pursue a singing career in music.


Unhappy with his teachers, he decided to become his own teacher and began to imitate the style and vocal effects of recordings of great tenors like Enrico Caruso and Beniamino Gigli.


In 1951, he made his debut in Spoleto, Italy, in Carmen and later the same year in Il travatore in Rome. From 1953 to 1958 Corelli spent much of his time performing with the Rome Opera.


The following recordings are from 1957 and from the 1960s:

"Recondita Armonia" from Tosca by Puccini and

"Celeste Aida" by Giuseppe Verdi


The World's Greatest Tenors

Cast your vote for Franco Corelli

Recondita Armonia from Tosca by Puccini

Celeste Aida by Verdi


In 1957, Corelli met soprano Loretta di Lelio when she came backstage at the Rome Opera House to get his autograph. They were married in 1958 and remained married for 45 years until his death in 2003.


Corelli made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1961 opposite Leontyne Price who was also making her debut. He continued to sing at the Met until 1974 with his final performance in Turandot on December 28, 1974.


The following recording is:

"Nessun Dorma" from Turandot by Puccini


Nessun Dorma from Turandot by Puccini


Although Franco Corelli had a wide public following, the critics were divided in their praise of him. In a 1966 article in the New York Herald Tribune, critic Alan Rich considered Corelli a throwback to an earlier era when musical compromises were common and stylistic refinement was lacking.


Other critics did not look favorably on his performances in French opera because of his unusual diction and style. Still, many other critics defended him. I prefer to listen to his singing and decide for myself. The following recording is of an aria that Benjiamino Gigli is famous for:

"Che Gelida Manina" from "La Boheme" by Puccini


Che gelida manina from La Boheme by Puccini


In the early 1970s, Franco Corelli’s voice began to show signs of wear and in 1976, he made his last opera appearance at the age of 55. After retiring, he became a voice teacher in New York City. He died in Milan in 2003 at age 82.

The final recording is one that every great opera singer since Caruso has performed:

"Vesti la giubba" from Pagliacci.


Vesti la giubba from Pugliacci

Franco Corelli was born in Ancona, Italy and died in Milan

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A markerAncona, Italy -
Ancona, Italy
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Birthplace of Franco Corelli

B markerMilan, Italy -
Milan, Italy
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C markerRome, Italy -
Rome, Italy
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D markerMotta Sant' Anastasia, Italy -
95040 Motta Sant'Anastasia Province of Catania, Italy
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Birthplace of Giuseppe Di Stefano


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    • profile image

      Mauve 3 years ago

      I was struck by the hotseny of your posting

    • toomuchmint profile image

      toomuchmint 5 years ago

      Thanks for such an informative article! I haven't had much exposure to great opera. The Great Tenors series is a great introduction to the genre and its stars.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I had never heard of this singer, either. If it were not for you, I would have no culture!