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Opera singer Franco Corelli

By Stephen Humphries / January 11, 2001



Franco Corelli widely seen as one of modern history's greatest tenors, came out of nowhere in 1951. That was the year the Italian singer, largely self-taught, entered and won the Maggio Musicale in Florence. After that, his career took off.

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In 1953 he sang in Zandonai's "Giulietta e Romeo" in Rome, and in 1954 he sang with Maria Callas, the most celebrated of opera divas, in Milan. (He and Callas collaborated until 1965.) Rave reviews followed him throughout Europe.

"He's an extremely important singer," says Joel Kosnow, editor of Operanet at www.culturekiosque.com./opera/index.htm "He was unusually tall and handsome for a tenor, and he commanded an audience in the way that Pavarotti does."

A movie version of "Tosca" in 1956 introduced the Italian prodigy to Americans. Corelli made his debut at New York's Metropolitan Opera in "Il Trovatore" in 1961. "Trovatore" led to a national tour of the United States, which later became his home and the focus of his career.

He sang at the Met every season until 1976, the year he bid a formal adieu to the stage with a performance of "La Boheme" in Italy. He lives there now with his wife, the former singer Loretta Di Lelio.

Corelli, who jealously guards his privacy, tutored an unknown Andrea Bocelli before the singer's career soared in the 1990s. He makes an annual public appearance as president of the Jury of the International Franco Corelli Competition for young opera singers. It's held in Ancona, Italy, every June.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society