- Italo Campanini
Italo Campanini (
June 30, 1845- November 14, 1896) was a leading Italian operatic tenor, whose career was mainly in Londonin the 1870s and in New Yorkin the 1880s and 1890s. [H. Rosenthal and J. Warrack, "Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera" (OUP, London 1974 printing).] He was the brother of conductor Cleofonte Campanini.
Parma, Campanini studied in the Parma Conservatory before making his operatic debut as Manrico in " Il trovatore", in 1869, in Odessa. Further study with Francesco Lampertiin Milanfollowed, and in 1871 he returned to the stage in Bologna, scoring his first major success in the Italian premiereof "Lohengrin". [Rosenthal and Warrack 1974.]
Early in his 1872
Drury Laneseason J. H. Mapleson, the London opera impresario, recruited Campanini from Rome, where he was in competition with the agents of Frederick Gye, the Covent Garden theatre impresario. [J.H. Mapleson, "The Mapleson Memoirs" (Belford, Clarke & co., Chicago 1888), I, 153-154.] On May 4th 1872 the tenor made his London debut as Gennaro in "Lucrezia Borgia", with Therese Tietjensin the title role, Zelia Trebellias Orsini and Agnesias Duke Alfonso, under the baton of Michael Costa. [H. Klein, "Thirty Years of Musical Life in London" (Century Co, New York 1903), 20. Klein states that Alfonso was sung by Jean-Baptiste Faure.] He was an immediate success, being hailed by some as the successor to Marioor Antonio Giuglini. That, said Herman Klein(who attended), was a night of triumphs. [Klein 1903, 20.] It was here that he first sang with Christine Nilsson, to whom he became a celebrated stage partner. An agent from London attempted to lure him away at a rate of a thousand pounds a month. He remained with Mapleson (at one-fifth of that sum) but became difficult to manage. However, he was to remain a stalwart and mainstay of Mapleson's company for the next ten years. In autumn 1872 he toured in Dublinwith the company (including also Maria Marimon, Ilma de Murska, Sofia Scalchi, Signor Foli, etc), at principal cities in Englandand Scotland, and in the following spring 1873 tour through provincial towns. [Mapleson 1888, I, 153-154.]
First American tour
Campanini made his first American appearances at the Academy of Music, New York, in 1873. Here, in addition to Christine Nilsson and
Giuseppe del Puente(baritone) (regular Mapleson company singers), he was with Annie Louise Cary(with whom he often afterwards sang) in performances of " Les Huguenots" [G. Kobbé, " The Complete Opera Book" (Putnam, London 1935 printing), 503.] . On 26 November1873 he was Rhadames in Max Strakosch's production of " Aida", with Mlle Torriani(Aida), Cary (Amneris) and Victor Maurel(Amonasro), according to Gustav Kobbé(who saw it) a performance of unsurpassed brilliancy. [Kobbé 1935, 440.] He was still in New York on 23 March1874 when he, Nilsson, Cary and del Puente were in the Italian-language production of "Lohengrin" at the Academy. [Kobbé 1935, 117.]
During his London career Campanini became especially well-known in the roles of Manrico ("
Il trovatore"), Fernando (" I Puritani"), and Edgardo (" Lucia di Lammermoor"). At his return for the 1874 season in London, in June he joined a Drury Lane cast in Michael Balfe's posthumous opera " Il Talismano" (Italian production) with Tietjens and Nilsson, and with the young Giovanni de Reschi in a baritone role (who later became the tenor Jean de Reszke). [Klein 1903, 58.] "Les Huguenots" and " La favorita" were among other productions of the season. In the 1875 season came the first London "Lohengrin" (with Emma Albaniand Ernesto Nicoliniat Covent Garden), soon followed by Mapleson's production at Her Majesty's Theatrein which Campanini, Tietjens, Nilsson and Antonio Galassi(baritone) led the cast under Michael Costa. [Mapleson 1888, I, 166; Klein 1903, 44-45.]
The 1878 season was distinguished by the first London production of
Bizet's opera " Carmen", on June 22. Mapleson had seen it the previous winter at the Brussels Monnaieand decided to transfer it to Her Majesty's. He obtained the American soprano Minnie Haukfor Carmen, who had become famous in the role in Paris; Alwina Valleriawas Micaela and del Puente Escamillo to Campanini's Don José, under Michael Costa. Despite the misgivings of the artists in rehearsal, it was an extremely effective cast among which Campanini himself was conspicuous for his singing and acting with superb dramatic power, and it was greeted with a triumphant reception. Klein and Manuel Garciawere in the audience. [Mapleson 1888, I, 197-198; Klein 1903, 84-90.]
English summers, American winters
In the winter of 1878-79 Mapleson undertook a major opera tour of the
United States, in which Campanini was his principal tenor. The company also included Etelka Gerster, Minnie Hauk, Trebelli, Valleria, Galassi, del Puente, Sig. Foli and others, and Luigi Arditiwas the conductor. They visited Washington, Boston, Chicago, St Louis, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnatiand New York. Campanini sang opposite Gerster in "Il talismano" and " La traviata", and with Marie Rozein "La favorita", and a very wide range of operas was presented including "Faust", "Il flauto magico", " Le nozze di Figaro", " Don Giovanni", " Il barbiere di Siviglia", " Ruy Blas", " Robert le Diable" and " Der Freischütz", in addition to much of the repertoire already mentioned. The series culminated with a benefit concert in New York for flood victims at Szegedinin Hungary(Gerster's birthplace). [Mapleson, I, 199, 214-215.]
Some surprises were, however, held in store for New York in the following year. The London 1879 season had added Minnie Hauk, and
Clara Louise Kelloggto the female company (still led by Nilsson, Trebelli and Gerster), and Campanini was supported by the tenors Giuseppe Fancelli, Frapolli and Brignoli. [Mapleson 1888, I, 232.] Fancelli was infuriated by Campanini assuming the title 'Primo Tenore Assoluto'. [Mapleson 1888, II, 286.] The October 1879 tour season, in which Maria Marimon was among the party, visited New York, and went on to Philadelphia, Chicago, St Louis, Detroit, Clevelandand elsewhere. [Mapleson 1888, I, 234.] Campanini conquered New York. On 23 October at the Academy they gave the American premiere of Carmen, with Minnie Hauk, Clarice Sinico(Micaela), Ernesto del Puente, and Campanini in his now famous role of Don José. [Kobbé 1935, 586.] On December 3 he appeared as Elvino in " La sonnambula", with Marimon, del Puente and Mme Lablache, and on December 12 was Corentino in Meyerbeer's " Dinorah", again with Marimon. [Kobbé 1935, 531; Mapleson 1888, I, 232-234.] Later in the season, when Mdlle Marimon was unable to complete a performance of "Dinorah" at Philadelphia, Campanini (in the audience) and Annie Louise Cary stepped in to sing the last acts of "Il trovatore" instead, and Campanini's "Di quella pira" brought the house down and saved the box-office. [Mapleson 1888, I, 235-236.]
The London Her Majesty's season of 1880, with Nilsson and Gerster, saw presentations of "Faust", "La sonnambula", "Carmen" and "Aida" under Michael Costa, and also a "Lohengrin" conducted for Mapleson by
Hans Richter. [Mapleson 1888, I, 237, 242.] But the major new event of the season, in July, was Boito's " Mefistofele", with Nilsson, Trebelli and Nannetti, and with Campanini as Faust. Costa conducted it 'in his old, resolute and vigilant manner', and the production 'lent a special distinction to the season.' [Klein 1903, 153.] This then went on tour to New York (under Arditi, as usual), where Campanini led the cast for the American premiere at the Academy with Annie Louise Cary, Alwina Valleria and Franco Novara. [Kobbé 1935, 475.] The same venue saw Mapleson's production of a revised form of " Les vêpres siciliennes" headed by Campanini and Cary with del Puente and Galassi, [Kobbé 1935, 436-437.] and also Campanini in "La favorita". Mapleson had also recruited Luigi Ravellito relieve the burden on Campanini, now his only principal tenor. During the tour, which this time also took in Pittsburghand Indianapolis, Mapleson inaugurated 'Sunday evening concerts', the first half of which was usually a performance of Rossini's "Stabat Mater" given by Valleria, Cary, Campanini, Galassi and Novara. [Mapleson 1888, I, 242-253.]
The London season of 1881 resumed the run of "Mefistofele", and the October tour in New York saw Camapanini as Lohengrin (with Minnie Hauk,
Anna de Belocci, Galessi and Novara) and Carmen (Hauk, Valleria and del Puente, the original line-up.) [Mapleson 1888, I, 261.] In February 1882 the company was at the second great Cincinnati Opera Festival, where Campanini was Don José (opposite Hauk, del Puente and Louise Dotti), and "Les Huguenots", "Faust", " Fidelio", "Magic Flute", "William Tell" and "Lohengrin" were also presented. Meanwhile they also rehearsed, and then presented, Meyerbeer's " L'Africaine", in which Campanini played Vasco da Gamaopposite Hauk and Galassi; and in spring 1882 " Ernani", Don Giovanni and Les Huguenots were also brought back to the New York Academy of Music. [Mapleson 1888, I, 271.]
Collapse of Mapleson's company
On return to England, the 1882 season was disrupted by negotiations over the "Royal Italian Opera Company, Covent Garden, Ltd", formed to seek the lease of the new
Metropolitan Opera House, New York, then being built. Campanini was among the large team taken to New York that October by Mapleson, with Commander Herbert Gye as his treasurer, on its behalf. If the plan worked, the Academy (to which Mapleson was still tied by contract) would be closed and a monopoly achieved, in which he would have a share. Despite immense difficulties a successful tour was achieved, but in the process all Mapleson's resources were carved up between Mr Abbey, who actually obtained the lease, and the Royal Opera Company, which repudiated all its agreements with Mapleson, leaving him a very heavy liability. The best singers of his company, including Nilsson, Marcella Sembrich, Scalchi, Trebelli and Campanini, and all his orchestral and choral resources, were recruited by Mr Abbey.
Campanini took the occasion to spend a season in Italy, where his younger brother Cleofonte Campanini was beginning a career as an operatic conductor. In 1883 at Parma Italo sang in a series of performances conducted by his brother, so helping to establish him. [A. Eaglefield-Hull, A Dictionary of Modern Music and Musicians (Dent, London 1924).] When he returned to America in the autumn it was to the completion of the Metropolitan Opera House, and there he sang in the performance of Faust on the opening night, 22 October 1883, with Christine Nilsson as Marguerite, Sofia Scalchi, Mme Lablache, Franco Novara and Ernesto del Puente. [Kobbé 1935, 562; Mapleson 1888, II, 11.] On December 5 1883 he sang the other Faust in "Mefistofele" with Christine Nilsson, Zelia Trebelli and Mdlle Mirabella.
After 1883 Campanini lived primarily in
New York City, serving as the Metropolitan's lead tenor. He developed increasingly as a manager of opera (as in later times did the tenors Giovanni Zenatelloand Edward Johnson). On April 16 1888 a company under his management presented the American premiere of Verdi's " Otello" at the New York Academy of Music, [Kobbé 1935, 458.] with Francesco Marconi, [For Marconi, see M. Scott, "The Record of Singing" I (Duckworth, London 1977), 121-123.] Luisa Tetrazzini, Antonio Galassi and Sofia Scalchi: later in the run, Campanini himself took over from Marconi the role of Otello. Campanini's brother Cleofonte was brought in to conduct, and married the singer Eva Tetrazzini, Luisa's sister. [Rosenthal and Warrack 1974.] Campanini remained a member of the Metropolitan company from 1891-1894. In 1895 he appeared as Ford in the first American performance of Verdi's "Falstaff", with Victor Maurel (Falstaff), Emma Eames(Mistress Ford), Zelie de Lussan (Anne), Sofia Scalchi (Mistress Quickly), and Rossitano (Fenton). [Kobbé 1935, 466.]
Campanini was among the most popular tenors in the United States before
Enrico Caruso. He apparently made a recording on a Bettinicylinder. [Scott 1977, 2, note.] He died in Villa Vigatto, near Parma, in 1896.
* D. Ewen, "Encyclopedia of the Opera: New Enlarged Edition" (Hill and Wang, New York 1963).
* J. McPherson, "Italo Campanini: One of a Kind," "The Opera Quarterly", 19 no 2 (Spring 2003), 251-271.
New York Times Biographical Report [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9F07EFDA1738E23ABC4951DFB4678382669FDE]
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