|Also known as||"The King of Tenors"
"The Tenor of Kings"
|Born||April 14, 1871
Ponce, Puerto Rico
|Died||August 24, 1946
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Antonio Paoli (April 14, 1871 – August 24, 1946) was a Puerto Rican tenor. He was known at the height of his fame as "The King of Tenors and The Tenor of Kings." He is considered to be the first Puerto Rican to reach international fame in the musical arts. Paoli has been recognized as "one of the most outstanding opera singers of all time," and as one who had "one of the most lyric and powerful voices...superior even to his contemporary rival, Enrico Caruso."
After spending his childhood in his birth town of Ponce, Paoli moved to Spain where, with the assistance of his well-connected sister Amalia, he obtained a Royal scholarship to take singing lessons in Italy. After singing to standing ovation crowds in both Spain and Italy, Paoli made his grand debut in Paris, France, where he was encouraged to perform on the highest levels of the world stage. Before the end of the 19th century and while Paoli was still in his twenties, he went on a tour of Europe that earned him both popular acclaim, and imperial honors from princes, kings, and emperors.
Between 1900 and 1914 his career skyrocketed, with performances not only in Europe but also in the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia.
When World War I forced the closure of all European opera houses, Paoli made his living as a professional boxer. Unfortunately, he also lost his singing voice during this period. After the War ended, following medical advice and performing vocal exercises, Paoli regained his voice and returned to the international stage, in all the glory of days past. He performed in Europe, North and South America, and finally settled with his sister Amalia in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she had opened a singing school.
Paoli spent the last 20 years of his life teaching voice and singing in San Juan, while also working for the establishment of a music conservatory in that city. He would not see this last dream come true, because he developed cancer and died at age 75. He was buried in San Juan, but his remains were later transferred to a mausoleum in his birth town of Ponce.
Paoli (birth name: Antonio Emilio Paoli y Marcano [note 1]) was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He was the son of Amalia Marcano Intriago, of Spanish ancestry, who was born on the island of Margarita, Venezuela, and of Domingo Paoli Marcatentti, from Corsica. Antonio Paoli's parents met in Caracas, and immediately fell in love, however Amalia's father, a rich landlord, was opposed to the relationship because of class differences, therefore the young couple escaped to the Dominican Republic without getting married and later returned to Puerto Rico. The couple established themselves in the city of Yauco, but later moved into a house, given to them by Amalia's aunt, Teresa Intriago, located at one of the main arteries in the city of Ponce's urban core, Calle Mayor (Mayor Street), House #14. Ponce at the time was the financial and cultural capital of the island, thereby the ideal place for the initial cultural development of Paoli.
When Paoli was young, his parents would often take him to operas at Ponce's La Perla Theater located a block away from Paoli's residence. There, on one occasion he saw a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore by Italian tenor, Pietro Baccei, and at that moment knew what he wanted to do as an adult. His parents were very supportive of his ambition and guided him on this route during his youth, enrolling him in a school of "voice" directed by Ramon Marin. His sister Amalia was a soprano who performed at La Perla in Emilio Arrieta's opera, Marina. In 1883, when Paoli was only 12 years old, both his parents died and he went to live in Spain with his sister Amalia.
Amalia, who at that time was under the protective wing of Isabel de Borbon, Princess of Asturias, and sister of the King of Spain, Alfonso XII, was taking singing classes under Napoleon Verger. In 1884, Amalia helped Paoli to obtain two scholarships from her Majesty Queen Maria Christina, Queen Regent of Spain. Paoli started his studies at the Royal Monastery of El Escorial. Paoli entered the Toledo's Military Academy and in 1892, graduated with honors. He was assigned to the Queen's escort and named personal custodian and guard of the child King Alfonso XIII. Paoli desired to continue singing and in 1897, went to study at the Academia de Canto La Scala in Milan, Italy. On April 26, 1899, he made his debut in Gioacchino Rossini's opera William Tell in Paris, France. Paris newspapers commented on Paoli's success and stated "we should declare Paoli the Tenor of France."
Between 1900 and 1914, Paoli performed in Europe, America, Africa, and Asia. He performed in Italy, Luxembourg and in the United Kingdom, with performances in London, Scotland, Edinburgh, and Brighton, closing the year with concerts in Corsica (his father's homeland) and Turkey. In 1900, he married Josephine Vetiska, an Austrian, in Vienna. From 1901 to 1902, Paoli performed in the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the United States. Paoli purchased a villa in Porto Cereso, Lugano, Italy, where his son Antonio Arnaldo was born. After singing for King Alfonso XII and the Royal family in Spain, he returned to the United States and sang in various cities, among them New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Albany, Providence, Grand Rapids, New London, Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Pittsburg, Syracuse and Chicago.
In 1905, Paoli performed at the Grand Theatre du Conservatoire in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Czar of Russia Nicholas II was present during one of the performances and after inviting Paoli to perform at the Royal winter palace, awarded Paoli The Cross of St. Mauricio medal and bestowed upon him the title Cammer Sanger (Chamber Singer).
On September 5, 1907, Paoli held a private recital for Pope Pius X at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. That same year he was named as a "Singer of the Royal Court" by William II of Germany. Paoli was also the first operatic artist to record an entire opera when he participated in a performance of Pagliacci by Ruggiero Leoncavallo in Milan, Italy. He was selected in 1907, as the First Tenor in the main character by a team of engineers and musicians which included Leoncavallo. The recording was arranged in the following manner; the musicians were placed at the end of the recording room and the back up singers in a semi-arc in front of the gramophone while Paoli stood alone 20 feet (6.1 m) away from the gramophone.
Paoli continued to perform around the world with performances in Greece, Palestine, Poland, Egypt, Spain and Italy, where he established his permanent residence. In 1910, the singer was signed as the First Tenor by La Scala, Milan, the most prestigious opera company in the world at the time. Paoli received a contract to inaugurate Teatro Colón, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he sang Otello and Di quella pira. He also performed in Russia, Poland, Egypt, Hungary, Belgium, Cuba, Chile, Haiti, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Canada, and the United States.
By 1914, just before the start of World War I, Paoli lost his voice and all of the major opera houses in Europe were shut down. Paoli moved to Spain, a neutral country in the conflict, leaving all his properties unattended in Italy. By 1915, Paoli found himself without economic means as a result of his bad investments.
In order to make a living, Paoli became a professional boxer and after a period of training in Spain, he moved to England to start his new "career." He was undefeated in his first five fights. He broke his right wrist on his sixth challenge, which ended his boxing career.
Paoli sold his properties in Italy and acquired a small country house in Spain. He stayed for a few months with his brother Carlos in the Philippines. Paoli was medically treating his vocal cords, and it was commented that his career was over, but he continued his singing exercises with his sister Amalia, who moved into his house in Spain.
In January 1917, Paoli returned to the stage and performed the opera Samson and Delilah at the Constanzi Theater in Rome. Elvira de Hidalgo, who later became the singing coach of Maria Callas, remembered that:
"No one suspected that Paoli was coming back to the stage; we all knew that he had lost his voice. People were there to see him fail; I saw some guys with tomatoes and rotten eggs, ready to throw them as soon as Paoli made his first mistake. But when he came out singing his initial aria, the public went crazy and stood up in a standing ovation. Paoli's voice sounded like one of those trumpets that you expect to hear in the day of the final judgment. His debut was tremendous. He had to repeat twice every single aria that he performed that night, because the public furiously demanded it. He performed for seven consecutive nights with the theater at its maximum capacity. I attended every single function. Every night he sang better than the night before. I always dreamed to sing with Paoli, but I don't think my voice was good or strong enough to sing with him. I think he was the greatest tenor ever."
Paoli kept busy performing in Italy, South America and the United States. He returned to Puerto Rico in 1923. At the time, Amalia Paoli was residing in San Juan (in the ward of Santurce) where she was running a singing school (Academia Paoli). Antonio conducted a few performances around the island and then departed to sing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Manhattan Opera House and the Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia. He had wanted to sing in the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, but apparently his competitor Enrico Caruso opposed this. Some attribute this to the fact that Caruso was a shareholder of the renowned opera house. From the U.S., the tenor would visit Curaçao, Cuba, Colombia, Haiti and Ecuador.
Even with this busy agenda, Paoli's financial situation remained strained. After living in New York City for almost the entire year of 1927, Paoli decided to come back to Puerto Rico to live and work with his sister Amalia, giving voice lessons at the Academia Paoli. Paoli also helped produce Othello at the Municipal Theater in San Juan. For the next two decades Paoli's main concern would be teaching at the Paoli Academy with Amalia. In 1928, the tenor performed Verdi's Otello entirely for the last time in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This was his last performance on stage. It took place at the San Juan Municipal Theater, known today as the Tapia Theater. In 1935, the government of Puerto Rico named the San Juan Municipal Theater in his honor, changing its name to Teatro Paoli. In 1929, his wife Josephine died and a year later he married Adelaida Bonini, from Rimini, Italy, and whom he affectionately called "Adina". He gave his last singing performance in 1942, while commemorating the one-year anniversary of the death of his sister, Amalia Paoli. The service was conducted at the Chapel of the University of the Sacred Heart (Santurce).
Paoli died of prostate cancer in San Juan on August 24, 1946, and was buried in the Puerto Rico Memorial Cemetery in Carolina, Puerto Rico. On April 13, 2005, Paoli's remains, and those of his (second) wife Adina Bonini (who had died in May, 1978) were exhumed and transferred to Ponce's Román Baldorioty de Castro National Pantheon and buried by the base of his statue.
Honors, accolades, and legacy
In Antonio Paoli, Puerto Rico had the first Puerto Rican to reach international recognition in the performing arts. He gave 1,725 performances between 1888 and 1942 and interpreted Verdi's Otello 575 times. To his credit, Paoli was also the first opera singer in the world to record an entire opera when he participated in a performance of Pagliacci by Ruggiero Leoncavallo in Italy in 1907.
As early as 1904, Paoli was awarded The Cross of St. Mauricio medal by the Czar of Russia Nicholas II, and Maria Cristina de Habsburgo, Queen of Spain, declared Paoli Cantante de Camara de la Corte (Chamber Singer of the Court) and gave him La Gran Cruz de Isabel la Catolica (The Cross of Isabella the Catholic), while Carlos de Braganza, Prince of Portugal, named him Caballero Comendador del Cristo de Portugal y Cantante de Camara. Just two years later, in 1906, the same title of Cammer Sanger (Chamber Singer of the Court) was given to Paoli by Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria, and in 1907 he was decorated by Carlos I of Braganza.
In 1909, Paoli received La Cruz de Alfonso II from Alfonso XIII, King of Spain, and was declared ’’Honor Singer of the Vatican’’ by Pope Pius X. In 1910, he was honored with the title of Hijo Predilecto de Espana (Favorite Son of Spain), while in 1911, Wilhelm II, Kaiser of Germany, declared Paoli ’’Kammer Sanger of the Empire’’, and in 1912, Paoli received a protocol-breaking standing ovation from the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph when Paoli sang Lohengrin in Vienna. In 1920, the tenor was knighted by Vittorio Emmanuelle III, King of Italy, making him Cavaliere De La Corona Italiana and Commendatore Dell Popolo Romano (Knight of the Italian Crown and Commandant of the Roman People).
Though he did not see it happen during his lifetime, Puerto Rico also built the Music Conservatory, something for which Paoli had worked so hard to establish. This dream was finally realized shortly after his death. In San Juan's "Centro de Bellas Artes" there is also a 1,883-seat "Antonio Paoli Festival Hall." San Juan's Municipal Theater was also renamed Teatro Paoli in his honor in 1935. In recognition of his fame and talent, the government of Puerto Rico also awarded Paoli a pension in 1934.
In 1983, the non-profit "Paoli Award" was created. This award honors the effort, work, and success of outstanding professionals in the various arts and media, including music and recording, television, radio, written communication, fashion, and beauty. Originally designated to recognize the outstanding achievements of Puerto Ricans, the Paoli Award has branched out internationally, and since 1992 it also includes Hispanics and Latin Americans around the world.
On October 9, 2009, the Government of the United States listed Casa Paoli in Antonio Paoli's hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico, in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The house, Antonio's childhood house in Puerto Rico, is Paoli's only remaining residencial structure in Puerto Rico.
Among other honors bestowed on Paoli after his death are a music school named in his honor ("Escuela Libre de Musica Antonio Paoli"), in the city of Caguas, Puerto Rico, and in his hometown of Ponce, there is a theater at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, Ponce named in his memory, Teatro Paoli.
Paoli has also been the subject of many books written about his life and influence. Included is the work by Emilio J. Pasarell titled "Orígenes y desarrollo de la afición teatral en Puerto Rico" (Origins and development of the theatrical pursuit in Puerto Rico) where he describes the life of Paoli in detail.
|You may listen to Antonio Paoli's "Di quella pira" here on YouTube|
The following are part of Antonio Paoli's discography:
- Antonio Paoli. (2000)
- Great Voices. (1999)
- Antonio Paoli in arias from Otello. (1998)
- Leoncavallo: Pagliacci. (1996)
- Serie Artistas Celebres No. 1: Edicion del Centenario del Tenor Antonio Paoli. Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (1971)
- Juan Llanes Santos (August 11, 2009). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Casa Paoli" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 4, 2009. (19 pages, with maps and b&w historic photos and 5 recent color photos). Registration Form #2280 (NRHP# 09000769). Page 5.
- Juan Llanes Santos, Historian, and State Historic Preservation Officer, Certifying Officer. State Historic Preservation Office (San Juan, Puerto Rico). August 11, 2009. In National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Registration Form - Casa Paoli. United States Department of the Interior. National Park Service. (Washington, D.C.) Page 5. Listing Reference Number 09000769. August 12, 2009.
- Juan Llanes Santos, Historian, and State Historic Preservation Officer, Certifying Officer. State Historic Preservation Office (San Juan, Puerto Rico). August 11, 2009. In National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Registration Form - Casa Paoli. United States Department of the Interior. National Park Service. (Washington, D.C.) Page 6. Listing Reference Number 09000769. August 12, 2009.
- Music of Puerto Rico
- Juan Llanes Santos, Historian, and State Historic Preservation Officer, Certifying Officer. State Historic Preservation Office (San Juan, Puerto Rico). August 11, 2009. In National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Registration Form - Casa Paoli. United States Department of the Interior. National Park Service. (Washington, D.C.) Page 8. Listing Reference Number 09000769. August 12, 2009.
- Jesus M. Lopez. Antonio Paoli: El Leon de Ponce. Waterbuty, Connecticut: Ediciones Liricas Puertorriqueñas, 1997. Page 469.
- Antonio Paoli. Fundacion Nacional para la Cultura Popular.
- Casa Paoli's Web Site. Retrieved May 28, 2010.
- Fundacion Nacional para la Cultura Popular Retrieved May 28, 2010.
- "La Perla del Sur" news weekly, April 6–12, 2005.
- PR Encyclopedia
- PremiosPaoli.com XXX Aniversario de los Premios Paoli: Historia.
- Juan Llanes Santos, Historian, and State Historic Preservation Officer, Certifying Officer. State Historic Preservation Office (San Juan, Puerto Rico). August 11, 2009. In National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Registration Form - Casa Paoli. United States Department of the Interior. National Park Service. (Washington, D.C.) Listing Reference Number 09000769. August 12, 2009.
- Casa Paoli
- Video on YouTube. Retrieved May 28, 2010.