Emilio De Marchi

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Emilio De Marchi as Cavaradossi, a role that he created in 1900.

Emilio De Marchi (Italian pronunciation: [eˈmiljo deˈmarki]; January 6, 1861 – March 20, 1917) was an Italian operatic tenor. He had a significant career during the late 19th century and early 20th century, appearing at major theatres on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1900, he entered the annals of musical history as the creator of the role of Cavaradossi in Giacomo Puccini's Tosca. Today, however, he is largely forgotten because unlike many of his contemporaries, he did not leave a legacy of commercial gramophone or phonograph recordings.

Singing career[edit]

De Marchi came from Northern Italy's Lombardy region; he was born in Voghera. His voice was discovered during military service and he received professional singing lessons. In 1886, He made his operatic debut in Milan, at the Teatro Dal Verme, as Alfredo in Giuseppe Verdi's La traviata. Over the next few years he appeared at leading houses throughout Italy and Spain and was a member of a distinguished Italian operatic company which visited Buenos Aires in 1890.

He debuted at Italy's leading opera house, La Scala, Milan, in 1898 as Stolzing in an Italian-language version of Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger. He proved a success at La Scala and was chosen by the composer Puccini to sing the coveted role of Cavaradossi in the first performance of Tosca, which occurred at Rome's Teatro Costanzi on January 14, 1900. (A rising young tenor star named Enrico Caruso, 12 years De Marchi's junior, had hoped to create Cavaradossi; but in the end, Puccini, although greatly impressed by Caruso's voice, decided to entrust the part to the more experienced singer.)

De Marchi sang Cavaradossi again at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1901. Cavaradossi was also his debut role the following year at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. During his New York sojourn, he sang the title role in the premiere Met production of Verdi's Ernani, which was mounted in 1903. His other Met roles were Radames, Alfredo, Rodolfo, Riccardo, Turiddu, Canio and Don Jose.

He returned to Italy and, in addition to a number of mainstream Italian operatic parts, sang Max in Weber's Der Freischütz and Licinius in Spontini's La Vestale during his final seasons at La Scala. Milan was the scene of his death at the early age of 56.

De Marchi did not make any commercial recordings but he can be heard clearly in a few fragments from Tosca that were made on cylinders during a live performance at the Met in January 1903, with soprano Emma Eames as Tosca and baritone Antonio Scotti as Scarpia, and Luigi Mancinelli conducting. Despite the primitive quality of these Mapleson Cylinders, De Marchi's lyric-dramatic voice sounds strong, steady and attractive, and it rings out impressively in the opera's Torture Scene. He is also audible in excerpts from Ernani, Aida and Cavalleria Rusticana (the latter with soprano Emma Calvé).

The Mapleson Cylinder fragments have been re-issued on CD by Symposium Records (catalogue number 1284).

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