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Jaume Aragall i Garriga (Catalan pronunciation: [ˈʒawmə əɾəˈɣaʎ]; born 6 June 1939), better known as Giacomo Aragall, is a Spanish operatic tenor, considered one of the best ever, not just for the beauty of his voice but also for the wonderful way of singing and acting.
He made his debut in L'amico Fritz by Pietro Mascagni at La Scala when aged 23, the youngest tenor to make his debut there. He appeared in operas by Mascagni, Puccini, Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi, Massenet, Cilea, Gounod, Hindemith and Haydn. He also performed on all of the leading opera stages throughout the world such as in Milan, Rome, Berlin, the United States and Paris.
Early life and education
Aragall was born on 6 June 1939 in Barcelona. He became a member of the Choir of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar at the age of nine, and at the age of 19 he began his singing studies under the direction of Professor Jaime Francisco Puig. He made his debut at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in the 1961-1962 season in the roles of Arlecchino in Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo and Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti. Thanks to the economic support of the Board of Proprietors of the Gran Teatro del Liceu, he went to Milan to complete his studies with Professor Vladimiro Badiali. Within a few months he had won the first prize and the Gold Medal in the world famous International Competition “Voci Verdian” at Busseto.
Giacomo Aragall’s debut in a leading role was at the Gran Teatro La Fenice, Venice on 24 September 1963, in Verdi's opera Gerusalemme. The same year, at the age of 23, he debuted in Palermo and at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the youngest tenor ever to make his debut, in the operas L'amico Fritz by Pietro Mascagni, La bohème by Giacomo Puccini and Hindemith's Cardillac. In the nine months since his arrival in Milan, Aragall had embarked on a fully fledged international career. In the 1963-1964 season he returned to the Gran Teatro del Liceu, as first tenor. During the same season he performed in Venice, Genoa, Palermo, Parma, Modena, Naples, Rome, Turin and again at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, in a production of Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, in which he sang the role of Romeo with Renata Scotto as Giuletta and Luciano Pavarotti as Tebaldo. This was the first time Romeo had ever been sung by a tenor, since the role was originally written for Giuditta Grisi and performed by a mezzo-soprano. Luciano Pavarotti missed a cue, saying "I was so caught up in the beauty of Aragall's voice".
During his career Giacomo Aragall sang in all the leading opera theatres of the world: La Scala, Milan; Teatro Comunale, Bologna; Teatro dell’Opera, Rome; Teatro San Carlo, Naples; Teatro Bellini, Catania; Vienna State Opera; Hamburg; Munich; Bonn; Cologne; Berlin; Paris; Marseilles; Nice; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; Théâtre de la Monnaie, Bruxelles; Zürich; Budapest; Prague; Liceu, Barcelona; Madrid; Metropolitan Opera, New York; San Francisco; Washington; Chicago; Houston; Buenos Aires; Caracas; Tokyo; Hong Kong; Singapore and Cape Town.
He has worked with great conductors including Carlos Kleiber, Claudio Abbado, Georges Prêtre, Sir Georg Solti, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Colin Davis, Richard Bonynge, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Sylvain Cambreling, Lorin Maazel, Gianandrea Gavazzeni, Giuseppe Patanè, Zubin Mehta, Jesús López-Cobos, Rafael Frübeck de Burgos as well as with famous stage directors, such as Luchino Visconti, Otto Schenk, Jean Villar, Edoardo de Filippo, Franco Zeffirelli, Renato Castellani, Roman Polanski, Jean Pierre Ponnelle, Giancarlo del Monaco and Bob Wilson.
He has performed in the following operas: Le Pescatrici by Haydn, Lucia di Lammermoor, Lucrezia Borgia, La favorite and Caterina Cornaro by Donizetti; I Capuleti e i Montecchi by Bellini; Gerusalemme, La traviata, Rigoletto, Un ballo in maschera, Don Carlos and Simon Boccanegra by Verdi; La bohème, Madama Butterfly and Tosca by Puccini; Adriana Lecouvreur by Cilea; Faust by Gounod; Manon, Esclarmonde, and Werther by Massenet.
Jaume Aragall performed recitals and concerts, in leading concert halls such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Salle Pleyel, Paris, Vienna Staatsoper and Wiener Musikverein, Gran Teatre del Liceu and Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, Teatro Real of Madrid, Teatro de la Maestranza of Seville, Herculessaal in Munich, Deutsche Oper Berlin and Zürich Opernhaus.
His awards include Honorary Patron of the Orfeó Catalá Foundation, Cross of St George, Kammersänger from the Wiener Staatsoper, Gold Medal of the Fine Arts from the Spanish government and Doctor Honoris Causa, University of Girona. Aragall has a commitment to promote young singers and holds master classes all over the world. The first "Jaume Aragall International Singing Competition" took place in 1994 in Torroella de Montgri and now in Sabadell, Barcelona and Vienna. Giacomo Aragall makes international appearances in concerts and recitals.
"I loved him. He was the most real of all the tenors," said Richard Bonynge. "There was nothing phoney about his performances. Something always happened when he was onstage. You could believe in him utterly, apart from the fact that the voice itself was very, very beautiful. It had a quality that touched the heart, and you were never conscious of technique or anything. It was a very big lyric voice. But really lyric - very sort of silvery, but round, and affecting. It got to you."
Even the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti had recognized how good he was in the 60's. He mentioned once "I think there were three, Placido, Aragall and me, three very very good young tenor. I don't know if Aragall is still singing but he was probably the best of us".