Apollo Granforte

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Apollo Granforte (20 July 1886, Legnano – 11 June 1975, Milan) was an Italian opera singer and one of the leading baritones active during the inter-war period of the 20th century.

Early years and education[edit]

At 9 o'clock on the morning of July 22, 1886, when Granforte was two days old, he was left in a basket at the Ospedale Civile in Legnano (Leghorn), wrapped and wearing a bonnet to which a brass medal was attached by white cotton thread.[1] The nuns at the hospice remarked on his large body and strong profile and thus dubbed him Apollinare Granforte,[2] the name which the president Giovanni Tebon wrote down in the hospice's official records. He was adopted by Gaetano Brigo and Rosa Uccelli, a couple from Noventa Vicentina. At nine years old, he was an apprentice cobbler and enjoyed acting and singing at the small theater in town. At 16 he sang tenor in Lucia di Lammermoor, put on by a small company that traveled the countryside and performed in town squares.

On October 5, 1905, Granforte married eighteen-year-old Amabile Frison. They had a daughter, Maria, in the same year and emigrated to Buenos Aires in Argentina to be with Granforte's brother Erminio Brigo. He continued to work as a shoemaker, and on Sundays sang for the Italian immigrants in local taverns. There he was heard by a wealthy music lover named Pedro Valmagia (aka Pietro Balmaggia), who paid for him to study at the La Prensa Conservatory of Buenos Aires. He then transferred to the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in the same city, studying with masters Nicholas (Nicola?) Guerrera and Guido Capocci.

Granforte made his stage debut in Rosario, as Germont, in 1913 when he was 27. In that same year he debuted in a concert in La Plata, singing "Eri tu" from Un ballo in maschera and the "Ciel! mio padre" duet from Aida with a soprano student at the Verdi Conservatory in La Plata.[3]

In 1913, at the age of 27, Granforte made his stage debut as Germont at the Rosario Politeama. His success there led to successive engagements at other provincial theatres in Buenos Aires. By 1915 he had also appeared at the Buenos Aires Politeama, the Solis of Montevideo and at Pelotas, Rio Grande and Porto Allegre in Brazil. In one four-week period at Montevideo he sang Silvio in Pagliacci, Marcello in La bohème, Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana, Germont in Traviata, Enrico in Lucia, Rigoletto, Barnaba in La Gioconda, Valentin in Faust, Amonasro in Aida, and Alfonso in La favorita.

While still in Argentina, Granforte and Frison had two more daughters, Ofelia and Leonora. At the outbreak of World War I, Granforte and family returned to Italy sponsored by Valmagia, who had earlier helped the baritone begin his studies. Granforte enlisted at Parma as a grenadier, but became ill and was found unsuitable for the front lines. He then toured the war zone entertaining the Italian troops, alongside Alessandro Bonci and Elvira de Hidalgo.


After the war, while Granforte was singing at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, his fourth daughter, Costanza, was born. The director of the Opera, Emma Carelli, sent Granforte to Milan for finishing touches in his vocal technique and repertoire. He studied there with the bass Luigi Lucenti and coach Tullio Voghera.

In 1919, Granforte was at Naples and there met composer Pietro Mascagni. They became lifelong friends and collaborators, the latter always choosing the former as lead baritone when he conducted. In 1921, the impresario Lusardi introduced Granforte to La Scala in Milan. Conductor Arturo Toscanini entrusted the role of Amfortas to him, and in 1921 he made his debut there. In 1924, he went to Australia on a successful tour with Nellie Melba. During Granforte's subsequent tour of Australia in J. C. Williamson's 1932 Grand Opera season, Frank Thring Sr.'s Melbourne-based Efftee Productions filmed him with the Williamson-Imperial Grand Opera Company in a selection from Rossini's The Barber of Seville. This relatively brief footage was released on VHS in 1989 by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

Granforte possessed a big, rich, vibrant voice with a sinister undertone, and quickly established himself in the great baritone roles of Verdi and the verismo composers. He sang some Wagner as well, and also sang the title role in the first performance of Mascagni's Nerone in 1935. His last operatic appearance, after a career of ~ 1,800 performances, was on February 26, 1943 in Pizzetti's Fedra at Trieste's Teatro Verdi.

After retiring from the stage, he taught at the Music Conservatory of Ankara, then at the Prague Opera and in Milan, where he opened a music school at his residence on Via Arici in the Crescenzago section. Among his pupils were soprano Leyla Gencer, bass Raffaele Arié, and tenors Flaviano Labò and Jesús Quiñones Ledesma. He participated in musical life into his 80s, and was often an adjudicator for music competitions. Besides his musical life Granforte was also a successful businessman, inventing a kind of rotating or swiveling lamp in the process. Along with business partner Luigi Devizzi he owned the factory that produced these lamps, as well as a farm, both situated at a large villa in the Milan suburb of Gorgonzola, where he died on June 11, 1975.

Granforte can be heard on HMV early-electrical 78-rpm recordings of Il trovatore, Otello, Pagliacci and Tosca. He also recorded 78-rpm discs of individual arias and duets in the 1920s and 1930s, and the best of these have been reissued on a Preiser CD anthology. He is considered to have been one of the great Italian baritones of the 1920s and 1930s, alongside tMariano Stabile, Carlo Galeffi, Cesare Formichi, Carlo Tagliabue, Benvenuto Franci and Mario Basiola.


Roles displayed in bold type were created by Granforte in their world premiere.

Sortable table
Composer Surname Composer Opera/Oratorio Role
Arrieta Emilio Arrieta Marina Roque
Bellini Vincenzo Bellini I puritani Riccardo
Berlioz Hector Berlioz La damnation de Faust Méphistophélès
Bizet Georges Bizet Carmen Escamillo
Bizet Georges Bizet Les pêcheurs de perles Zurga
Boero Felipe Boero El matrero Don Liborio
Bucceri Gianni Bucceri Marken Il campanaro
Campos Carlos de Campos Um caso singular Carvalho Lopes
Catalani Alfredo Catalani La Wally Gellner
Catalani Alfredo Catalani Loreley Hermann
Cattozzo Nino Cattozzo I misteri gaudiosi Giuseppe
Cilea Francesco Cilea L'arlesiana Baldassare
Donizetti Gaetano Donizetti Don Pasquale Dr. Malatesta
Donizetti Gaetano Donizetti La favorita Alfonso
Donizetti Gaetano Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor Enrico
Gazzotti Luigi Gazzotti Lo zingaro cieco Lucio
Giordano Umberto Giordano Andrea Chenier Carlo Gérard
Giordano Umberto Giordano Fedora De Siriex
Giordano Umberto Giordano La cena delle beffe Neri Chiaramantesi
Giordano Umberto Giordano Siberia Gleby
Giuranna Barbara Giuranna Jamanto Jusuf
Gounod Charles Gounod Faust Valentin
Krenek Ernst Křenek Cefalo e Procri Crono
Landi Lamberto Landi Il Pergolese Enzo Spinelli
Leoncavallo Ruggero Leoncavallo I pagliacci Silvio
Leoncavallo Ruggero Leoncavallo I pagliacci Tonio
Leoncavallo Ruggero Leoncavallo Gli Zingari Tamar
Liviabella Lino Liviabella Antigone Creonte
Lualdi Adriano Lualdi La figlia del re Svarga
Malipiero Gian Francesco Malipiero Giulio Cesare Bruto
Mascagni Pietro Mascagni Cavalleria Rusticana Alfio
Mascagni Pietro Mascagni Isabeau Re Raimondo
Mascagni Pietro Mascagni L'amico Fritz David
Mascagni Pietro Mascagni Le maschere Capitan Spaventa
Mascagni Pietro Mascagni Lodoletta Giannotto
Mascagni Pietro Mascagni Nerone Menecrate
Mascagni Pietro Mascagni Parisina Nicolò d'Este
Massenet Jules Massenet Thaïs Anthanaël
Montemezzi Italo Montemezzi Hellera Schauwalki
Montemezzi Italo Montemezzi La nave Sergio Gràtico
Montemezzi Italo Montemezzi La notte di Zoraima Pedrito
Montemezzi Italo Montemezzi L'amore dei tre re Manfredo
Mulè Giuseppe Mulè Dafni Sileno
Mussorgsky Modest Mussorgsky Boris Godunov Boris
Offenbach Jacques Offenbach Les contes d'Hoffmann Coppelius/Miracle/Dapertutto
Pahissa Jaume Pahissa La princesa Margarida [unknown]
Persico Mario Persico Morenita Ribera
Pizzetti Ildebrando Pizzetti Fedra Teseo
Pizzetti Ildebrando Pizzetti Lo straniero Scedeur
Ponchielli Amilcare Ponchielli La gioconda Barnaba
Puccini Giacomo Puccini La bohème Marcello
Puccini Giacomo Puccini La fanciulla del West Jack Rance
Puccini Giacomo Puccini Il tabarro Michele
Puccini Giacomo Puccini Tosca Scarpia
Respighi Ottorino Respighi Lucrezia Sesto Tarquinio
Respighi Ottorino Respighi Maria egiziaca Abbate Zosimo/Pellegrino
Robbiani Igino Robbiani Guido del popolo Oliverotto
Rossini Gioacchino Rossini Il barbiere di Siviglia Figaro
Seppilli Armando Seppilli La nave rossa Ardì
Saint-Saëns Camille Saint-Saëns Samson et Dalila High Priest of Dagon
Strauss Richard Strauss Salome Jochanaan
Trentinaglia Eraldo Trentinaglia Rosamunda [unknown]
Verdi Giuseppe Verdi Aïda Amonasro
Verdi Giuseppe Verdi Un ballo in maschera Renato
Verdi Giuseppe Verdi La forza del destino Don Carlo di Vargas
Verdi Giuseppe Verdi Rigoletto Rigoletto
Verdi Giuseppe Verdi La traviata Germont
Verdi Giuseppe Verdi Il trovatore Conte Di Luna
Viña Facundo de la Viña La espigadora [unknown]
Vittadini Franco Vittadini Caracciolo Alì
Wagner Richard Wagner Götterdämmerung Gunther
Wagner Richard Wagner Lohengrin Telramund
Wagner Richard Wagner Parsifal Amfortas
Wagner Richard Wagner Parsifal Klingsor
Wagner Richard Wagner Siegfried Wanderer
Wagner Richard Wagner Tannhaüser Wolfram
Wagner Richard Wagner Tristan und Isolde Kurwenal
Wolf-Ferrari Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari Le donne curiose Pantalone


  1. ^ Zanoli, Ivano (October 2011). "Legnaghesi Famosi - Apollinare Granforte (Apollo in Arte) - Baritono" (PDF). Il Basso Adige (10): 8. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  2. ^ Ledesma, Jésus Quiñones. "Thanks to my friends Tom Silverborg.." Facebook. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  3. ^ Rideout, Bob. "Some historical updates - Granforte, Burzio, De Angelis". Opera-L. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 


  • Grove Music Online, J.B. Steane, Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Ledesma, Jesús Quiñones. Posts by former Granforte student on his personal and public Facebook pages, 2010–2013.
  • Rideout, Bob. "Apollo Granforte", The Record Collector: A Magazine for Collectors of Recorded Vocal Art, volume 41, no. 4, 1996.
  • Rideout, Bob. Posts on the Opera-L listserv, April 1999.
  • Zanoli, Ivano. "Legnaghesi Famosi - Apollinare Granforte (Apollo in Arte) - Baritono," Il Basso Adige, no. 10, October 2011.