Get every week all new releases

Lebendige Vergangenheit - Nicola Rossi-Lemeni

Artist Nicola Rossi - Lemeni
Title Lebendige Vergangenheit - Nicola Rossi-Lemeni
Release Date 2006-08-18
Genre Classical > Choro
Copyright © Preiser Records

Promotion Text

Lebendige Vergangenheit

„A life like mine led Andre Chenier to the scaffold: born in Istanbul, and thus a foreigner; a student, although not in Saint-Cyr, but in Padua; a soldier and finally a poet, and thus a subversive with regards to manners and decency. Fortunately, between my military service and my attempts at poetry, I was an opera singer - and that more or less gave me the freedom to do as I like." When Nicola Rossi-Lemeni introduced himself with these words at the University of Indiana in Bloomington in 1980, he bad found just the right tone of voice for America: expertise combined with self-mockery is still considered the highest form of intellectual agility there; And yet the great singer had no real need to prove himself. His intelligence was recognized throughout the world, including the US, the result of guest appearances in San Francisco, Chicago and New York. In his home country of Italy, Rossi-Lemeni was no more a foreigner than Andre Chenier was in France at the time. Like Chenier, he was born in Istanbul - on 7 November 1920 - but the son of an Italian father and a Russian mother. He received his first vocal instruction from his mother, Xenia Marcadon, who had once taught voice at the conservatory in: Odessa. He first studied law in Padua, but after receiving bis doctorate he took a few final voice lessons from Fusinati in Verona before launching his career as Varlaam on 1 May 1946 in Venice. A short time later he was so successful singing King Philip in Trieste that he was hired to open the first post-war festival in the Arena von Verona, singing the role of Ramphis on 1 August 1946, and he was engaged there again in 1947. In addition, the conductor Sergio Failoni hired him along with such celebrities as Geori-Boue, Janine Micheau, Mafalda Favero, the Konetzni sisters, Max Lorenz, Luigi lnfantino, Galliano Masini and an unknown soprano named Maria Callas for a season in Chicago. The ensemble arrived in the United States in February 1947, but the company that bad hired them was insolvent even before the first performance. That was not a problem for most of the promi- - nent singers - some of them had lucrative contracts in North and South America - but it was a catastrophe for Callas. Rossi-Lemeni was the only one of her colleagues to take an interest in her welfare, and he also recognised her talent. In New York he met the director of the Verona Arena, Giovanni Zenatello, who was looking for a soprano to sing La Gioconda. Rossi-Lemeni arranged for the dejected Callas to audition for him and later also for the conductor Tullio Serafin, leading to her engagement in Verona and to the beginning of a great career as La Gioconda, which she first sang there on 2 August 1947. The version cited today by Callas biographers in which Rossi­ Lemeni was given the privilege of singing Alvise in the same production is almost a distortion of history. The opposite is rather the case: it was to her already established colleague that Callas owed this first and decisive opportunity. But for Rossi-Lemeni as well, the Verona festival of 1947 provided a breakthrough that launched bis global career. As Mephistopheles he developed a kind of comprehensive all-embracing music and dramatic performance that had neither been seen in Italy before him nor was seen again after him. From a purely vocal point of view, he was superior to most of his competitors at the time. Cesare Siepi and Boris Christoff, who were later to become more famous than Rossi-Lemeni, did not come close to matching the natural power of his mighty bass-baritone voice. Giulio Neri was at best a match for him in this respect, but had neither his vocal brilliance nor his compelling stage personality. For ten years Rossi-Lemeni remained one of the leading Italian singer actors. He sang his first and only Wagnerian role in 13 May 1948 in Genoa: King Mark with Max Lorenz and Maria Callas as partners. On 26 December 1948, he opened the Roman season as the title hero in Rossini's Mose in Egitto. On 9 February 1949, he appeared at La Scala in Milan as Ivan Khovansky in Musorgsky's Khovanshchina and sang the same role two weeks later at Teatro della Fenice in Venice. The celebrated conductor Tullio Serafin, who had made his conducting debut in Venice in 1946, became his fatherly friend, patron - and father-in-law: in 1949 Rossi­ Lemeni married the conductor's daughter Victoria Serafin. In the summer of 1949 he performed for the first time at Teatro Colon in BuenosAires. In Florence he added Boris Godunov in 1950 and Don Giovanni in 1951 to his repertoire. Along with Mephisto in the Faust versions by Boito and Gounod, his showpiece role became Boris Godunov, which he sang in English, Italian and Russian. In 1951 he sang the role in Buenos Aires and San Francisco and in 1952 at London's Covent Garden Opera. In 1953 he performed his three most important stage roles at the Metropolitan Opera: Mephistopheles, Boris Godunov and Don Giovanni. Rossi-Lemeni began having vocal difficulties in the mid-1950s, but that hardly affected his career, because the intensity of his acting continued to make every stage appearance an experience for the audience. The highlight of his career came on 1 March 1958 at La Scala in the premiere of Pizzetti's L'Assassinio nella cattedrale. In the role of Thomas Beckett, Rossi-Lemeni for several years brought a fame to the work worldwide that it quickly lost again when he no longer sang it. In 1965, Rossi-Lemeni began working as a stage director as well, but he continued to sing until the late 1970s, making his final recordings in 1977. He also made a name for himself as a poet and writer in volumes of poetry such as Impeti and Le Orme as well as through his contributions to literary magazines in Italy and America. In 1980, he was hired to teach voice at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, along with his second wife, the soprano Virginia Zeani, whom he had married in 1959. He died in Bloomington on 12 March 1991.