The voice of Tino Pattiera

Promotion Text

Lebendige Vergangenheit

When asked what really constituted a good singer, Rossini is said to have replied that three important preconditions were required: voice, voice and voice. Nowadays, in the era of the "aware singer", when frequently empathy, interpretation and stylistic fidelity are valued more highly than the vocal material itself, Rossini's claim may seem pure hubris. Nevertheless, it would seem certain that even in our times a phenomenal vocal talent like Tino Pattiera would easily gain victory over any and all highfalutin interpretation speculations. Pattiera was a singer 'per se', the possessor of a voice that only nature could grant, unperturbed by stylistic or spiritual problems. To compensate he managed the greatest effects with the divine gift of a splendid, powerful voice, the passion and impulsivity of his renditions. Tino Pattiera was born on June 27, 1890 in Ragusa, the fourth child of extremely poor parents. His adolescence was hard and he initially started studying medicine, subsequently going on to study law. As a student he came to Vienna and - not least because of his good looks and flamboyant temperament - was soon feted by the local aristocrats. As was the case with another famous tenor, Alfred Piccaver, the impetus to train his natural gifts thoroughly came from these circles. After a two-year study with Ritter v. Horboucki-Ranieri, Count Seebach engaged him to join the ensemble of the Dresden Court Opera, at the time one of the leading opera houses in Germany. He made his debut in 1916 as Manrico in "Trovatore", (The widely held belief that he made his debut as the First Armed Man in "The Magie Flute" is wrong). Pattiera's impact on the German cultural scene resembled that of a meteor. His youth, his Don Juanesque appearance, the glowing, masculine sound of his voice must have seemed the incarnation of all tenorial ideals. Pattiera's time in Dresden is tantamount to cultural history. The ideal ensemble art at this opera house, the high artistic standards, the German Verdi Renaissance that was launched here - all these aspects are closely associated with Pattiera's artistry. Yet mention must be made of the fact that the performances of this tenorial god varied in quality and it would seem justified to mention Fritz Busch's strictures as being characteristic: "At the apex of its development, the Dresden Opera also had one of the best partners for this soprano (Meta Seinemeyer, who died aged only 34)- an Alvaro, Don Carlos, Otello, Andrea Chenier, whose unique combination of voice and appearance would have turned him into a veritable icon, if an unfortunate temperament and a fateful character weakness had not prematurely terminated the career of this most beautiful of men on the German operatic stage." Pattiera's first Viennese guest appearance took place in 1919. Further engagements came about in 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926 and 1932. Between 1924-29 he regularly sang in Berlin, in 1921, 1922 at the Chicago Opera. He also appeared in Hamburg, Belgrade and Budapest. His artistic home throughout this time, however, was Dresden, where he remained a member of the ensemble until 1941. Subsequently life struck him several hard blows, his successes became ever more infrequent, his illnesses, the catastrophic political situation and conflicts with the German regime at the time forced him to leave for Prague. The following decade he spent in extremely sad circumstances. In 1950 he was called to teach at the Vienna Music Academy. He accepted the invitation but after a few years resigned his professorship. Subsequently he lived from private tuition and the financial support of his friends until the West German government granted him an honorary pension on the occasion of his 70th birthday. During the last years of his life he travelled to his home country and the cities of his former triumphs several times and in fact he died during a stay in the city of his birth on April 24, 1966. Pattiera's recordings, especially those made in the initial stages of his career, have preserved a voice of brazen splendor and fascinating color. His unrestrained histrionic temperament was evident even in the recording studio. An anecdote concerning the recording of the "Carmen" finale opposite his equally temperamental partner, Barbara Kemp, recounts that both actually had to be tied up to keep them within the range of the microphone. Pattiera's opera repertoire include twenty-five - exclusively main - roles. In the Verdi repertoire he sang Manrico, Duca, Riccardo, Alfredo, Alvaro, Don Carlos, Radames and Otello. Other Italian. roles included Turiddu, Canio, Pinkerton, Cavaradossi and Andrea Chenier. He sang both Des Grieux, Faust, Don Jose and Fra Diavolo. His Russian repertoire included Dimitri, Lenski and Hermann in "Pique Dame". In the German repertoire he appeared as Bacchus, Erik and Tannhäuser. He also sang operetta ("Bettel­ student") and appeared in films ("Fra Diavolo" and "A Night in Venice").