Almaviva’s serenade from Il barbiere di Siviglia
Andrea Maggi is a name unknown to opera buffs - for the perfectly good reason that he wasn’t an opera singer. He was a well-known stage actor who lived from 1850 to 1914, but with a reputation as a musicista dilettante di molto valore - a very good amateur musician. I’ll say! Among the descriptions of his singing is an account of how he performed the entrance aria and death scene of Verdi’s Otello between the acts of plays in which he appeared.
In 1904 Maggi made a few recordings for the Zonophone company by the primitive acoustical recording process. Here is one of them: Almaviva’s serenade from Il barbiere di Siviglia. It could serve as a model. The voice is sunny and bright but substantial, and youthful-sounding at age fifty-four. The skill at passing from chest voice to head voice is anything but “amateurish.” The ornamentation is bold, and the rhythm alternates lyricism with an impetuosity that is perfect for the character of the Count.
Teatro Nuovo puts great emphasis on learning from the singers who had never heard, or heard of, microphone singing - primitive recordings from more than a century ago, forming a link to the traditions of opera’s heyday and the infinite potential of the natural, unassisted human voice. Check this space regularly for samples, and click here for some pointers on how to listen.