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Giovanni Battista De Negri (Tenor) (Nizza Monferrato, Piemonte 1850 -Torino 1924)




He was born at Nizza Monferrato in 1850. Son of a business family, probably he would never have discovered that he had a fine voice were it not that he sang a snatch from Marchetti's Ruy Bias one night in Alessandria, for his friends' amusement. The applause which greeted this unlooked-for revelation induced Dc Negri to begin serious study. In 1878, after two years, he made his debut in Poliuto at Bergamo.
The great operatic stages were at that time reserved for those tenors with prodigious voices, whose very names, to the opera-crazy, were charged with dynamite: Fancelli, Sani, Aramburo, Perotic, Mierzwiski, Niccolini. Then there was Tamagno, not yet Otello, but already the most powerful, titanic and exciting of all. The admiration in which the public held these colossi or, to be more precise, these stupendous voices (for none of the seven were, artistically speaking, interpreters of magical skill) made the path of a young dramatic tenor very thorny. Dc Negri was in fact forced to confine himself to the brushwood and thickets of provincial theatres, and when, after five years of Norma, Ballo in Maschera and Aida in the Veneto countryside and the secondary towns of AustroHungary, he arrived finally at the Sari Carlo of Naples (January, 1884), he almost felt that his career was over. This difficult and reserved public received the young tenor's Lucrezia Borgia with hostility. However, when De Negri sang in Traviata things were better, and contracts for the Fenice, for the Regio of Turin and the Reale of Madrid followed. The next two splendid years were due to this one Neapolitan success, achieved at the expense of so much effort. Fame came a little late. It came when it was realised that to become a protagonist for Oteilo was a desperate venture. Even the great Stagno was defeated by this terrible role. But De Negri defied it. He had a full, magnificent middle register, and if his high notes were not comparable with those of Tamagno, the impassioned vigour of his singing and acting restored the equilibrium. In the Death Scene, in fact, Dc Negri proved the victor.
The records of the tenor Dc Negri are amongst the rarest of all in the collecting world and, again, IRCC are to be congratulated upon their" find" ; it was re-recorded from a practically mint-condition Zonophone of 1902 in which he sings part of the final scene from .Wornia - Ah troppo tardi t'ho conosciutawith a powerful and well-controlled voice. Judging by what we hear on this record Dc Negri must have been an exceptionally fine tenor, for it is a rare experience to hear such singing . . a verification of the oft-repeated assertion as to the superiority of the great voices of the past over those we hear today. Having listened to practically all the great tenors of the early 1900's I am of the opinion that, with the single exception of the immortal Caruso, De Negri's voice - as heard here - is the finest within my experience. I can pay him no greater compliment.

Chronology of some appearances

1876 Bergamo Teatro Riccardi Poliuto (Poliuto)
1879 Agram  Teatro Nazionale Ugonotti (Raoul)
1880 Livorno Teatro Floridi Norma (Pollione)
1883 Messina  Teatro Vittorio Emanuele Favorita (Fernando)
1889 Torino Teatro Regio Gioconda (Enzo)
1883 Messina  Teatro Vittorio Emanuele Ernani (Ernani)
1885 Vienna Carl Theater Rigoletto (Duke)
1887 Torino  Teatro Regio Otello (Otello)
1888 Genova Teatro Carlo Felice Otello (Otello)
1888 Torino  Teatro Regio Tannhauser (Tannhauser)
1889 Torino  Teatro Regio Gioconda (Enzo)
1889 Genova Teatro Carlo Felice Otello (Otello)
1899 Buenos Aires Opera Ernani (Ernani)
1899 Montevideo  Teatro Solis Ernani (Ernani)
1890 Bologna  Teatro del Corso Cavalleria rusticana (Turiddu)
1891 San Pietroburgo Teatro Hunter  Ernani (Ernani)
1891 San Pietroburgo Teatro Hunter  Gioconda (Enzo)
1891 Milano  Teatro  La  Scala Tannhauser (Tannhauser)
1892 Trieste  Teatro Verdi  Tannhauser (Tannhauser)
1895 Milano Teatro alla Scala Guglielmo Ratcliff (Guglielmo)
1895 Brescia Teatro Grande Guglielmo Ratcliff (Guglielmo)
1895 Genova Teatro  Carlo Felice Tannhauser (Tannhauser)
1896 Genova Teatro Carlo Felice Guglielmo Ratcliff (Guglielmo)
1896 Milano Teatro alla Scala Guglielmo Ratcliff (Guglielmo)
1897 Trieste Teatro Verdi Tannhauser (Tannhauser)



Otello: Niun mi tema Zonophone X-1561
Asra (Rubinstein) Zonophone  X-1563
Norma: Ah troppo tardi Zonophone X-1564
Otello: Ora e per sempre addio Zonophone X-1566




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