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Lionello Cecil (Tenor) (Waverley, Sydney 1893 – St Leonards, Sydney 1957)




He was born on 20 September 1893 at Waverley, Sydney, and registered as Lionel Cecil, son of Abraham Robert Sherwood, a senior sergeant of police, and his wife Kate, née Heagan, both from Ireland. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, Cecil studied singing with Hector Fleming and made his concert début on 30 September 1912. His next teacher Andrew Black encouraged him to study abroad and Cecil left for Europe in March 1914 after giving a concert at Sydney Town Hall. That year he won a scholarship to the Verdi Regio Conservatorio, Milan, Italy, and from 1916 studied with Mario Pieraccini. Adopting the stage name 'Lionello Cecil', he made his opera début in 1918 at the Storchi Theatre, Modena, as the Duke in Rigoletto. He rapidly established himself as a leading operatic tenor of the Italian provincial houses. In London on a concert tour, on 21 June 1923 at the register office, Paddington, he married Argia Armanda Giustina Mattioni, a ballet dancer from Trieste, Italy. For almost fifteen years Cecil gave hundreds of performances in such places as Pisa, San Remo, Parma, Verona and Bergamo. He made occasional appearances at more famous opera houses, including the Dal Verme and the Lirico, at Milan, with seasons at La Fenice, Venice (1921, 1925) and at the Costanzi, Rome (1925). Having toured South America in 1926, he sang next year with an Italian opera company in Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Spain. In 1931 he appeared at Nice and Marseilles, France. His recording career had begun in 1919 with discs made acoustically in England for Pathé. He sang tenor lead in the first microphone recording of La Traviata (Italian Columbia, 1928) and in Madama Butterfly (Italian His Master's Voice, 1929-30), and made his last recordings in 1942 (Columbia, Australia): these discs reveal a powerful lyric tenor and singing characterized by intelligence rather than virtuosity. Under contract to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in September 1933 Cecil returned to Australia; in 1933-34 he sang the lead in all but one of eighteen broadcast operas. He did studio and concert work across the country for the A.B.C. until 1942, and taught his own pupils (including Ken Neate) in Sydney. After touring New Zealand in 1937, Cecil sang Alfred Hill's music in Ken Hall's film, The Broken Melody (1938). As a military censor during World War II, Cecil interpreted for Italian prisoners of war interned at Cowra. From 1942 he appeared as 'Lionel Cecil'. At the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music in July 1944 he sang Canio in Pagliacci, in what was probably his farewell to the stage. The master of some fifty operatic roles (of which Faust in Boito's Mefistofele was his favourite), Cecil possessed 'great personal charm and impeccable manners', and was an amiable, unpretentious man who enjoyed playing cards; stockily built, he had dark, receding hair, somewhat heavy features and a florid complexion. In the early 1950s his health deteriorated. Predeceased by his wife and survived by their son, he died of constrictive pericarditis on 13 November 1957 at St Leonards, Sydney, and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Chronology of some appearances

1916 Brescia Teatro Sociale Rigoletto (Duca)
1917 Firenze Teatro Della Pergola Rigoletto (Duca)
1918 Sanremo Teatro Principe Amedeo Don Pasquale (Ernesto)
1919 Vicenza Teatro Eretenio Manon (De Grieux)
1921 Pesaro Teatro Rossini Manon (De Grieux)
1922 Como Teatro Sociale Rigoletto (Duca)
1923 Genova Teatro Paganini Rigoletto (Duca)
1924 Firenze Teatro Alhambra Mefistofele (Faust)
1925 Venezia Teatro La Fenice Mefistofele (Faust)
1926 Parma Teatro Regio Faust (Faust)
1927 Bergamo Teatro Donizetti Mefistofele (Faust)
1928 Livorno Politeama Rigoletto (Duca)
1929 Genova Teatro Carlo Felice Mefistofele (Faust)
1930 Milano Teatro Lirico Traviata (Alfredo)
1931 Parma Politeama Reinach Lucia di Lammermoor (Edgardo)
1932 Milano Teatro Lirico Mefistofele (Faust)
1933 Milano Teatro Lirico Barbiere di Siviglia (Almaviva)
1934 Sidney Australian Broadcasting Faust (Faust)
1935 Sidney Australian Broadcasting Boris Godunov (Shuinski)
1936 Melbourne Wilson Hall Manon Lescaut (De Grieux)
1937 Lugano Vecchio Oratorio Maschile Betly (Daniele)


Mefistofele: Giunto sull passo estremo Columbia  D 6031 b 2452
Mefistofele: Colma il tuo cuor Columbia D 5300 b 930
La Boheme: O soave fanciulla with Cesarina Valobra Odeon O-6838 b
La Boheme: Qaurtetto with Cesarina Valobra, A. Fiori, Carlo Martinengo Odeon O-6838 a
Cavalleria rusticana:  Siciliana O Lola, pretty one Zonophone G.O.65. X-4-42715
Cavalleria rusticana: See the merry wine is winking Zonophone G.O.60. X-4-42570
Manon Lescaut: Never did I behold so fair a maiden Zonophone G.O.65. X-4-42716
Don Pasquale: Sogno soave e casto Columbia D 5290 b 937
Don Pasquale: Come gentil Columbia  D 5290 b 933
Fedora:  Amor ti vieta Gramophone R 10346 100-817
Fedora:  Vedi, io piango Gramophone R 10346 100-816
I Pescatore di Perle:  Mi par d'udire ancora Columbia  D16411 BX13
I Puritani: A te, o cara Columbia DQ 250 b 939
La Boheme:  Mimi e tanto malata Columbia D 6031 b 2461
L'elisir d'amore:  Quanto e  bella Columbia D 5284 b 931
L'elisir d'amore: Una furtive lagrima Columbia  D 5284 b 932
Lucrezia Borgia:  Di pescatore ignobile Columbia D 5300 b 951
Manon: Ah! dispar vision Columbia   DQ254 B2473
Rigoletto: E’ il sol dell anima Columbia  DQ254 B946
Tosca: When the stars were brightly shining Zonophone G.O.60  X-4-42571 
La Gioconda: Laggiu nelle nebbie remote with Irene Minghini-Cattaneo Gramophone DB 1432 32-1437
Madama Butterfly:  Addio fiorito asil with Vittorio Weinberg HMV S. 1024
La Favorita: Pietoso al par d'un nume with Irene Minghini-Cattaneo Gramophone DB 1441 32-1440
You'll come home again Brahe Columbia DO-2435 CT1934
One song is in my heart Cripps Columbia DO-2435 CT1935
A prayer Keyes Columbia DO-2434  CT1936
Dreams at eventide Columbia DO-2434 CT1937


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