Francesco Tamagno (tenor) was born in Turin in 1850. After singing in the choir, and also a few minor roles, at the Teatro Regio in Turin he sang his first major role in Palermo in 1874 (Riccardo in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera). His international debut was at Barcelona in 1875, and he subsequently made many appearances at La Scala, Milan and at other Italian theatres. He was chosen (over Verdi's objections) to create the role of Otello in 1887, which paved the way for an international career: he sang Otello in London, Chicago, New York and many other countries.

His voice was was powerful and well-toned, though he had little acting ability and, particularly in his later years, a tendency to sing loudly all the time (a flaw not unknown in some modern tenors). He retired in 1904 and died the following year.

MORTE D'OTELLO ('Otello') (Verdi)
HMV 52674 recorded 1903

Not to get over-romantic, but consider what you are hearing: the creator of one of the most famous roles in opera, coming to us with remarkable clarity and vividness across over a hundred and fifteen years. Though at the end of his career, with the voice past its best, this is still a gripping performance. The transfer has been made at the speed indicated in the HMV catalogue, 74rpm: this brings it out a semitone flat, which would be an expected transposition given the age of the performer (and certainly any higher sounds wrong). The recording has been digitally noise reduced (see the note on the introduction page). Incidentally, the 1914 catalogue prices this record at 1 - no small sum of money at the time. Click here to see the label - a yellow-green reserved for the top celebrities.

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