Amelita Galli-Curci, born on Nov. 18, 1882, was one of the greatest singers of her era and continues to be revered as one of the finest of all time.
And it isn’t hard to see why. Her technique was impeccable and to this day she remains one of the shining examples of exquisite vocal phrasing and overall polish. Just pop in a recording from this singer and all you get is pure vocal gold. Her interpretations are radically different from modern-day, owing mainly to the era of her stardom, and yet they can never be defined as outdated. There is always something exciting to find in a Galli-Curci recording, perhaps moreso than any other artist of the era. Here are just a few shining examples of the soprano’s glorious art.
I can bet that you have never heard quite an interpretation like Galli-Curci’s of the famed cabaletta. For an aria with the text “Always free” kicking it off, it is rather surprising that so few sopranos these days don’t quite take those words quite as literally as Galli-Curci. Of course you might argue that musical approaches and fidelity to score is quite popular these days, but it is still astounding to hear this soprano not only shift about with tempi and ornamentation and to cap it all off with an extended cadenza before hitting an endless (and enthralling) high E flat.
The Lucia Di Lammermoor Mad Scene
Known for her bird-like vocal qualities, there is still a lot to be said for the way that Galli-Curci infuses her sound with a tremor-like quality in the opening lines of this recording, giving off the eerie feeling of a woman gone mad. Of course, her trademark extended notes figure into all this as well, giving the piece a sense of rhapsody that only she managed. Also worth noting is the tempo that she takes in her interpretation. Despite taking great freedom with rubati and extended notes throughout, she actually sings the scene at a rather accelerated tempo, giving it a sense of ever-forward moving, the sense of inevitability rather potent. She doesn’t even slow down for the cadenza, giving it an unmatched vibrancy and wildness. And let’s not ignore that incredible trill that caps the first section.
“Ah! Non Credea Mirarti”
Another famed Bel Canto showcase, the beauty of this excerpt is simply listening to the soprano essentially glide through the opening aria. The singing is delicate, every single phrase of the lament heart-breaking. No note is taken for granted and even when she does throw in her idiosyncratic ornaments, they are in excellent taste and appropriate to the emotionality of the phrase. Just listen for yourself.