Artist Profile: Franco Corelli, A Legendary Tenor

By David Salazar

Few tenors are as iconic as Franco Corelli.

Born on April 8, 1921  in Ancona, he initially set out to follow in the footsteps of his father and studied naval engineering at the University of Bologna. During his studies, he entered a vocal competition as an amateur singer and was encouraged to pursue his voice further. He entered the Pesaro Conservatory of Music, though he never enjoyed voice lessons and famously noted that he was self-taught as a singer.

In 1951, Corelli earned a debut at Spoleto and a year later he debuted in Rome. In 1953, he sang with Maria Callas for the first time and in 1954, he had his debut at La Scala. Over the ensuing years, he made debuts in Vienna, Berlin, San Francisco, and London.

In 1961, he debuted at the Metropolitan Opera, where he would sing for the ensuing 14 years. Upon retiring in 1976, he became a famed voice teacher, though he briefly came out of retirement to sing a few concerts in 1980 and 1981.

He died in 2003, leaving a legacy as one of the greatest singers of all time. He was particularly venerated for the intensity in his singing as well as the perfect upper range and his ability to decrescendo from forte singing to very delicate sound.

Signature Role

To just name one with Corelli is pretty challenging. He delivered iconic moments in practically every single opera that he interpreted. Whether that be his incredibly prolonged High A sharp on “Vittoria” in “Tosca” or his intensity in such operas as “Andrea Chénier,” “Cavalleria Rusticana,” “Il Trovatore” or his famed “Vincero” in “Turandot,” Corelli is a reference for nearly every single opera he ever sang.

That’s the mark of a legend and Corelli was that dominant in everything he did, spanning bel canto operas of Donizetti and Bellini to the verismo operas of Mascagni, Puccini, and Giordano.

Read More on Corelli

Corelli’s Interpretation of ‘La Gioconda’

A Quiz Testing Your Knowledge of Corelli’s Career

Watch and Listen

Here is an album of four hours worth of Corelli.

Here are some clips of Corelli’s famed high notes.


Opera Wiki