Few tenors can boast the vocal technique and agility of Alfredo Kraus.
Born on Nov. 24, 1927, in the Canary Islands of Spain, he started piano lessons at age four and was in the school choir at age eight.
He started off learning Zarzuela but eventually made his professional debut as the Duke in “Rigoletto” in Cairo in 1956.
From there he appeared in Lisbon with Maria Callas in “La Traviata” and then went on to a debut at the Royal Opera House in “Lucia di Lammermoor.”
His La Scala debut came in 1960 and his North America debut came in 1962 in Chicago. In 1966, he made his first Metropolitan Opera debut in “Rigoletto.”
He died in 1999 at the age of 71.
He sang and recorded 42 roles throughout his career in Italian, French, and Spanish. However, a few roles definitely stick out.
“Werther” is undeniably one of his most beloved interpretations. “Mr. Kraus gave a really fine performance as Werther, and it is hard to imagine that any other tenor still singing the part would be preferable in it. He commands the range of dynamics to make the intimate sections work in the big Met auditorium, he rides the orchestra easily in the climaxes, he sounds and looks the part, and he gives his lines sincere, heartfelt expression,” said a New York Times review of his performance from 1988.
Moreover, there are 15 recordings of the opera, albeit not all of the commercial variety.
Another major role for Kraus is “Rigoletto.” He performed the opera throughout his career as delineated by the 15 recordings that feature him; they span from 1960 to 1989. He made his professional debut in the role and also interpreted the Duke for his first and last Met Opera performance.
Two Donizetti operas featured prominently in his career as well – “Lucia di Lammermoor” and “La Favorite.” He appeared in the former in 14 recordings as well as 12 of the latter. The former was the opera with which he made his Royal Opera House debut.
He was also a major champion of Zarzuela throughout his career.
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Watch and Listen
Here is a renowned recording of “Lucia di Lammermoor” starring Kraus and Edita Gruberova.
And here is a concert featuring the tenor.