01 June 2023

P.R. Jenkins

Karajan artists: Franco Corelli – “fire and blood”

The famous Italian tenor Franco Corelli (1921 – 2003) worked with Karajan on two occasions, first as Manrico in a Salzburg “Trovatore” in 1962 (and in the following year in Vienna) with Leontyne Price and secondly as Don José in a studio recording of “Carmen”, again with Price.

Karajan said about Corelli:

“His voice has a heroic power, but also great beauty in tone; it is dark in its sensuality, enigmatically melancholic, but above all a voice full of thunder and lightning, fire and blood.”

And obviously Corelli was also a kind and considerate colleague, as Karajan’s biographer Richard Osborne wrote in connection with the “Carmen” recording: “It was, indeed, a doom-afflicted set. On 22 November President Kennedy was assassinated. The crew’s first thought that evening – and, to his eternal credit, that of the Don José, Franco Corelli – was for the one member of the cast who was American, black, and deeply committed to the Kennedy cause: Leontyne Price.” Maybe their relationship was so special because they made their debut at the Met in the very same performance (“Il Trovatore” 27 January 1961)!

Richard Osborne: “Karajan. A Life in Music” Chatto & Windus, London. 1998

Stay Informed