Carlo Negrini is chiefly remembered today for having created the role of Gabriele Adorno. Simone Boccanegra was a failure and having taken part in the creation added nothing to Negrini's fame. The fame of Negrini is due to the fact that he was loyal to the Italian houses when it was chic for Italian big names to sing outside Italy. During Negrini's career peak in the 1850s and early 1860s, Tamberlick and Mario sang exclusively outside Italy, Fraschini spent most of his time in Vienna, Lisbon or Madrid. On the other hand, Negrini sang during 5 carnival seasons at La Scala, 3 seasons at the San Carlo, and may others in Venice, Florence, Rome and elsewhere. Negrini accepted some engagements abroad. He sang two seasons in Constantinople early in his career, two seasons in Barcelona years later, and two appearances in London in 1852. He sang Pollione, supported by Grisi, at Covent Garden on August 10th 1852, and later as Ernani. It was a fiasco. The periodical Musical World of August 14th 1852 reproached him basically to have a voice, a typical British complaint, and went on vituperating against the bad continental singers. He was thankfully popular in Italy. In fact so popular that he was the sixth featured singer in a series of article on artists of the past that was run by the theatrical journal Mondo Artistico starting in 1884. The first five were Malibran, Frezzolini, Rubini, Moriani, and Nourrit.. How then, does on explain his tremendous popularity in Italy, and his total failure in England? It might well be that there was a totally different operatic taste in 19th century London than in the rest of Europe. Things have not changed much today as perpetrated by the magazine opera and Harold Rosenthal. I can remember a review of Guillaume Tell in London, where the reviewer concentrated his efforts on the ballerina rather on the Italian singers. Two of Negrini best operas Jone and Poliuto were either never played in England (Jone) or performed during one season (Poliuto as I Martiri in 1852). Yet these works were tremendously popular elsewhere.
Negrini was of humble birth and was born in Piacenza on June 22nd or 24th 1826. His family name was Villa, but was later changed to Negrini. He worked in a nail factory in Parma where he was discovered singing on the job by a benefactor who helped him to get singing lessons. Negrini made his debut right at the top as Jacopo Foscari on October 7th 1847 at La Scala. He as well received. He spent the next season in Como, singing Foresto and Decio (Mercadente's La Vestale).He disappeared from view during the 1848 revolution, only to reappear in Constantinople Negrini sang there in Lucrezia Borgia, Attila and possibly in Ernani and Mosè. He was reengaged for the 1489-1850 season, singing in Giovanna d'Arco, I due Foscari, Norma, Maria di Rohan and Corrado d'Altamura. Reports from Constantinople were good and Negrini was engaged for the next Carnival season at La Scala. Negrini opened the season on December 26th 1850 singing in Gerusalemme, Maria di Rohan followed on January 1st 1851. On March 1st 1851, Negrini created Poliuto in the Scala premiere, and he was catapulted to stardom. From that point on Negrini's career was a series of triumphs, except for his appearances in London. Negrini appeared in Padua, Bergamo, and Palermo after Milan. After London, Negrini sang all over Italy: Milan (1853), Turin (1854), Venice (1855), Rome (1856, Venice (1857, when he created Simone Boccanegra), Milan (1858, when he created Jone), Naples (1859, 1860, 1861), and Milan again (1862, 1863). During the 1863-4, Negrini sang in Barcelona to great acclaim and returned to Rome for the spring of 1864, singing two Petrella operas La Contessa d'Amalfi and Jone. Negrini was engaged for the 1864-5 season at the Italiens in Paris, but that was not to be. He became ill and died of a stroke on March 14th 1865.
Negrini was reported to have a large and vibrant voice, with brilliant high notes, and also having a baritonal timbre. He was capable of both expressive and powerful singing, and judging by his repertory may well have sounded somewhat like Tamagno. In spite of rivals like Fraschini, Mirate, and Beaucardé, Negrini was considered Italy's best loved tenor for the period from 1852 to 1864.
Apolloni Adelchi, Ebreo (creator)
Balfe Bohemian Girl
Buzzi Editta (creator)
Donizetti La Favorita, Gemma di Vergy, Lucia di Lammermoor?, Lucrezia Borgia, Maria di Rohan, Maria Padilla, Poliuto, Roberto Devereux
Ferrara Gli Ultimi Giorni di Suli
Lutti Berengario d'Ivrea(creator)
Mazzucatto Luigi V
Mercadente Il Giuramento, La Vestale
Meyerbeer La Prophète
Moroni Amleto (creator)
Pacini Il Cid (creator)
Pappalordo Mirinda (creator)
Petrella La Vicomtessa d'Amalfi, Il Duca di Scilla, Jone (creator), Marco Visconti, Morosina (creator), Virginia (creator)
Platania Mathilde Bentivoglio
Ricci Corrado d'Altamura
Rota Ginevra di Scozia
Rossini Mosè, Otello
Salvi Caterina Howard
Verdi Aroldo, Attila, Un Ballo in Maschera, La Battaglia di Legnano, Ernani, I Due Foscari, Gerusalemme, Giovanna d'Arco, Luisa Miller, I Masnadieri, Rigoletto, Simone Boccanegra (creator), La Traviata, Il Trovatore, I Vespri Siciliani
At the Argentina during April, I Masnadieri by maestro Verdi had a triumphant reception. … The first honors went to Negrini. The impression made on the public by this incomparable artist, who left cherished memories of seeing him live again, was magnificent. … In short with his voice, Negrini sang like an angel. He was interrupted by frenetic applause several times during the cavatina. At the end, Negrini had to appear several at the front of the footlights to receive his triumph. During the course of the opera, he continued to pick up successes, especially during the beautiful concertato piece, especially at the phase "M'ama quest'angelo, etc." When the curtain fell, he was called many times in front of the curtain by the enthusiastic general applause. Il Pirata, 21 April 1863.
Carlo Negrini is dead. He died on March 14th in Naples from a painful decease.
He is not only a loss for the art (!), because Negrini was already a star in the sunset,
but the art can etch a plaque in the name of this lost great artist, an artist that had
in his time created inexpressible sensations. Negrini was not even 38 years old. Il Trovatore, 23 March 1865
I wish to thank Tom Kaufman for his information on Negrini