Franco Bonisolli

25 May 1937 - 30 Oct 2003

Picture of Franco Bonisolli in Luisa Miller

Franco Bonisolli sings Ein Lied geht um die Welt
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Addio
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Pace non trovo
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Faust: Salut demeure
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Les pêcheurs de perles: Je crois entendre encore
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Jocelyn: Berceuse
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Don Pasquale: Com'e gentil
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Aida: Celeste Aida
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Aida: Gia i sacerdoti (part 2), with Fiorenza Cosstto
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Das Land des Lächelns: Dein ist mein ganzes Herz
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings La Donna del Lago: O fiamma soave
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Fedora: La fante mi svela...Vedi, io piango
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Finesta che lucive
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings la Forza del Destino: S'affronti la morte
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Don Giovanni: Il mio tesoro
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings O Sole mio
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Carmen: C'est toi, c'est moi, with Carla Pohl
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Rigoletto: Possente amor
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings la Favorita: Spirto gentil
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Aida: Pur ti riveggo, with Natalia Troitskaya
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Wien, Wien, nur du allein
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Der Zigeunerbaron: Ja, alles auf Ehr'
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Il Trovatore: Di quella pira 5
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Il Trovatore: Di quella pira 4
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Il Trovatore: Di quella pira 3
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Il Trovatore: Di quella pira 2, did not do an Alagna
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings La Donna del Lago: Da rio periglio, with Pietro Bottazzo and Montserrat Caballe
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Luisa Miller: L'ara o l'avello (Cabaletta 2)
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Turandot: No, no Principessa
In RA Format

Hating Bonisolli may be fine for people who listen to baroque opera only, or to Schubert operas, or maybe for Wagnerians... for everybody else, it's pure knownothingism. An interpretative approach like Bonisolli's is essential for Italian opera; I don't say all singers must do Italian opera like he did (in fact, I'd even be against it), and of course I appreciate the Schipas and Sabbatinis, too - but if NOBODY is supposed to sing Italian opera in the Bonisolli manner, Italian opera will soon be sounding as if composed by Schubert, or Rameau, or Wagner. (It already does, in fact, particularly on many studio recordings.)
One of my most striking Bonisolli experiences was one of his last performances: you certainly know that he retired in autumn 1990, immediately after a really disastrous Otello performance at the Wiener Staatsoper; furthermore, his wife fell seriously ill, in fact she was dying in a many years long painful process. After she had died, he made a comeback in spring 2000, after a nine-and-a-half years long absence, and after a few concerts, he returned to the Vienna Staatsoper for a total of five performances, the best of which was one single Tosca where he sounded like 20 or 25 years earlier. The young standing room habitués didn't know him anymore, and didn't know anything about the former battles pro and con Bonisolli... and the fascinating thing was how they, hearing him for the first (and probably only) time, reacted to him - they were so enthusiastic, I suddenly realized I hadn't heard such an applause for ten years. The Tosca was Eliane Coelho, who sang the role often and with mixed results in Vienna, but on that evening she was great, almost up to Bonisolli's standard; and she, too, was totally stoned at the end of the performance because she obviously had never before heard such a frenetic applause (from which she would of course benefit, as well). When the iron curtain was already closed, the audience was still shouting and applauding in ecstasy, and Bonisolli came out of the front box on the right side of the stage, climbing over the balustrade and; balancing over the ledge (just a few centimetres large) between the box and the stage, above the orchestra pit, thus arriving in front of the iron curtain and taking the applause once more; he wanted to make Coelho join him, but she didn't dare doing the climbing and stayed in the box, and she was really swept off her feet about all this enthusiasm, I'm sure she's still speaking of this evening. Do I need to stress that nobody has been able to rouse a similar enthusiasm in Vienna ever since? Nothing that came only near it - just the aseptic excitement inevitably induced by the ticket prices (if the tickets are expensive, I must think it's a great experience, or I'd be annoyed at having spent so much for so little).

Comments on some recordings:

The Pêcheurs aria in sensational mezzavoce from start to end, certainly among the best renditions by anybody of this difficult piece.
Salut demeure: gorgeous lyrical singing as well, complete with a diminuendo on the high C (poor sound quality, alas)
Liszt's Pace non trovo (as far as I know, he sang only this one of the three Petrarca sonnets)
The Berceuse from Jocelyn, with special dedication to the Bonisolli haters: "If you're still hating Bonisolli after knowing this rendition, you should absolutely tell your psychiatrist. It's important to be frank with him about your neurosis."
Aida: A tenor has to be positively crazy to repeat Celeste Aida to start this long and exhausting opera... he was, and it didn't afflict the rest of his performance! He interpolates high Cs both in the Nile duet and in the duet with Amneris. Funny: one of the Viennese fans who made the recording whispers into the orchestra's last bars of the Amneris duet, in Viennese dialect: "that was a C".
The relatively unknown lyrical baritone Franco Bonisolli: Fenesta che lucive
The only Carmen excerpt I know by him - strangely, he seems to have never sung Don José on stage! Actually he did as a reader just pointed that out to me. He sang it at least in San Francisco. Here is a picture with Berganza. There was a broadcast from that run of performances and it can be found, in good sound, on pirate CDs.
He didn't sing many high Ds in his career. This Possente amor was never on record.
Bonisolli the musicologist: he was a collector of rare scores (who of his haters would have imagined?), and had the original (St. Petersburg) Forza del destino in his collection, with a tenor cabaletta deleted in the second version of the opera. He had the piano reduction only, and no orchestra parts could be traced at a reasonable price, but he absolutely wanted to perform it at one of his legendary Epiphany concerts (every January 6th in the late 80s). So he ordered the concert's conductor, Niksa Bareza, to orchestrate the piece... well, Bareza was certainly no Verdi, but at least, they could perform it!
For hardcore Bonisolli maniacs only: the Fedora excerpt from another of those Epiphany concerts where he got so totally involved that he contracted a hernia only by singing!! Real tears towards the end of the excerpt, thus.... he had to pause for three or four months after that...
The Com'è gentil was sung immediately after the L'ara o l'avello, on this site - how many singers can do such a thing, an excited, dramatic cabaletta first, and then a purely lyrical mezzavoce rendition like this one? That was one of his great memorable concerts - one of those occasions when his doctor had prohibited singing since Bonisolli was suffering from a grave pharyngitis. Of course, he sang nevertheless, and like always when his voice was not in good condition, he would really use his impeccable technique (which he otherwise sometimes neglected, as we all know, when everything was well with the voice). While he was a little coarse at the beginning (small wonder!), the voice eventually grew warm and free, and it was one of the best evenings I ever heard by Bonisolli.
He ends Dein ist mein ganzes Herz on C sharp.
In Wien, Wien, nur du allein, he invited the audience to join in as a chorus, which they gladly did... Gosh, was that fun!!
The O sole mio was the very last encore when the orchestra was already in the shower, but the audience was still longing for more. The professional recording equipment, as well, had already been put away, that's why the sound quality is worse here - it's only been recorded with a small private device from the audience. This last excerpt shows the kind of frenzy Bonisolli could evoke, complete with "Franco, Franco" speaking choirs (btw, it's amazing how unusually enthusiastic ALL the audiences in the excerpts I've recorded yesterday and today are, never mind if it's Verona or Cape Town or Vienna).
Der Zigeunerbaron: this was a role that he also sang on stage, in a Vienna Staatsoper premiere

I wish to thank Robert Schlesinger for the recordings and notes.
Franco Bonisolli sings Il Trovatore: Di quella pira 1
In RA Format
I wish to thank Tom Silverbörg for the recordings.

Franco Bonisolli sings Luisa Miller: Cabaletta
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Rigoletto: La donna é mobile
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Manon: Ah! Fuyez
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings La Traviata: Parigi o cara
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Guglielmo Tell: O muto asil ... Corriam!, voliam
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Les pêcheurs de perles: Je crois entendre encore
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings L'Arlesiana: È la solita storia
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Turandot: Nessun dorma
In RA Format

Franco Bonisolli sings Otello: Dio mi potevi
In RA Format

I wish to thank Robert Schlesinger for providing the correct year of birth of this great tenor.

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