Alfonso Garulli

Bologna 1857(?) - May 22, 1915 Bologna

Picture of Alfonso Garulli
Many sources give Garulli's year of birth as 1866; yet it seems likely that the earlier date of 1857, found in some Italian literature, is correct.

Garulli was a bank employee before firstly joining the Bergonzini operetta company, (where he appeared in Milan in Madama Angot), and subsequently the Tomba company.

Garulli underwent a laryngeal operation which was claimed was responsible for improving his voice sufficiently to undertake an operatic career.

He made his operatic debut in Ravenna in 1881 as Rambaldo in Robert il Diavolo. Garulli's career advanced to the extent that he was singing regularly at La Scala (for example in 1887 appearing in Flora Mirabilis and I Pescatori di Perle). He was a frequent visitor to the major European opera houses (sharing, for example, the role of Canio with De Lucia in Lisbon in 1900) and travelled further afield to the Americas.

Garulli's repertoire was, like many tenors of his day, wide ranging: it included Carmen, Tannhäuser, La Traviata and the "new" verismo works. He worked with the composer Giordano, with the intention that he should created the role of Andrea Chenier; Garulli fell ill at the eleventh hour, and the role was taken by Borgatti.

Indeed, ill health seemed to dog Garulli throughout his career. In 1896, for example, Massenet was adamant that the tenor should appear in the role of Araquil in La Navarrese at La Scala. Again Garulli fell ill; yet such was Massenet's faith in the singer's art, that he suggested that the 'romanza' might be played by the cello to orchestral accompaniment, so as to rest Garulli for the rest of the work. In the event Garulli was so ill that De Lucia assumed the role.

Massenet and Giordano were not the only composers to admire the tenor. Mascagni, writing of an enterprise in Vienna in 1892, by the publisher Sonzogno, stated: "…all the greatest Italian artists were there: Stagno, Bellincioni and Garulli…" Verdi and Puccini also mention the tenor and attended his performances.

Garulli retired from the operatic stage in 1903, emerging onto the concert platform until at least 1907.

In 1887 Garulli had married the soprano Ernestina Bendazzi-Secchi (1866-1931), and in his short retirement from the stage, opened a school of singing with her in Trieste.

He returned to Bologna at the outbreak of the Great War where he died in 1915. The couple's son Valdo became a music teacher and composer.
J-P Myerscough

Picture of Alfonso Garulli

Alfonso Garulli sings Pagliacci: Vesti la giubba
In RA Format

Alfonso Garulli sings Mefistofele: Forma ideal, purissima
In RA Format

Alfonso Garulli sings Mireille: O Magali with Ernestina Bendazzi-Garulli
In RA Format

Alfonso Garulli sings Aida: Morir si pura
In RA Format

Alfonso Garulli sings Ovunque tu
In RA Format
I wish to thank Ashot Arakelyan for the recording (Mefistofele).
(D = duets with Ernestina Bendazzi-Garulli)
All with piano accompaniment

Light Blue International Zonophone - Milan 1902 X-1540 Aprile (Tosti)
X-1542 Ovunque tu (Van Westerhout)
X-1543 Serenata - Sera di Paradiso (D)
X-1545 Ideale (Tosti)
X-1547 Lohengrin "Mercè, mercè, cigno gentil!"
X-1548 Mireille(Gounod) Canzone di Magali (D)
X-1549 Pagliacci(Leoncavallo) Vesti la giubba (without recit.)
Note: Ernestina Bendazzi-Garulli recorded this song (Zono X-1544): it is believed that Alfonso Garulli recorded it also, but the matrix/catalogue number is not known.

Anglo Italian Commerce Company (AICC), Milan 1902
("Hill and Dale" cylinders, later Pathe discs)
84002 Ideale (Tosti)
84080 Aprile (Tosti)
84082 I Maestri Cantori(Wagner) Nel verno a pie del focolar
84085 Mireille(Gounod) Canzone di Magali (D)
84086 Aida(Verdi) Morir si pura e bella
84088 Mefistofele (Boito) Forma ideal purissima

All items (including the Wagner and Gounod) are sung in Italian
Comments on the Records
Garulli's few records are very rare and, it must be said, very sad. The voice is a tired and shaky remnant of what must have been a fine instrument. One feature of this infirmity is a rather alarming separation of the registers (most apparent in Tosti's Ideale). We hear a relatively firm lower register, which contrasts with a disembodied, ill supported upper register, drained of all colour. The phrasing is, at least in intent, broad, with remnants of a legato style (for example in the Aida fragment, and the Van Westerhout song). As for Garulli's dramatic credentials, we might turn to the truncated "Vesti la giubba" where, again if in intent only, Garulli rises to the climax of the piece. At the close of Tosti's 'Aprile' however, similar vehemence seems somewhat out of place. The duets with his wife (Ernestina Bendazzi-Garulli) contain some light touches, an ability to differentiate between piano and mezzoforte, and some sense of rhythm; they are, sadly, more a touching momento of their relationship rather than examples of great vocal art. Garulli (and his wife) recorded for the International Zonophone company and AICC; these were in fact sister companies. The Zonophones had a short life, the company being taken over by the Gramophone Company in 1903, and most of the records deleted soon after; the AICC cylinders eventually found their way onto double sided Pathe discs, and are found occasionally in this form. The gaps in the catelogue/matrix numbers in the discography given below are filled mostly by solo items by Garulli's spouse.
References:Pietro Mascagni (D.Stivender), Fernando De Lucia (M.Henstock), Record of Singing (M.Scott), CD inserts (M.Henstock)
I wish to thank Julian Phlip Myerscough for the biographical, discographical information and recording (Ovunque tu).

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