FEDERICO CARASA (1887- ? )
Spanish tenor Federico Carasa was born in Donostía-San Sebastián (Spain) on January 6th, 1887. His complete name was Melchor Federico Carasa Torre and was the son of Evaristo Carasa Yñiguez and Saturnina Torre Sáenz.
In the Edition of December 14, 1902, "El Globo" newspaper announced that Federico Carasa had won the prize in a contest organized by other publication, "Blanco y Negro". The readers had to send their opinion about the best politician, novelist, poet, music, etc. in Spain. The winner was "a young man working as accountant in San Sebastián. His name was Federico Carasa and prize was a beautiful gold watch".
Carasa wanted to study and become a lawyer but, at the same time, entered at the Orfeón Donostierra directed by Don Secundino Esnaola. Very soon he became the soloist tenor in the Orfeón.
Politically, Carasa was a Republican, as we deduce from a press information of February 4th, 1905 informing that Carasa was appointed Vice Secretary of the Republican Youth.
In May of 1905 the French Branch of the Gramophone Company visited San Sebastián to record Basque music. Federico Carasa as soloist of the Orfeón Donostierra was engaged to sing and record six Basque songs that were issued in August 1905.
During the Summer of 1906 the former baritone Marquis of Trabadelo was enjoying his holidays in San Sebastián. He attended a concert by the Orfeón Donostiarra and was astonished with the voice of the soloist singer, with a pure, warm and lovely tenor voice. He called him and asked him about his future aspirations. The young man confessed that he wanted to become a lawyer. Trabadelo told him that he thought that was "a crime" and that he should not lose the gift of his God sent voice. He convinced him to go to Paris where he would teach him vocal technique and launch him for a singing career.
Carasa went to Paris and studied with Trabadelo for two years. The teacher thought his pupil was ready to face the public.
The tenor appeared on 14 August 1908 at the Teatro Circo in San Sebastián in a concert organized by the Orfeón Donostiarra to honour him and Trabadelo. Both artists sang also in that concert.
The stage debut of Carasa took place the same year in Ghent where he sang Aida, Il Trovatore and Gli Ugonotti. He obtained a total success and Trabadelo wrote to the Covent Garden management in London. Carasa was accepted and made his debut in England as Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, in April 1909 (three performances). The cast included the soprano Tina de Sana, the baritone Angelo Scandiani, the mezzosopranos Jane Bourgeois and Miss Moresta, and conductor Cleofonte Campanini. He was so enthusiastically received that he was even compared with Caruso while others said"he is a new Tamagno". Covent Garden then offered him a three years contract with a minimum of 20 performances, but the tenor took the advice of his teacher and preferred to accept the offer made by Oscar Hammerstein, from the Manhattan Opera House in New York, of a eight seasons contract with the only condition that, during that time, he would not be allowed to sing in Europe.
However, he was authorized to sing in some benefit concerts. One of them was in Paris, on 12 June 1909 for the Retired Dramatic Artists Home. Carasa sang Tosti's La mia canzone, La donna è mobile from Rigoletto, an aria from Il Trovatore and some other numbers to correspond to the enthusiastic public demand. It was said "he is a worthy rival of Caruso". "High and manly, he moves easily and confident on stage, with a prodigious voice (reaching E flat) and with a pure voice, easily produced and of astonishing agility" ("El Imparcial", 12 June 1908).
On August 9th, 1909 he sang in another concert, this time at the Teatro Circo in San Sebastián, for the benefit of the families of the wounded soldiers in Melilla. In this concert sang also the soprano Enriqueta Acevedo and the baritone Isasti, being accompanied by pianist Cagliostro.
On August 114, Carasa and his pianist left for Paris and then to Le Havre to ship for New York. The press said that "Carasa will surpass (outshine) Caruso".
"... and then he (Hammerstein) went into raptures about his new Spanish Tenor, señor Federico de Carasa, the equal of Caruso,
he said. Señor de Carasa is 22 years old. He carries an eight year contract as the result of his interviews with Mr. Hammerstein. That was the longest contract, it was said, that any singer has succeeded into making".
("The New York Tribune"- 30 June 1909)
Carasa's debut in New York took place on the 31 August 1909:
"The much heralded Spanish tenor, Federico Carasa made his American debut at the Manhattan Opera House Tuesday evening, August 31, appearing as Rhadames in Verdi's Aida. He faced a large and critical audience whose friendly applause was tinged with evident disappointment. Carasa did not justify the expectations of is auditors or the many claims made for him as a supreme artist. He certainly was the finest looking Rhadames ever seen in New York, and he assuredly has great natural endowments, both vocal and dramatic, but they do not seem to be fully matured or under his complete control. He made a strong impression, however, and after the third act received nine curtain calls…" ("The New York Dramatic Mirror"- 11 September 1909).
The following is the retail of all the operas the Spanish tenor sang at the Manhattan Opera House:
Manhattan Opera (Temporada 1909-1910), New York
Aida: Alice Baron, Berthe Soyer, Enrico Pignataro, Henri Scott: Giuseppe Sturani (August 31) (3)
Rigoletto: Lalla Miranda, Alice Gentle, William Beck, Henri Scott: Sturani (September 10) (3)
Pagliacci: Marguerite Sylva, Henry Laskin, Nicolo Fossetta: Sturani (September 17) (2)
Tosca: Eva Grippon/Marguerite Sylva/Alice Baron, William Beck: Sturani (September 18) (3)
Carmen: Marguerite Sylva, Mme. Walter-Villa, Henry Laskin: Carlo Nicosa (October 9) (1)
Cavalleria Rusticana: Marguerite Sylva, Alice Gentle, Enrico Pignataro: Sturani (October 18) (1)
Philadelphia Opera House
Carmen: Sylva, Walter-Villa, Laskin: Carlo Nicosia (November 13)
Cavalleria Rusticana: Mariette Mazarin, Giovanni Polese: Sturani (November 20)
Pagliacci: Emma Trentini, Nicolo Fossetta: Sturani (December 4)
Tosca: Carmen Melis, Giovanni Polese: Sturani (December 11)
Pittsburgh- Nixon Theatre
Tosca: Carmen Melis, Maurice Renaud: Oscar Anselmi (December 21)
Carmen: Lina Cavalieri, Regina Vicarino, Henry Laskin: Henriquez De la Fuente (December 24)
Tosca: Carmen Melis, Mario Sammarco: De la Fuente (December 25)
Philadelphia Opera House
Lucia di Lammermoor: Luisa Tetrazzini, Giovanni Polese, Henri Scott: Sturani (January 22)
NOTE: The performance of 22 January 1910 was the last one sung by Carasa for the Manhattan Opera Company. Of the promised eight seasons, he sang only one.
Something happened after January 1910. Probably a serious illness that prevented him from fulfilling his international contracts. The Spanish newspaper "El Heraldo de Madrid" reproduced in its edition of 28 May 1910 the telegrams sent from Odessa (Russia) to Trabadelo, requesting him to force the tenor to urgently go to Russia, where he was engaged to sing Gli Ugonotti:
"The first performance of Ugonotti is son Sunday. The house is sold out, impossible to replace him. If he does not come it will mean bankrupt. Make him to part on Tuesday, in luxury train, hoping he will recover in transit", and then, "for God's sake, urgently send me a telegram and say if Carasa is coming". Apparently, none of these telegrams was answered and Carasa did not sing in Odessa that year.
In 1910 Carasa signed a contract with the impresario Adolfo Bracales, and as a member of his company he sang in Vienna, Odessa, Constantinople and Athens.
In June/July 1910 he sang at Carltheater, in Vienna. His debut was in "Il Trovatore" (28 June), with Giulia Anderson-Protti, Regina Álvarez, Alessandro Modesti, Giovanni Bardi and Torquato Bonazzi. Then he sang "Carmen" (July?) with Regina Alvarez and Torquato Bonazzi. We do not know if he sang one or several performances. It is possible that he also sang in "La Traviata" (July 1) since the information received does not mention it. The other tenor was Eugenio Folco, who sang in "La Boheme" and "Lucia di Lammermoor.
In February 1911 Carasa sang in Nice:
Nice, Casino Municipal
Tosca (February) with Mme Catalan and Alfred Maguenat
The reviews were enthusiastic, mainly in "Pagliacci":
"À Nice, Paillasse, interprète par le célèbre ténor Carasa, dans le rôle de Canio, a obtenu Mercredi soir, au Casino municipal, un énorme succès. Ce bel artiste s'y montra comédien supérieur autant que merveilleux chanteur. Ses admirables qualités vocales et dramatiques enthousiasmèrent au plus haut point la salle tout à faire comble qui le couvrit d'applaudissements et qui, à diverses reprises, lui fit bissent ses principaux airs et lui témoignèrent, par des rappels sans nombre, à chaque baisser de rideau, son admiration dans ce rôle auquel il apporte une interprétation au-dessus de tout éloge." (Le Monde Artiste, 18 febrero 1911)
"We receive a telegram notifying us that the tenor Carasa earned many ovations at the theater in Odessa where he is singing Tosca, Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana. During each performance there were a series of bis and numerous curtain calls that saluted the superb voice of this artist and his magnificent dramatic temperament. M. Carasa had promised to sing next week Lohengrin and the Huguenots due to his huge success" (Le Monde Artiste, March 25, 1911)
In April 1911 he made his delayed debut in Odessa (with Bracale Company):
Odessa, Municipal Theater 1911
April 7 Aida, with Ester Adaberto, Regina Alvarez, Ernesto De Marco
April ? Il Trovatore, con Maria Viscardi, Regina Alvarez y Oreste Benedetti
April 16? Carmen, with R. Alvarez, E. De Marco
April 25? L'Africana (possible)
April 29 L'Ebrea (possible)
May ? , Samson et Dalila, with R. Alvarez, E. De Marco
May 13, La Favorita (possible)
The other tenor in the Company was Manfredo Polverosi. After Russia, the Company visiste Turkey and Greece.
May 20? Aida, with E. Adaberto, R. Alvarez, E. De Marco
Other possible operas were Tosca, Carmen, Samson et Dalila. The other tenor was Manfredo Polverosi.
The Bracale Company made performances in Athens, but we ignore if Carasa sang in that city.
On August 26 and 28, 1911 the tenor sang at the Teatro Circo in San Sebastián, two performances of Pagliacci.
On October 1st, 1911 Carasa made his debut at the theatre Gaité-Lyrique in Paris, singing "in French" Pagliacci, with Guionie (soprano), Dihn Gilly (baritone) and Alfred Maguenat (baritone). During that season there were 11 performances of Pagliacci, but he role of Canio was shared with the tenor Thomas Salignac (1867-1945)
"le tenor Carasa se couvre de gloire dans le role de Canio auquel il prêtait le concours de son séduisant organe et son jeu pathétique
Federico Carasa sang in January and February 1912 in the Grande Salle du Conservatoire in St. Petersburg (Russia):
Tannhäuser: Giannina Russ, Mattia Battistini, Vittorio Arimondi (January 25)
"the spectator (Tannhäuser in Italian) simply surrendered to the flow of ......; to the Italian Carasa's singing of Tannhäuser's narration in the third act, which, although rather coarse and lachrymose, had great breath-control and feeling."
Gli Ugonotti: Giannina Russ, Olimpia Boronat, Vittorio Arimondi (January 29)
Un ballo in maschera: Russ, Battistini, Arimondi (February 10)
Sergei Levik in his book "An Opera Singer's Notes" writes that Battistini, when consulted about the tenor Carasa and who was his teacher, answered: "that tenor has never done a real work", insinuating that Carasa never had in fact a good teacher of singing.
Federico Carasa sang only one performance at the Teatro Real in Madrid, performance that seems to have been a total disaster.
MADRID- Teatro Real -Season 1913-1914
La Traviata: Luz de Rugama, Giuseppe Bellantoni, Rosalía Pancrazy, Carlos del Pozo, Martín Verdaguer, Antonio Oliver, Roldán, Fúster: Alfredo Padovani, conductor (28 February 1914)
The critics in Madrid were merciless for the singers making their debuts, a soprano with the only merit of belonging to the aristocratic Spanish high society and a tenor that had burned the treasure of his voice in less than five years of career.
"Her voice (Luz de Rugama), with a nice timbre, is small and short; she has a singing method to go and sing in her home; the agilities are taken and developed as she wishes no matter of the result; it is the same. One note more or less, who cares? some persons could say; well, we at the Teatro Real we would answer."
"As regards her partenaire of frustrations, tenor Carasa, there was not the least sign of compassion for him; he was judged as an artist that has been singing for five years deserves, and that according to the press, had the courage to pretend to compete with Caruso in New York…There, he is nobody!" ("El Duende" (Madrid), 8 March 1914).
The above makes us think that this performance at the Teatro Real in Madrid, was the last time Federico Carasa sang on stage as an opera singer.
It is said somewhere that a laryngitis put an end to his career, but it may also be that his artistic talent was not so much as some thought at the start of his career:
Sergei Levik in "An Opera Singer's Notes" wrote the following on Carasa: "Carasa could sing roles like Radames or Raoul and even Tannhäuser, on two or three days in succession without showing the slightest sign of fatigue. A mezzo-carattere rather than a dramatic tenor, he would stand out in an ensemble. It was not because of his style, training or even virtuosity but because of the amazing healthy nature of this voice- and that was it"
He returned to his native San Sebastián since his name appears years later in the Spanish press, but only mentioning his activities as a member of the Republican Party.
The "El Sol" newspaper of 29 May 1932, informed that "the groups in San Sebastián and Irún at the service of the Republic, agreed to become in the Guipuzcoan section of the party, appointed a board of directors, and Don Federico Carasa was chosen as President".
In 1938, Federico Carasa wrote and published a book under the name "Presos de los rojos-separatistas navarros, guipuzcoanos y vizcaínos" (Ávila, S. Martín Díaz, 1938). (Separatists from Navarra, Guipuzcoa and Viscay, imprissoned by the reds)
FEDERICO CARASA DISCOGRAPHY
THE GRAMOPHONE COMPANY- (Barcelona Branch) San Sebastián- May 1905
Catalogue Nr. Matrix Title / author
G 62280 (8581 u) Nere senarra : zortziko (popular Basque song)
G 62281 (8583 u) Laurak-bat / Joaquín Larregla Urbieta
G 62283 (8586 u) Nere-etorrera / José Mª Iparraguirre Balerdi
G 62288 (8588 u) Agur Euskal-erriari/ José Mª Iparraguirre B.
G 62289 (8590 u) Uso Zuriyaren Kanta,/ Basque song
G 64138 (8584 u) Kaiku/ popular Basque song
[sung with the baritone Ignacio Erquicia, also soloist of the Orfeón Donostiarra]
This discographical information has been kindly provided by Sr. Jaione Landaberia Taberna, of ERESBIL, Basque Music Archive.
Note: It has been impossible for me (and for my Spanish friends) to find information about the place and date of Fedeico Carasa's death.
Juan Dzazópulos, April 2015