Manuel Utor El Musclaire

Manuel Utor
Picture of Manuel Utor

Picture of Manuel Utor's rare record label

Picture of Manuel Utor's rare record label

Manuel Utor sings Marina: Costa la de levante
In RA Format

I would like to thank Vladimir Efimenko for the recording.

Manuel Utor Mayor, nicknamed El Musclaire, was born in Barcelona on July 24th, 1862. Utor was the possessor of an incredibly large and brilliant voice, but musical talent did not complement it. He was a well known figure in the cafes in Barcelona's harbor where he sang for friends popular Catalan songs, romances from zarzuelas. He inserted in those songs warm, long held impressive high notes, called in Barcelona pinyols (Pinyols means pigeons in Catalan, a term also used for a singer's top notes). His listeners received him with great enthusiasm. El Musclaire was generous with his vocal talent and popular in the poorest barrios. After hearing him, an opera aficionado don Bernardo Jenzen took him up in his house. There Utor received vocal lessons. The first work he studied was L'Africana. It was a very difficult task for him. Utor could not pronounce the Italian language, did not know solfeggio and was completely uneducated. He was forced to go over the all thing many, many times in order to memorize his part. Jenzen talked with the Liceo impresario Bernis and the conductor Mascheroni about his discovery. After a disastrous audition, Mascheroni told Bernis that Utor could not be presented to the subscribers. Jenzen was tenacious. He moved heaven and earth to get a contract for his protégé. After getting help from don Enrique Collasso, Utor was scheduled to sing L'Africaine on the afternoon of January 25th, 1903. His supporters and friends filled up the upper part of the house. The other artists participating in the evening included Mary D'Arniero, Delfino Menotti and Edoardo Mascheroni while Cossira was standing in the wings to take over in case of a disaster. Utor was trembling with fear. Cossira told him to go him without looking at the public and just sing. The performance culminated at O paradiso. The A natural was received tumultuously by his friends in the upper level of the house, while the rest applauded complacently. A voice from heaven was heard saying: It is a Gayarre. However during the duet with Selika, things soured. Utor forgot the Italian text and replaced it by unrelated Catalan text The soprano had a fit of hilarity. The performance ended without the expected scandal, but Utor never sang at the Liceo again.
The Almanaque del Diario de Barcelona para del año 1904 commented as follows on the performance:
For tenor fanatics, the end of the end of the season offered the appearance of a great tenor, if we can call that the singer who sang. At the evening performance of January 25th, the tenor Manuel Utor appeared. He displayed voice that was beautiful, powerful, brilliant in the acuti, of great extension and easy production, but also insecure, badly controlled, and lacking in proper vocal training. Besides the quality of the voice, there was not much to admire. His acting was very rudimentary. The public received him with great enthusiasm.

Utor sang in Barcelona at the Novedades, del Bosque and Tivoli many Marina where he could show off his pinyols. Utor's career was over quickly (around 1911). He returned to singing in the cafes for Sunday afternoon's customers. Utor spent his last years in Barcelona in an apartment located on the third floor of Calle Hospital. On March 20th 1939 at 74 years old, Utor being completely with resources applied to be admitted in the hospice Albá located at the Casa Provincial de Caridad de Barcelona. On July 1st, 1946, Utor died there from a cerebral hemorrhage at 9.30 a. m.. He spent his last years on bed number 55 located in the common sleeping quarters numbered E.
Unfortunately for him, Utor was the perfect example that a great voice does not necessary produce a great singer. By the way, Utor's nickname El Musclaire means mussels fisherman in Catalan.

Some Utor's Performances

Barcelona, Teatro de Novedades, February 4th 1903, L'Africana with Júdice, Gessler, Gnaccarini, Sorgi, Boldu, Oliver
Barcelona, Teatro Tivoli, March 7th 1903, L'Africana
Barcelona, Teatro del Bosque, August 26th 1907, Aida with Júdice, de Achili, Romeu, Conrado, Giralt, Leoni, Oliver
Barcelona, Teatro del Bosque, September 13th 1907, La Favorita with Júdice, Romeu, Calvo, Baratta
Valencia, Teatro Principal, 16/18/19 April 1903, L'Africana with Bordalba (Selika), Alabau (Inés), Hediger (Nelusko)

In Valencia, Utor spent the evening fighting the tempi set by the conductor. This created havoc in the communication between singers and orchestra.

Arbós, Teatro Arbosense, 22nd December 1911, Marina with Puerto, Sanahuja, Pujol, Riba
Arbós, Teatro Arbosense, 25th December 1911, Concert singing Vesti la giubba at 4 p.m.
Arbós, Teatro Arbosense, 25th December 1911 at 9.15 p.m., Cavalleria Rusticana with Puerto, Hernandez


Black G&T, Barcelona, 1903
52647 L'Africana: O paradiso
62690 Marina: Al ver en la inmmensa Llanura (7")
62691 Marina: Bien sabes tu
62725 Marina: Salida de Jorge
62726 Marina: En las alas del deseo

References: Almanaque del Diario de Barcelona para l'año 1904, page 94. Andrés Avelino Artís: Sonata a la rambla, Editorial Barua, Barcelona 1961, pages 29-34, La tarde del musclaire en el Liceo.

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