Reader's corner

While discussing the book with some fans, critics and friends, there were times that it looked pretty much as if gunsmoke was coming down after the explosion of facts and data that Prince of Tenors unleashed upon those interested. On this page we invite all to send comments – no biography will ever bring the subject back to life, but perfection is what we strive for. We welcome discussions of the book, we actively collect errata ourselves, and we urge you to email us constructive comments; where there are questions, Seghers will try to answer them here. Following are some questions or comments that we already received and that he would like to address/clarify here:

12. Did Franco have a child? 

The latest twist in the discussion about Franco's private life reached my mailbox on 30 November, 2008. It concerned a note from Franco's "real friends," and he/ they had an important message: Marco Corelli and I were all wrong about Franco being infurtile. The person even said he could prove it, but... he wouldn't because respect for Franco's privacy kept him from doing so. A little later, online, it became apparant what was already clear from the note: allegedly, Franco had a secret child! Well... constructing any given biography is a matter of trial and error. In this case the error would not only be Marco's, but also Graziano Corelli's, who told me the same thing. Fortunately, such issues are easily solved: I gladly arrange for a DNA test. If the test is positive, I will pay for it, on the condition that I can break the news. 

I truly don't understand how people can even begin to think that I would want to cover such things up: as a biographer, I merely dream from such discoveries —great for sales! 

Of course, should the DNA test prove to be negative, I take it that this/these true friend(s) of Franco will cover the costs. Which condition leads me to believe that there will never be such a test. 

11. Selective quoting...

When you write a book, you should be prepared for some criticism! Since no man is perfect, there is even a possibility that some of it sticks. But what to do with attempts to twist the truth, such as when people (in this case on what is a direct copy of the concept of our website's book reviews page) conclude their Italian language review of my (it seemed 'rival') book by writing that I myself gave the final summary: 'Yet despite all the details — informative, trivial, colorful — revealed here of Dario “Franco” Corelli’s life and career, Corelli remains as enigmatic to me as he was when I began my research." They cunningly added: 'These words are so clear that we don't need to add in the slightest to them.' 

As just anyone's opinion, I would be fine with this, but as a quote from my book it is incorrect. In the book, the passage above continues with the line: 'Learning how the pyramids were built doesn’t take away the mysterious nebula surrounding them.' 

There was a time when autors were advized to keep slient about such things, but that was when we were defenseless against critics who came on the wings of magazines that had monopolized printed information. Today, in the internet era, we are no longer toothless: once the Italian translation of Prince of Tenors will appear, Italian fans can judge for themselves. 

10. Why is there no complete performance chronology in Prince of Tenors? 

Someone thought it a complete mistake of my publisher to allow for such a book to go without a performance chronology. Well... long before Prince of Tenors was published, I announced Franco Corelli | The Legacy (see the The Legacy page on this website), in which all his recordings will be reviewed, along with a complete performance chronology, a complete discography, and a complete videography. That book was always intended as the counterpart of Prince of Tenors. Of course I could have chosen to include that chronology in Prince of Tenors, which would have meant cutting 80 pages of text from the 520 page (with over 100 photos) book. Just to be clear here: my publisher had nothing to do with that decision. There simply wasn't a hair on my head that even slightly considered cutting the content which, meanwhile, has been praised by critics from leading opera magazines and newspapers around the world. 

9. Why are there 'so many' of Loretta's recipes in the book?

This question was raised by most critics, whereas not a single fan has ever mailed me about these recipes, unless to say that they tried them at home. Which is precisely why I included them. In addition, they were then also clearly a marketing tool for the Corellis, and even the starting point for Franco's press agent's famous Bel Canto Cook Book! The success of that book clearly demonstrates that there is/ was an avid interest in such trivia among opera buffs. But what are too many pages? Scattered around the second half of the 1960's, there are 3 pages with recipes in a total of 520 pages — big deal. 

8. Who were first in 1972/1973: Callas & Di Stefano, or Corelli & Tebaldi? 

Karl van Zoggel, founder of The Maria Callas International Club, contacted me with respect to my essay on the Corelli-Tebaldi tour that started in the USA in November 1972. During 1973, this tour took them all over the globe. Surprisingly, this international part of the Corelli-Tebaldi tour coincided with the comeback of Callas and Di Stefano, also as a couple, and also embarking on a world tour, that would take them to almost exactly the same odd places. From the perspective of publicity, the Corelli-Tebaldi tour was put in the shadows by the MC-GDS venture. Outside the Corelli-Tebaldi communities their tour is completely forgotten. Prince of Tenors brought that tour back into orbit, and back into context: Tebaldi believed it was the last trick that Callas played on her, but the question here was of course: precisely how did these tours emerge? Obviously, it was too much of a coincidence to accept it as such, with Callas coming out of retirement after eight years to copy Tebaldi's hardly disguised farewell tour, including Tebaldi's recording of duets with Corelli by joining Di Stefano for a recording by Philips in a London church (and all of that at least five months after Tebaldi and Corelli first made their efforts public).

Van Zoggel pointed me to my own introduction line on page 427, which erroneously mentions the beginning of the Callas-Di Stefano Philips duet recordings as 5 months before the Corelli-Tebaldi effort. This is immediately corrected in the next line, but the error brought about an interesting discussion with respect to the question: "Who was first?" With that erroneous intro line gone, even the reservation about Callas-Di Stefano having possibly started first, seems to vanish in the dark, because it brings the chronological order of events 100% in favor of the Corelli-Tebaldi venture (as written onwards, on page 427-428). However, Van Zoggel told me that Callas had exactly the same reaction toward Tebaldi, when she found out about the Corelli-Tebaldi plans. According to Van Zoggel, who discussed this with Robert Sutherland, the pianist who accompanied Callas on the tour, Callas was shocked when she heard of the Tebaldi-Corelli plans in September1973, which can't possibly be true: by that time Corelli and Tebaldi had been touring for about a year and their duet album had meanwhile been released! Callas's reaction would be undersandable only if placed in September 1972, when she might have found out about Corelli and Tebaldi recording their duet album for DECCA. If made in 1973, this reaction makes no sense, unless she was a deaf, dumb & blind hermit. In short, if Sutherland is correct about the date of the contract between Gorlinsky and Callas (September 1973), then Renata Tebaldi indeed had good reasons to be suspicious about Callas's motivation.

Either way, the questions remain the same: Who approached who first? Did any one singer come up to Gorlinsky who then developed a masterplan, and then realized that resurrecting the old animosity between Callas and Tebaldi would help sell both tours better? Or did Gorlinsky suggest it to either one of the singers, who then coaxed their partners into the venture? Men like Rudolf Bing and Roberto Bauer employed such tactics all the time, and Gorlinsky, an experienced artist manager, may well have had those abilities as well. My aim in Prince of Tenors, however, was to point those interested to the unlikely coincidence of these simultaneous tours, and to provide the reactions of my protagonists, Corelli and Tebaldi, with respect to this "coincidence."

To know the precise genesis of either tour, we would need Gorlinsky's archives and the contracts for both camps (to see when they were signed). Unfortunately, we don't know of any Gorlinsky archive, where documents may be contained that reveal the exact order of events, but should anyone be able to point us to where such an archive might currently be kept, both Karl van Zoggel and me would welcome the opportunity to investigate it.

Franco Corelli | The Legacy, which is slowly progressing, will delve a little deeper into this issue.

7. An online critic posted that Franco Corelli was gay (and even rumored to have had an affair with Ettore Bastianini). The critic scolded Mr. Seghers for not mentioning a word about this and therefore dismissed the book as a cover–up.

Both claims are false. The rumor that Corelli was allegedly gay is extensively reviewed in the very long note 139, on page 492 of Prince of Tenors. It offers a complete evaluation of how this unfounded rumor came into the world. Corelli most certainly did not have an affair with Ettore Bastianini or other famous or infamous men that we know of, and we never felt the need to invent affairs. Finally: I dealt with this subject in a note rather than in the running text, for the simple reason that the book is strictly chronological and as Corelli was not gay, there was no point in the timeline where it would have appropriately fitted in the running text. The rumors began spreading in the early eighties, but derive back to the 1954 La Vestale premiere, hence the note appears in that chapter.

6. Someone in a newsgroup posted that Prince of Tenors claims that Franco did not appear with the San Francisco Opera House in 1965, but he did!

Correct, he did, and Prince of Tenors mentions this accordingly on page 326, where it is explained that Corelli canceled the opening night of the season in San Fransisco, and a number of his performances thereafter. He only appeared for a single Tosca in the War Memorial Opera House; a performance that is reviewed in the book, along with the substitutes that covered for Franco's canceled performances. After that single performance in San Fransisco, he appeared in a few SFO tour performances as well (La Fanciulla Del WestAndrea Chenier), but these were in Los Angeles, and not in Frisco. 

5. Someone informed us that Seghers made a mistake with regard to Corelli's 1975 rehearsal recording with Rita Hunter, saying: "I have this recording, and the singer there is clearly John Alexander, not Corelli."

I am sorry to say it, but Prince of Tenors is right. As mentioned at the end of the acknowledgement section, I have personally heard all rarities mentioned in the book, unless otherwise stated, and our March 2008 openingstune of this website left no room for doubt: Rita Hunter and Franco Corelli in "Qual cor tradisti," at the 1975 Norma rehearsal. The reason why I mention the reader's mistake here, is not so much to correct him, but to serve those who also were lead to believe that this rehearsal never took place, because of a mix-up between different recordings. The story of how this mix-up with another recording by Hunter and John Alexander came into the world will be revealed in the book that I am writing on Franco's recorded legacy.

4. It is hard to believe that two impresarios each collected 33% of Corelli's earnings during his early Italian years.

Although not impossible within Italian theater practices of the time (see the outrageous financial obligations that Giuseppe Di Stefano had to his teacher and manager Luigi Montesanto, when Di Stefano entered into an agreement with the latter), the grand total is hard to believe indeed. However, in this case an involved third impresario is quoted verbatim in the book within a given context. Yes, there is room, given the style of the source, to form your own opinion, here as well as in some other places - I trust that Del Monaco's fans will compare the dispute between Mario and Franco with their own ideas of how all this went down. Certainly, most of the time the facts are the facts, but in 5% of the cases, the facts leave room for interpretation. If you examine the disputes between the various protagonists in the biography, there was already plenty of room for different opinions when they were alive. I, however, never felt it was my task to "prove" every single document by the many sources that I came accross during the years of research, but rather asked myself how content could be properly incorporated when I felt that the readers would rather form their own opinion than have me take that option away from them by not publishing the quote. Sometimes, in such cases, I made a note; sometimes I didn't feel it was necessary – as in this case.

3. There were responses of readers who found the last chapters poetic, and there were readers who found them so tragic, that they felt sad after reading them, to the point where they wondered if you should write about the end at all. What does the author have to say about this?

Death is tragic by nature, and a part of life, something that I only fully understood since July 12, 2006. All I can say here is that I find those final photos touching, and that they are very dear to me and his closest friends. Franco's vulnerability there, made us love him even more. He seems so very much in touch with his soul there, spiritual and tranquillo, which will perhaps be more obvious if one has seen the video from that day, as I have. In short, those treasured, unique final photos and those very personal final chapters are the ones most dear to me (and also to his friends who gave them to me). In our opinions, you can still see that special thing glowing inside him, that miracle that we all hear in his voice, that enigma that can never be captured in words, because, as mentioned at the beginning of these pages: no words can ever bring a human being back to life. And, finally, I resent today's habit to put old people away, just because they remind us of  – what? The unanswered question? Well, I lost my fear for that one; these photos and chapters may make you cry, as they made me cry sometimes, but under no circumstance would I have wanted to part with them.

2. Are you Amanavoice on YouTube?

No. Amanavoice lives in another country, and, with our consent, spontaneously supports us ever since he read Prince of Tenors. The FrancoCorelli.nl team believes that YouTube is an interesting forum, and it is only with amazement that we read that some people seem to believe that they own an uncontrolled platform, by deciding for others what they can and cannot put up there. Now why should anyone understand that Sony, Universal and the rest can use it as a marketing tool, while being against, say, Mr. Zucker doing so? In our opinion, anyone who loves Franco should be happy with the efforts that Bel Canto Society, Hardy Classics, VAI, Dynamic, Divina Records, and FrancoCorelli.nl are making to publish his legacy. Personally, I strongly doubt that YouTube was ever intended as a place where you can post the fruits of other people's labor "just like that." And whereas videoclips promoting certain artists (say Franco Corelli, or Rihanna) are taken for granted, some people seem to think that you cannot promote books, authors, painters, or poets whose works can't be stolen readily, or downloaded for free. For all the obvious reasons, I've given up on newsgroup forum debates years ago, but on this spot in the shade, I'd like to point those interested to the fact that no person is required to open any given YouTube link. More important, however, than all the things mentioned above: like any given artist, we are happy to have found some people supporting us in this secluded fan-based niche.

1. Why is there a difference in "Prince of Tenors" in the manner in which the book approaches Franco's Metropolitan years and his Italian years?

There are different reasons that need to be mentioned here: First of all, his Italian years feature most of his operatic debuts, meaning that the works and their place in time, especially with the lesser known operas that he only sang in the early fifties, needed introduction. I have spent a significant amount of effort to uncover information about his appearances in operas where little had been   known or written of before in relation to Corelli (Giulietta e Romeo, Romulus, Enea, Guerra e Pace, Agnese di Hohenstaufen, Ifigenia in Aulide, Boris Godunov, Kovanchina, and Simon Boccanegra, to name but a few.) In Corelli's American years, there are far fewer debuts, and his established roles no longer needed introduction.

*

Secondly, I approached each and every theater where Corelli performed, but Italian theaters don't generally have archives as complete as the Metropolitan Opera archive for the Bing era. The principle reason seemed to be both the MET's interest in retaining information and in the fact that as transatlantic telephone calls were extremely expensive in that period of time, Bing relied on letters to communicate with his right hand man in Milan (I am currently writing a book based on their correspondence). In Italy, not only was there sometimes less interest in retaining such information, but also it was easy to phone. Where Milan and Rome are concerned, singers didn't even need to bother with the phones as they'd simply fall in from time to time. Therefore, as is the case with the Metropolitan Opera after the Bing era, much less data has been preserved due to shorter communication lines (for the same reason, the Met's files on US singers are a lot thinner than those on foreign singers). If you take Henstocks' exemplary Fernando De Lucia biography, the Poggiali's biography on Antonio Ghiringhelli, or the standard works on La Scala, most notably "A Tale of Four Houses," you will see that there is hardly any substantial opera theater archive material contained in them. For Italy, writers depend on a mixture of luck with these opera theaters and research in the much better kept civil and newspaper/magazine archives, as well as the collections of various private collectors. I was extremely lucky to find corespondence, clippings and/ or contracts pertaining to Corelli in Rome, Pesaro, Spoleto, Florence, Verona and Trieste, which, together, provided the key to the complete reconstruction of his early years, the roles he covered, the ones he canceled, and the financial details as specified in his contracts. Furthermore, where the opera theater archives were thin on written documents, I was usually lucky with other types of material: La Scala, Naples and Macerata provided me with stunning photographic documents. And, we shouldn't forget Oviedo, Bilbao and London – Corelli's early foreign career centers, which provided some material as well. A look at the Prince of Tenors acknowledgements section, the notes and the photo captions will show just how much has been uncovered through these unique sources. In addition, it was my great good fortune that Bing hired his right hand man in Italy as early as 1952, which means that there are Met files on Franco from as early as 1952, when he auditioned for them.

*

A third avenue toward reconstructing a singer's life is to cooperate with the subject's family, although there are more examples where this proved counterproductive than the other way around. However, for information about the childhood of most singers, there is no way around the family. As was Henstock with De Lucia's descendants, Farkas with his Caruso biography, and Drake with Tucker, I have been very lucky to find a surpringly responsive family (see also The New Biography–page). In addition to the childhood information, they conveyed many interesting details with respect to Franco's private life during the f ifties in Italy (and here we are in the opposite position regarding details for his American years, where Franco's relatives were not around). 

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Apart from the things that are mentioned above, there will always be a difference between the fifties (Corelli's Italian years) and the sixties (Corelli's Metropolitan Opera years) within the context of a book written in the first decade of the 21st century. Many of the directors, colleagues and friends of Franco from the Fifties are no longer living , whereas more people can be found that knew him or worked with him in the sixties. Nevertheless, I found a good number of his fifties and sixties colleagues prepared to talk. However, the real miracle in this research project is that I actually found the last six survivors that were close to him during his childhood, his sports activities and the army, in addition to which the children of Carlo Scaravelli and Corelli's first girlfriend provided me with a treasure trove of memories and documents.

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