Showing posts with label Montagnana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montagnana. Show all posts

22 October 2018

Giovanni Martinelli – tenor

Singer made his fame abroad

Giovanni Martinelli was seen as the  successor to Enrico Caruso
Giovanni Martinelli was seen as the
successor to Enrico Caruso
One of the most famous tenors of the 20th century, Giovanni Martinelli, was born on this day in 1885 in Montagnana in the province of Padua in the Veneto.

Martinelli began his career playing the clarinet in a military band and then studied as a singer with Giuseppe Mandolini in Milan. He made his professional debut at the Teatro del Verme in Milan in the title role of Giuseppe Verdi's Ernani in 1910.

Martinelli became famous for singing the role of Dick Johnson in Giacomo Puccini's La Fanciulla del West, which he performed in Rome, Brescia, Naples, Genoa, Monte Carlo and also at La Scala in Milan.

He played Cavaradossi in Puccini's Tosca at the Royal Opera House in London and took on the same role for his first American engagement in 1913. That same year Martinelli portrayed Pantagruel in the world premiere of Jules Massenet’s Panurge in Paris.

He attracted favourable reviews when he played Rodolfo in Puccini's La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He went on to sing 36 different roles for the theatre over 32 seasons.

Martinelli on stage in a production of  Rossini's opera William Tell
Martinelli on stage in a production of
Rossini's opera William Tell
In 1937 Martinelli returned to London to sing opposite the English soprano Eva Turner at Covent Garden.

He retired from the stage in 1950, but gave one final performance in 1967 at the age of 82 as Emperor Altoum in Puccini's Turandot in Seattle.

At the peak of his career Martinelli had a strong high C and exceptional breath control.  In America he was regarded as Enrico Caruso’s successor, even though their voices were different.

He made a number of recordings for Edison and the Victor Talking Machine.

Martinelli was married to Adele Previtali with whom he had three children. He died in 1969 at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.

Montagnana's walls are some of the best preserved in the whole of Europe
Montagnana's walls are some of the best
preserved in the whole of Europe
Travel tip: 

Montagnana, where Martinelli was born, is one of the borghi più belli d’talia - an association of the most beautiful small towns in Italy - because it has some of the best preserved medieval walls in Europe. The cathedral has a fresco that has recently been attributed to the artist Giorgione.

The Teatro del Verme in Milan, where Martinelli made his operatic debut in 1910
The Teatro del Verme in Milan, where Martinelli
made his operatic debut in 1910
Travel tip:

The Teatro del Verme in Milan, where Martinelli made his operatic debut, is in Via San Giovannni sul Muro and was built on the site of a previous theatre. It was used for plays and operas throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Today the theatre is a venue for concert, plays and dance performances as well as exhibitions and conferences.

More reading:

Why some still regard Caruso as the greatest of them all

What made Giacomo Puccini one of Italy's all-time finest composers

Baritone Antonio Scotti's 35 seasons at the Met

Also on this day:

1965: The birth of the actress Valeria Golino

1968: Soave wine granted DOC status


9 December 2016

Bruno Ruffo - motorcycle racer

Italy's first world champion on two wheels

Bruno Ruffo in action on the track
Bruno Ruffo in action on the track
Motorcycle racer Bruno Ruffo, winner of the inaugural 250cc World Champion- ship in 1949, was born on this day in 1920 in Colognola ai Colli, a village in the province of Verona.

He shares with Nello Pagani the distinction of being Italy's first world champion motorcyclist, Pagani having won the first world title in the 125cc class in the same year.

Ruffo wanted to race from the age of eight, having become fascinated with the motorcycles and cars that his rather repaired in his workshop.

He was able to drive a car at the age of 10 and was given his first motorcycle by his father as a 16th birthday present.  He entered a race for the first time the following year at Montagnana near Padua and won. The minimum age for participants was 18 and it later transpired he had falsified his identity papers to take part.

The Second World War interrupted his progress.  Drafted into the Italian Army, Ruffo served for 20 months on the Russian front.

After the war, he bought a Moto Guzzi 250, which he raced privately, enjoying considerable success in 1946, when he won nine of the 11 races he entered in the cadet class.

He was Italian champion in the senior 250cc class in both 1947 and 1948, his victory in the Grand Prix of Nations at Faenza in the second of those years earning an invitation to join Moto Guzzi's official team when the Grand Prix World Championship was launched in 1949.

Giacomo Agostini
Giacomo Agostini
Ruffo won the very first race in the 250cc category in Switzerland.  A second place in the Ulster GP and fourth in the GP of Nations at Monza gave him enough points from the six eligible events to finish top of the points classification.

Moto Guzzi dropped out of the 1950 championship in the 250cc class but gave Ruffo permission to race for Mondial in the 125cc class, in which he claimed his second world title.

Victories in the French and Ulster GPs in a championship expanded to eight races in 1951 enabled him to clinch his second 250cc world title and he was hot favourite to land a third in 1952 only for a crash in Stuttgart in July to rule him out of the last three events.

Injuries sustained in another crash in 1953 persuaded him to retire from racing on two wheels but he continued his career in motorsport, switching to cars.  Driving for Alfa Romeo and Maserati, he had several podium finishes.

He quit racing for good in 1958 after a miraculous escape when his Maserati overturned at 200kph in an uphill time trial. He had to be cut from the wreckage but recovered from his injuries and decided not to push his luck any further.

Cars remained central to his life after his racing career ended with the establishment of a successful vehicle rental business in Verona.

The bronze monument to Bruno Ruffo in Verona
The bronze monument to Bruno Ruffo in Verona
Already honoured in 1955 when he was made a Knight of Merit of the Italian Republic, in 2003 the title of Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic was conferred upon him by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

The award put him in the company of Giacomo Agostini, Pier Paolo Bianchi, Eugenio Lazzarini and Carlo Ubbiali as recipients of the award for their success in motorcycle racing.

Ruffo died in 2007, aged 86.  His life is commemorated in Verona with a monument in bronze depicting a human figure crouched over a speeding motorcycle, and in Colognola ai Colli with a sports hall named in his honour.

Travel tip:

The monument to Bruno Ruffo, created by the artist Marco da Ronco, can be found a short distance from Verona's central Piazza Bra, in a small garden at the junction of Via Roma and Via Morette.  Piazza Bra adjoins the Arena di Verona, the Roman amphitheatre nowadays used as a venue for music concerts and in particular opera, for which it is among the most famous outdoor settings in the world.

Montagnana's medieval city walls are still intact
Montagnana's medieval city walls are still intact
Travel tip:

Montagnana, where Ruffo won his first race on a dirt track, is best known for having one of the best preserved medieval city walls in Europe, as well as two castles, the Rocca degli Alberi and the Castle of San Zeno.  Andrea Palladio's Villa Pisani is another nearby tourist attraction.

More reading:

Giacomo Agostini, Italy's 15 times World Motorcycling Champion

Enrico Piaggio - creator of Italy's iconic Vespa scooter

Luigi Fagioli - Formula One's oldest winning driver

Also on this day:

1920: The birth of Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the minister who took Italy into the Euro

(Picture credits: Montagana walls by Zavijavah; Giacomo Agostini by Gede; both via Wikimedia Commons)