Aureliano Pertile was born eighteen days after the birth of another great Italian tenor, Giovanni Martinelli, also in Montagnana. As a boy, Pertile sang in the choir of Montagnana Cathedral and following his schooling was apprenticed as a goldsmith; however he then studied singing for four years with Vittorio Orefice in Padua. His operatic stage debut was in 1911 as Lionel / Martha in Vicenza, after which he appeared in Asti, Brescia and Genoa and undertook further study with Manlio Bavagnoli in Milan.
At the Teatro Massimo, Palermo during 1914 Pertile sang Herod in Richard Strauss’s Salome and Mateo in Zandonai’s Conchita opposite Tarquinia Tarquini (who later married Zandonai). Also in 1914 he created a sensation at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples as Pinkerton / Madama Butterfly and as Don José / Carmen. During the following year he took part in the premiere of Mario Mariotti’s opera Una tragedia fiorentina at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. He made his debut at La Scala, Milan in 1916 as Paolo in Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini.
In South America, where Pertile was extremely popular, he first appeared in 1918 both at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires (where he sang Mazurec in the premiere of Gino Marinuzzi’s opera Jacquerie Palla de’ Mozzi) and in Rio de Janeiro. He returned to the Teatro Colón in 1920–1921, 1925– 1926 and 1929, singing in the local premieres of, among others, Alfano’s Sakuntala (1923), Boito’s Nerone and Constantino Gaito’s Ollantay (both 1926). He made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York in December 1921, singing Cavaradossi opposite the Tosca of Maria Jeritza who was also making her debut and who secured all the public and press attention. Pertile’s only season at the Met was 1921–1922; his other roles there included des Grieux / Manon Lescaut, Turiddù / Cavalleria rusticana, Grigory / Boris Godunov (opposite Chaliapin), Radamès / Aida, Julien / Louise (opposite Geraldine Farrar) and Canio / Pagliacci (opposite Florence Easton).
On his return to Italy in 1922 Pertile sang Faust in Boito’s Mefistofele at La Scala with Toscanini conducting: he enjoyed great success and became a true star of La Scala, singing there annually until 1937 as well as reputedly becoming Toscanini’s ‘favourite tenor’. His repertoire at La Scala was
varied and included the title roles in Andrea Chénier, Fra Diavolo, Lohengrin and Werther; Stolzing / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (in Italian), Alvaro / La forza del destino, Edgardo / Lucia di Lammermoor, Alfredo / La traviata, Osaka / Iris, Rodolfo / La Bohème, Manrico / Il trovatore, Riccardo / Un ballo in maschera, Pinkerton, The Duke / Rigoletto, Pollione / Norma, Loris / Fedora, Maurizio / Adriana Lecouvreur and Fernando / La favorita. He also created the leading tenor parts in Boito’s Nerone (1924), Wolf-Ferrari’s Sly (1927) and Mascagni’s Nerone (1935).
Between 1927 and 1931 Pertile was a regular guest in the international seasons at the Royal Opera House, London and, as in Milan, became very popular, especially in the roles of Radamès (with which he made his debut), Manrico and Canio. Other international appearances took in the opera houses of Berlin, Brussels, Monte Carlo and Vienna. He sang at the Verona Arena in 1920, 1922 and 1932–1933 and at the Florence Maggio Musicale. He appeared at Zürich during 1937, by which time he had extended his repertoire to take in the title role of Verdi’s Otello (recordings exist of this, made with the forces of La Scala in 1942).
Pertile began teaching in Rome in 1940, making his farewell appearance there as Boito’s Nerone in 1945. His final appearance was as Canio in Naples in 1946. After the end of World War II he taught at the Milan Conservatory from 1945 until his death.
Although Pertile’s voice is not to present tastes, being rather thick, it is undeniably thrilling in dramatic roles and yet also mellifluous in lyrical parts. His singing combined great intensity with musical good taste and sensitivity. He was one of the few major artists of the inter-war years to record several complete operas.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).