Giacomo Aragall, whose full name is Jaume Aragall y Garriga, sang in a church choir in Barcelona when he was nine. As a young man he achieved Olympic standard as an athlete, but at the age of twenty he began to study voice with Jaime Francesco Puig in Barcelona. After coming second in a singing competition in Bilbao, he was awarded a scholarship by the Gran Teatro del Liceu of Barcelona to study with Vladimiro Badiali in Milan. Success soon followed: in 1963 he won the Verdi Competition in Busseto and in the same year made his operatic stage début in Verdi’s Gerusalemme at La Fenice, Venice, singing Gaston, the tenor lead, alongside Leyla Gencer with Gianandrea Gavazzeni conducting. He quickly accepted a three-year contract with La Scala, Milan, and made his début there in the title rôle in Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz, also in 1963. Other early parts at La Scala included Rodolfo/La Bohème and Il Cavaliere/Cardillac. Aragall soon returned to sing at the Liceu, and in 1964 also appeared at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, with which he developed a close relationship. His career developed quickly, with appearances in Berlin, Budapest, Venice, Genoa, Palermo, Parma, Modena, Naples, Rome and Turin. In 1966 he sang Rodolfo with great success at the Verona Arena and went on to make successful débuts in this rôle: at Vienna in the same year; at Covent Garden and the Metropolitan, both in 1968; at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires in 1970 and at San Francisco in 1973.
During the following two decades Aragall became an indispensable part of the operatic world, singing lyric tenor rôles such as Edgardo/Lucia di Lammermoor, Pinkerton/Madama Butterfly, Fernando/La favorita, Alfredo/La traviata, Werther, Faust, Cavaradossi/Tosca, Des Grieux/Manon, Don Carlo, Maurizio/Adriana Lecouvreur, Riccardo/Un ballo in maschera and Gabriele/Simon Boccanegra. Highlights included Romeo in the La Scala production of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi with Renata Scotto and Luciano Pavarotti, Claudio Abbado conducting (1966); the first twentieth-century performances of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro in Naples with Leyla Gencer (1972) and later Montserrat Caballé; the rediscovery of Massenet’s Esclarmonde with Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge at San Francisco (1974) and the Metropolitan (1976); and Rodolfo with Carlos Kleiber conducting at Covent Garden (1979).
Towards the end of his career, when he tended to sing heavier rôles, Aragall also gave song-recitals, for instance touring Germany in 1997; and at the reopening of the Teatro Real, Madrid in 1997 he sang the rôle of Pedro in Manuel de Falla’s opera La vida breve. In 1994 he founded the Giacomo Aragall International Singing Competition. His many honours include being named a kammersänger at the Vienna State Opera. Aragall possessed a rich natural tenor voice, which he used with style and discretion as well as virility when required. Although his commercial recording career was limited, he may be found singing on a large number of unofficial opera recordings of the 1960s and 1970s, always giving performances of a very high standard.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers).
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