NAZZARENO DE ANGELIS
Nazareno de Angelis first sang as a boy soprano in local church choirs, eventually graduating to the Giulia Chapel and then the Sistine Chapel, both in Rome. After his voice broke he studied singing with Dr Faberi and others at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. He possessed a wide vocal range and it was some time before it became clear that he was most comfortable singing as a bass.
During his final two years at the Accademia, de Angelis prepared repertoire and took part in several recitals. He made his operatic stage debut in May 1903 at the Teatro Comunale in Aquila as the Prefect / Linda di Chamounix, followed soon after by an appearance in Emilio Usiglio’s Le educande di Sorrento at the same theatre. Spotted by the management of the Teatro Quirino in Rome, he was engaged to sing Oroveso / Norma there during July 1903 and further appearances in Rome swiftly followed: at the Teatro Adriano as Il Spettro / Hamlet (Thomas), in which he sang opposite Barrientos and Battistini, and as Sparafucile / Rigoletto.
Now de Angelis began to sing throughout Italy and toured Holland during 1905. He made his debut at La Scala, Milan in 1907 as Alvise / La Gioconda and appeared there regularly until 1914, frequently with Toscanini in the pit. Notable high points included the first perfomance of Cilea’s Gloria (1907) and appearances as the High Priest / La vestale (Spontini) (1908, repeated in Paris in 1909), Procida / I vespri siciliani (1909), Creon / Medea (1910) and Zaccaria / Nabucco (1913). De Angelis also created the part of Archibaldo in Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre re (1913), one of his finest assumptions. He continued to appear at La Scala from the end of World War I until 1933: major successes included the title parts in Mosè and Mefistofele (both 1918); Hunding / Die Walküre (1924), Don Basilio / Il barbiere di Siviglia and King Philip / Don Carlo.
In South America de Angelis was very popular, appearing there regularly between 1909 and 1925 and enjoying special acclaim at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. He first sang in the USA at New York’s Manhattan Opera House during 1909 and 1910 and subsequently in Chicago (1910 and 1911, and 1920 to 1925). Rome was important in his career, a centre where he sang regularly from 1911 until his retirement in 1939. He also appeared at the Verona Arena in 1920, 1925 and 1931.
Although de Angelis’s recorded legacy is relatively modest, his complete recording of Mefistofele, made for Columbia in 1931, is significant. It was in this role that he gave his farewell operatic performance at the Caracalla Baths in Rome in 1939, although still singing occasionally in concert until 1959. De Angelis taught in both Milan and Rome and enjoyed retirement in his birthplace, Aquila.
Considered the finest Italian bass active between 1910 and 1930, he had a dominating onstage presence to match his large, wide-ranging voice but was able to vary his rich timbre through subtle inflection and was a master of phrasing, notably in the bel canto repertoire.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).