(Marcello Del Monaco private, courtesy Donella Del Monaco)

A cura di Donella Del Monaco ed Elena Filini
Diastema 2014, pp 237, 2 CD's , 25 Euro
ISBN 9788896988411

Click here to order the book !!!!!!!!

Click here to listen to our Marcello Del Monaco tribute

(all photos copyright and courtesy of Donella Del Monaco)

While some singing teachers wrote books about  the vocal technique they taught, not too many  get books written about them by others. A few years ago James Radomski wrote a book about the Garcia family and now a book has been published on Marcello Del Monaco (1919 – 1984). Every vocal buff knows the great dramatic tenor Mario Del Monaco (1915-1982) but few outside Italy know that his younger brother Marcello was an important singing teacher. In fact, judging from his record of achievements, one can easily state that Marcello Del Monaco, together with Vera Rosza and Paola Novikova, was the most important and successful post-war maestro di canto, especially in the tenor field. Yet Marcello became a singing teacher almost by default. A gentle intellectual he was primarily a man of literature and above all poetry. However, he was also the possessor of a promising baritone voice and therefore Del Monaco senior enrolled the younger Marcello into the Liceo Musicale Rossini in Pesaro to pursue studies in singing, pianoforte (he accompanied Tebaldi in her first concert) and composition while the older brother studied painting first, then the violin and only later singing. Both brothers studied with the legendary Arturo Melocchi. Marcello Del Monaco quickly opted for a future in literature, and already in 1940 he published his first volume of poems. He never sang after that. In that same year Mario would make his operatic debut in Cagli as Turiddu opposite the Santuzza of Adriana Guerrini.


(from left to right: Marcello and Donella Del Monaco, Angelo Mori, Toti Dal Monte, Giovanni Ribichesu, Nicola Martinucci and Marcello's wife Teresa)

After the war Marcello continued his career as a poet while at the same time working at an elementary school as did his wife Teresa. In the meantime Mario had become the reigning dramatic tenor of the late forties and the fifties. His great international successes drove numerous aspiring singers to his hometown, yet the tenor himself never taught during his active career. Most of these aspirants went to Melocchi, but after his death and at the insistence of the tenor Gastone Limarilli -who was studying with Melocchi around that time - Marcello carried on the Melocchi torch . Shortly after young local talents –especially tenors – flocked from all over Italy (and later elsewhere) to the newly born maestro’s studio.
Marcello Del Monaco kept his educational job and only taught singing in the late afternoon. In other words he did not need the money to make a living by teaching voice. This enabled him to be very selective in taking on only those students he really believed in.  In fact when the student was poor but talented, Del Monaco took him on gratis.

(Cecchele with his teacher) (with Martinucci)

His most famous alumni included Amedeo Zambon, Angelo Mori, Gianfranco Cecchele, Nicola Martinucci, Timo Callio, Peter Lindroos, Giuseppe Giacomini, Aldo Bottion and the baritone Silvano Carroli to name but a few.
The fact is that Marcello Del Monaco especially loved  the male voices (Caruso, Gigli, Di Stefano) and so enthusiastic in these, he rarely accepted female voices; most often he sent them to other teachers, especially the light sopranos.
His most successful female students included Josella Ligi, Rita Lantieri,  Maria Luisa Nave and his own daughter Donella.
Donella (click here for her website) initially studied architecture. After graduating she established a musical group specializing in the progressive/avant-garde genre, the name is Opus Avantra (a mix of classical and experimental music, click here). “Their first album with the same name was released in 1974 and both my father and my uncle Mario enjoyed it. Though opinions were different: my uncle Mario wanted me to prepare for a debut in opera, while my dad thought I needed to follow my initial vocation. I eventually studied with both and made my debut in the opera world but my true passion is creating new music and lyrics with living composers, so I recorded many works collected in at least 15 CDs” (1)


Click here to listen to Marcello Del Monaco speaking about vocal technique and click here for an interview with his daughter Donella

(three Del Monacos : Marcello, Mario and Donella)

The book consists of three main parts. The first  part ‘ A life between music and poetry’ is a biographical chapter  with memoirs of the Del Monaco family. These include contributions by Giancarlo Del Monaco and Alberto Del Monaco, theyoungest brother of Mario and Marcello. Donella Del Monaco contributes a chapter on Mario and Marcello while co-author Elena Filini is responsible for a biographical sketch of Marcello Del Monaco.
Part two includes an historical overview of vocal technique (theoretical writings of Marcello Del Monaco), an interview by Marcello Del Monaco and his brother Mario; an article on the fundamentals of the technique based on the tapes of the lessons of Marcello Del Monaco and a biographical note on Arturo Melocchi.
An essay by Franco Fussi brings into focus the different characteristics of the “Italian tenor”.

The final chapter is made up of portraits and interviews of many of Marcello Del Monaco’s former students. The interviews are pretty direct and the former students talk frankly about their experiences with Del Monaco as a teacher. Whether it is Nicola Martinucci revealing he was taught gratis, taking daily lessons or Silvano Carroli who was referred by Marcello to undertake his lessons with Carlo Tagliabue when he was once unable to come to the maestro himself due to travel distance problems. Also interesting is the interview with Josella Ligi who confirms Marcello Del Monaco’s different approach in teaching female voices and Maurizio Frusoni’s forsaking a promising career in nuclear physics for the lyric stage

The book is illustrated with many rare photographs from the Del Monaco family archive and an extra bonus are the two (!!) cds with arias from most of his students, but also a recording of Mario Del Monaco reciting (!!!) a poem of his brother (Cd 1, track one) and Marcello reciting the text of his poem “La musica” (Cd 1, track two)
Marcello Del Monaco also composed. His beautiful song “La Melodia” written for baritone voice around 1978  has been sung in his honour by many of his singers. Gianfranco Cecchele recorded it commercially and a rare live recording with Cecchele has been uploaded to our youtube channel. The recording is taken from an open air concert (early eighties) with a local banda and chorus, a bit underrehearsed but full of passion and devotion. A catchy tune in an Italian song tradition now lost forever.

Click here to listen to Gianfranco Cecchele's moving version with orchestra and how it bring the audience into frenzy

Click here to hear the baritone version (by Antonio Zuccon)

Click here to listen to another rendition by Gianfranco Cecchele (with piano) which brings the house down (the song starts at 14:30)

According to his daughter Donella  her father was a happy man who perhaps had one regret :  as he wrote poetry up until his unexpected and sudden death he was unable to pursue his literary interests more profoundly.
Except for one or two typos I only came across three real errors. One is a wrong photo caption on page 22 where Mario and Marcello are mixed up and Mario Del Monaco’s final international appearance (as Canio) was not in Mannheim but at the Vienna State Opera (pg.60) . Renata Tebaldi did indeed study at the Pesaro conservatory but not with Melocchi but with Carmen Melis. (pg.132)

This is a very enjoyable, revealing and interesting book and an important contribution to the history of operatic singing. The first edition has been sold out and a second edition is already in preparation. At 25 euros it is a real bargain especially with the bonus of the two cd’s.  Everyone interested in the history of operatic singing, vocal technique or just tenors should get this highly recommended release.

Click here to watch a private video of Marcello Del Monaco at his house

Rudi van den Bulck

(1) interview with Donella Del Monaco