Modern-day fans of operatic standards like “Nessun Dorma,” “La Donna e Mobile,” and “Che Gelida Manina,” as well as Neapolitan favorites like “O Sole Mio,” “Torna a Surriento,” and “Non ti Scordar Di Me” most readily associate these classics with The Three Tenors – Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and the late, great Luciano Pavarotti – arguably the preeminent triumverate that bridged the gap between opera purists and popular culture. The Big Three enjoyed their heyday a generation ago – when they converged for the world cup in Italy in 1990, and then for the Olympic games in Los Angeles in 1994.
A hundred years earlier, there was one name, and one name only, with which opera was associated: Enrico Caruso. But in between Caruso and the Three Tenors, scores of other extremely talented, technically proficient, and downright electrifying tenors filled opera halls throughout the world, even though the vast majority never broke the barrier beyond the rather exclusive operatic world. There were two exceptions: Mario Lanza and Andrea Bocelli, each of who was better known for filling concert halls than for performing onstage in costume and without a mic.
Bocelli’s teacher, Franco Corelli, was far less known than his iconic student. As was another Franco of the 1960s, Bonisolli. Ironically, these two legendary tenors, Corelli and Bonisolli, died just one day apart, on October 29 and 30, respectively, 10 years ago.
Corelli’s death was not a total surprise – he was 82 and had been in poor health after suffering a stroke. He retired in the 1970s: always his own biggest critic, Corelli felt that he was past his prime and that his voice had lost a step. Pavarotti, by comparison, performed brilliantly decades beyond his prime, though many of his later followers never realized that he had sounded even better in years gone by.
Bonisolli, on the other hand, died just as he had lived – in a flash. Just as he rose from virtual obscurity to overwhelming international stardom in the 1960s and 1970s, only to overextend his voice, constantly battle with his opera costars, and fade back into obscurity, he died unexpectedly at age 65. Consistent with his eccentric personality, Bonisolli claimed the Three Tenors had put evil hexes on him, because they were jealous of his greatness which, said he, none of them could match.
CLICK HERE for Video of Franco Bonisolli Singing “Non Ti Scordar Di Me”