pars media // films // Belcanto - The Tenors of the 78 Era // 6 McCormack (1884-1945)

scene: ro-Cathedral in Dublin. Oliver O’Brien, son of Vincent O’Brien, the man who discovered and taught John McCormack, tells the youths in the Palestrina Choir, the group in which McCormack debuted in 1902, about their famous predecessor.

music: Donizetti, Franck, Mozart, Brahms, Irish ballads


analysis: Il mio tesoro (Don Giovanni, Mozart), 1916

Quotes from the film's exposition...
McCormack has often been criticized worldwide for singing what musicians would consider second-rate ballads and music and yes, he did. But McCormack never descended to second-rate music. If he sang a ballad that was trash he would raise it up to his standards. (Oliver O'Brien) McCormack was not an exciting singer, but he was exquisite. He was a touching singer, but not a deeply moving one. An affectionate singer, a caressing singer, a loving and lovely one. He can make you cry through nostalgia and melancholy. (Zucker)

...from its development...
It was a performance of Don Giovanni that Furtwängler was conducting: when John sang the "Il mio tesoro" Furtwängler put down his baton and led the applause. (Oliver O'Brien) One should be cautious with the word 'perfection', but that really was perfect. I cannot think of any recording to match it. Others sing this piece magnificently, but this performance was hewn from marble. (Kesting) McCormack had the ease of emission that is associated with 19th century tenors and had one of the most masterful breathing techniques. Sometimes you can't tell when he takes breath. When I began to study singing he was my idol because of his technical perfection. (Zucker) McCormack had a good vocal technique all his life. But he gave up opera young, he wasn't 39. That was because he was totally independent financially. In one year alone he would make 300.000 Dollars which was huge. He was the Pavarotti of his time. (Smith)

...and from its resolution
He had brought so much joy to all of us. Please God, I hope for the next generation, maybe they wake up that there was such a wonderful man in Ireland who sang all these beautiful songs. (Mary Breene)

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