10 February 1870 Cesena – 9 August 1940 Viserba
When you read a list of the so-called ten best tenors of the century, you always get Caruso, Gigli, Schipa and sometimes Martinelli
among the Italian singers, but you never see the name of Bonci. Alessandro Bonci is justifiably considered the rival of Enrico Caruso.
He interpreted I puritani, La sonnambula, Rigoletto and La bohème with an impeccable, sophisticated vocal technique, commanding
a perfection that the tenor from Naples never achieved. For further reading on the parallel Bonci/Caruso, we recommend the book by
Gino Monaldi (Cantanti celebri nel secolo XIX, Roma, Nuova Antologia). Gino Monaldi further states that if Caruso
had studied as hard and as long as Bonci, he would have been a better tenor.
Bonci was the son of Domenico Bonci and Camilla Tecchi. In 1889, he was overheard
singing by Augusto Dell'Amore, who advised to study singing at the Liceo of Pesaro with Carlo Pedrotti and Felice Coen.
Bonci was already praised for his timbre and quality of his singing in a student concert in Pesaro on August 12th, 1891.
In July 1892, Bonci sang the part of Don Eusebio in the opera L'occasione fa il ladro (composer: Battistelli) for the centenary
of the birth of Rossini at the Sala dei concerti del Liceo in Pesaro. Bonci made his debut as Fenton in Falstaff in Parma
(Teatro Regio) on January 25th, 1896 with Cappelli, Carobbi, Bellagamba, Martelli, Zeppini, Bastoa, with Bracale conducting.
He had great success. In rapid order followed appearances in Milano (Dal Verme, Faust, 28 April 1896), Rome (Quirino, Rigoletto,
30 May 1896), Milano (Lirico, La vivandiera, 22 September 1896; Mignon, 10 October 1896; and La sonnambula, 13 November 1896).
In 1897, Bonci added I puritani (Genova, 6 January 1897), Il signor di Pourceaugnac (Milano, Scala, 10 April 1897),
Fra Diavolo (Warsaw, 30 October 1897), Il barbiere di Siviglia (Warsaw, 11 November 1897) and Don Giovanni (Warsaw, 29 November
1897). He also visited Saint Petersburg.
This was the beginning of a worldwide career adding in 1898, besides expanding the number of cities where he sang in Italy: Barcelona and Madrid;
1899: Buenos Aires, Lisbon; 1900: London, Berlin; 1902: Wien, Kraków, Lviv; 1903: Bucharest,
Budapest, Porto; 1905: Monte Carlo; 1906: Oostende; 1907: Spa, Philadelphia; 1908: New York, Boston, Baltimore, Washington,
Chicago, Pittsburgh, Paris; 1909: Denver, Brooklyn, Montevideo; 1910: St. Louis, Louisville, Havana, Anna Harbor, Oberlin; 1911:
San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver, Rosario, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro; 1912: Toronto, Norwich, Cleveland, Grand Rapid, Bethlehem,
Los Angeles, Paterson, Cincinnati, Mexico City, San Louis Potosi, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Saltillo, Durango, Torreon, Tampico;
1913: Richmond; 1919: Milwaukie, Peoria, St. Paul, Omaha, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Ft. Worth, Houston; 1920: Newark,
Springfield, Des Moines, Sioux City, Sioux Falls; 1921: Tulsa, Dallas; 1922: Geneva, Zürich, Bern, St. Gallen.
Rodolfo Celletti reports in his book "Voce di tenore" that Bonci was singing Beppe, Remendado, Caius, Laerte during the summer season
at the Colón in 1918. Unfortunately the chronology by Inzaghi (and other books on the Colón) state clearly that he was not in
Argentina that year.
Bonci's high notes extended to a brilliant and ringing C-sharp, and possibly even D. His cadenzas and his ability to diminish
a single high long note added to his fame. There was constant use of acciaccatura to propel his high notes.
Bonci had a repertory of 29 operas:
L'occasione fa il ladro, Falstaff, Faust, Rigoletto, La vivandiera, Mignon, La sonnambula, I puritani, Il signor di Pourceaugnac,
Fra Diavolo, Il barbiere di Siviglia,
Don Giovanni, La bohème, Manon, Les pêcheurs de perles, Mefistofele, La favorite, L'elisir d'amore, Lucia di Lammermoor,
Don Pasquale, Martha, La traviata, Tosca, Le villi, Il matrimonio segreto, Un ballo in maschera, La fanciulla del West,
Il sogno di Alma and Lucrezia Borgia.
There was a fake letter by Verdi approving that Bonci laughed in the Ballo in maschera aria.
Bonci started to sing the role of Riccardo long after
the death of Verdi, which made it difficult for Verdi to have heard him in Ballo in maschera.
Bonci recorded for:
In RA format
Fonotipia 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908: 83 sides
Columbia 1912, 1913 and 1926: 30 sides
Edison 1913: 14 sides (both records and cylinders)
In RA format
In RA format
I would like to thank Thomas Silverbörg for the recordings and picture (top).
L'occasione fa il ladro – Pesaro, Sala dei concerti del Liceo, July 1892
Falstaff – Parma, Regio, 25 January 1896
Faust – Milano, Dal Verme, 28 April 1896
Rigoletto – Roma, Quirino, 30 May 1896
La vivandiera (Godart) – Milano, Lirico, 22 September 1896
Mignon – Milano, Lirico, 10 October 1896
La sonnambula – Milano, Lirico, 13 November 1896
I puritani – Genova, Carlo Felice, 6 January 1897
Il signor di Pourceaugnac (Franchetti) – Milano, Scala, 10 April 1897
Fra Diavolo – Warsaw, Wielki, 30 October 1897
Il barbiere di Siviglia – Warsaw, Wielki, 11 November 1897
Don Giovanni – Warsaw, Wielki, 29 November 1897
La favorita (act 1) – Madrid, Real, 31 March 1898
La bohème – Barcelona, Liceo, 10 April 1898
Manon – Barcelona, Liceo, 23 April 1898
I pescatori di perle – Barcelona, Liceo, 25 December 1898
Mefistofele – Buenos Aires, dell'Opera, 20 May 1899
La favorita (act 4) – Buenos Aires, dell'Opera, 6 August 1899
La favorita – Lisboa, S. Carlos, 1 February 1900
L'elisir d'amore – Firenze, Verdi, 30 November 1901
Lucia di Lammermoor – London, Covent Garden, 30 May 1903
Don Pasquale – London, Waldorf, 1 June 1905
Martha – New York, Manhattan, 23 March 1907
La traviata – New York, Met, 21 January 1908
Tosca – Philadelphia, Academy, 15 December 1908
Le villi – New York, Met, 17 December 1908
Il matrimonio segreto – Buenos Aires, Colón, 12 August 1911
Un ballo in maschera – Mexico, Arbeu, November 1912
La fanciulla del West – Mexico, Arbeu, December 1912
Il sogno di Alma (Buchardo) – Buenos Aires, Colón, 4 August 1914
Lucrezia Borgia – Milano, Scala, 22 February 1917
Reference: Luigi Inzaghi Il tenore Alessandro Bonci, Raffaelli Editore, 2001.
Reference: Maria Pia Luzzi E Bonci fu... Bonci. Il grande tenore cesenate rivale di Caruso,
Editrice Il Ventaglio, Roma, 1994.