Статья 'Специфика оперно-вокального исполнительства Антонио Тамбурини' - журнал 'PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal' - NotaBene.ru
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PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal

The specificity of opera-vocal performance by Antonio Tamburini

Chzhan Isyan

Postgraduate student, Department of Vocal Art, Kazan State Conservatory named after N. G. Zhiganov

420000, Russia, Kazan, Pushkin str., 24, of. Kazan

Other publications by this author










Abstract: The 19th century gave the world many talented opera performers, each of whom had his own artistic charisma and unique style of vocal performance. One of these singers was the bass-baritone Antonio Tamburini, a master of interpretation of the roles of Gioacchino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, Saverio Mercadante, Giovanni Paccini, Carlo Coccia and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The subject of the research is the work of the early 19th century operatic baritone Antonio Tamburini. The object of the study is the opera parts performed by Tamburini over the years of work in theaters. The relevance of the study is due to the role of Antonio Tamburini in the formation and development of the baritone art at the beginning of the 19th century, as well as the lack of knowledge of the processes that took place in opera art in the era of early romanticism. This period is covered in the musicological works of O.V. Zhestkovoy, L.A. Sadykova, I.P. Drach, G. Potter, A. Jacobshagen, J. Stark, A.E. Hoffmann, S.V. Reshetnikova, however, the mentioned works are mainly devoted to the study of the operatic performance of tenors and sopranos. The period of the birth of baritone performance was not considered in the above works, and the work of Antonio Tamburini remained unexplored, which indicates the undoubted novelty of the work. The article focuses on primary sources: the singer's creative biography, described by the 19th century music critic Castile-Blaz, contemporaries' reviews of Antonio Tamburini's stage performances. The work is dominated by historical and theoretical research methods. The main conclusion of the work is to identify the main aspects of the performing style of Antonio Tamburini, revealing the secret of the uniqueness of his art.


bas-baritone, basso cantante, Antonio Tamburini, vocal technique, performing style, interpretation, acting talent, vocal part, improvisation, vocalization

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

Antonio Tamburini (1800-1876) was one of the outstanding performers of the basso cantante parts, at a time when the baritone had not yet formed into an independent voice type [16]. The basso cantante parts were designed for high and rolling basses. These include, for example, Mozart's parts: the Count from the opera "The Wedding of Figaro", Papageno from the opera "The Magic Flute", Don Juan from the opera of the same name and many others. Nowadays, these parts are performed by baritones [8, pp. 267-272].

Since the 1820s, parts written specifically for operatic baritones began to appear, the first of which was Antonio Tamburini. Among the main roles created for him: Atlant in the opera "Violence and Constancy" and General Banner in the opera "Adele and Emerico" by Saverio Mercadante; the title role in the opera "Alajor of Granada" and Doctor Malatesta in the opera "Don Pasquale" by Gaetano Donizetti; Ernesto in "The Pirate" and Riccardo in "The Puritans" Vincenzo Bellini; Richard the Lionheart in Giovanni Paccini's "Talisman" and the title role in the opera "Edward Stuart in Scotia" by Carlo Kochi [13; 17].

Tamburini began his singing career in Ravenna in 1816. Six years later, he was already performing on the stage of the famous La Scala theater. And since the 1820s, the artist's touring activity began. Over the next two decades, he shone on the opera stages of Italy, France, England and Russia, appearing in the roles of a military commander, rival, hero-lover and ruler [3, pp. 64-98; 5; 13].

Antonio Tamburini is considered to be a representative of the Italian bel canto of the XIX century, as evidenced by his contemporaries. German composer of the XIX century, master of flute art, engaged in the study of instrumental and vocal music Theobald Boehm wrote: "Someone who, like me, was lucky enough to hear <...> the greatest singers of that time will never forget the names of Brizzi, Sessi, Catalani, Velluti, Lablache, Tamburini, Rubini, Malibran, Pasta, etc. I remember with joy their magnificent, highly artistic performances; they all come from the good old Italian vocal school, which today, as in past centuries, provides the basis for good voice formation and leads to a correct understanding of style, which is important for both an instrumentalist and a singer" [12, p. 145].

Tamburini's voice was characterized by contemporaries as a beautiful baritone of rich velvet timbre, surprisingly flexible and mobile, whose range extended from the "la" of the big to the "fa" of the first octave [13, P. 126; 5, p. 13]. Antonio Tamburini received an excellent vocal school (he studied with tenor Domenico Mombelli and Madame Pesaroni), so he was not inferior to tenors and castrati in the ability to improvise and color the parts with coloratura.

In the critical reviews of the beginning of the XIX century, one can find evidence that the singer performed passages and complex vocal melodies in an instrumental style. For example, in the Harmonicon magazine for 1833, the famous French music critic Castille-Blas noted: "... it is impossible to suspect that any note will be missed or unnoticed by him. He has the neatness and precision of execution that Behr and Barisel acquired while playing the clarinet or bassoon. The tone is uniform throughout its entire length, it picks up and holds the fa with the same ease as a tenor voice would do, or picks up notes with a vivacity unheard of until now..." [13, P. 126]. Dexterity in the performance of passages was manifested in the roles of Dandini from the opera "Cinderella" by Gioacchino Rossini, Geronimo from the opera "The Secret Marriage" by Domenico Cimarosa, Malatesta from the opera "Don Pasquale" by Gaetano Donizetti and others [15].

Despite the fact that Tamburini was considered an outstanding performer of buffoon parts, he sang lyrical and dramatic parts no less successfully. Castil-Blas testified: "... his pathetic tones in the cavatina from Bellini's The Stranger, Mai tu vieni o misera, could move the listener to tears" [13, p. 126]

He skillfully combined virtuoso singing (canto fiorito) with cantilena, coped well with extended phrases on legato (canto spianato). In the melodies of the cantilevered parts, the singer often included cadences with extreme notes of a high register. Such an example is presented in Riccardo's aria from Bellini's opera The Puritans [11, P. 31-45]. It should be noted that this part is rightfully considered one of the most difficult in the baritone repertoire.

Witnesses of the performances noted that Antonio Tamburini vocalized not only the melodies of the performed parts, but also recitatives [5, p. 208]. Apparently, Tamburini preferred to avoid melodic declamation (canto declamato), singing conversational dialogues in the Italian manner.

It is quite difficult to get an idea of the melodies of the parts performed by Tamburini, even in those operas that were created specifically for him. The reason is that the composers of the XIX century fixed, as a rule, the invariant of the melody and the singers colored them at will. Therefore, in the melodies of those years, you can often find notes a piacere, ad libitum, etc. [6, pp. 139-149; 4, P. 88].

According to opera fashion, Tamburini, like many of his contemporaries, used improvisation, transposition, pasticcio (opera composed of fragments of different operas), arie di baule (insert numbers or suitcase arias) in his performances [1, pp. 33-37; 2, pp. 150-175; 18, P. 25]. As a rule, soloists included the most winning numbers in their performances to demonstrate the splendor of vocal technique. Arias were rearranged by singers from one opera to another. But sometimes not only arias, but also duets and ensembles could be used as insert numbers. Antonio Tamburini and Pauline Viardot, for example, participating in the performance of the opera "Somnambula" in Russia in 1846, performed a duet from the opera "Rehearsal of Opera seria" by Niekko. This number was received with great enthusiasm by the Russian audience [7; 9]. It should be noted that in this scene, the audience admired the acting of Viardo and Tamburini more than the vocal skills of the artists.

Tamburini had a pleasant appearance and a manly figure, which probably helped him to embody the images of various heroes. He became one of the best interpreters of Bellini's roles, having managed to express the severity of Ernesto in the opera "The Pirate", the cordiality and tenderness of Valdeburgo in "The Stranger", the heroism and sacrifice of Riccardo in "The Puritans" [16].

He had a quick stage reaction and improvisational ease. The famous musicologist William Ashbrook, referring to Castile-Blas, described an incident that occurred in 1825 during the performance of the play "Eliza and Claudio" by Saverio Mercadante at the Teatro Carolino in Palermo. During the performance, Tamburini's partner prima donna Katerina Lipparini fainted right on stage, but despite what happened, he continued to sing a duet alone, imitating the sound of her voice in falsetto [10, P. 82]. This case testifies to the artist's ability to quickly respond to unforeseen situations occurring on stage. In addition, he speaks about the singer's ability to expand the range of his voice due to falsetto. However, if in his youth Tamburini possessed a wide vocal range, then over time it narrowed, the voice weakened significantly and tremolation appeared. This is evidenced by the reviews of English critics of the late 1840s [14]. Apparently, the problems of a vocal nature were associated with the age of the singer and exorbitant loads.

The evidence of his stage performances in the 1850s was quite contradictory. However, there is no doubt that the singer became one of the outstanding dramatic actors of the XIX century and one of the last masters of the old Italian bel canto "at the dawn" of the Romantic era. All the components of Antonio Tamburini's talent allowed him to succeed and stand on a par with such legends of world opera as Giuditta Pasta, Maria Malibran, Luigi Lablache, Giovanni Rubini. Among the admirers of his talent were Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, Saverio Mercadante, Giovanni Paccini, Carlo Coccia, who created opera roles for him. Antonio Tamburini made a significant contribution to the development of opera art of the XIX century as the first interpreter of the main parts in the operas of the above authors.

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2. Zhestkova, O. V., & Sadykova, L. A. (2013). Primadonnas of Rossini and Meyerbeer. Scientific Bulletin of the Moscow Conservatory, 4, 150-175.
3. Logunova, A.A. (2020). On the History of Russian Contacts by Gioacchino Rossini: Autographs of the Composer in the Archives of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Opera musicologica, Vol. 22, 2, 64-98.
4. Reshetnikova, S. V. (2020). Artistic and Pedagogical activity of Manuel Garcia Sr. in the Context of the development of tenor perfomance at the end of the 18th – first third of the 19th century: PhD thesis. Kazan.
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6. Sadykova, L.A. (2015). Vocal ornamentation in Italian Opera in the First Half of the 19th Century: Facts and Myths. Music as a National World of Art: Proceedings of the International Scientific Conference. Kazan, 139-149.
7. Northern bee (1846). St. Petersburg. February 5. 
8. Xinhan, C. (2020). The origin and development of the baritone in operas of the 19th centuty. Actual problems of musical performing arts: History and modernity. Materials of the International scientific-practical conference, 267-272.
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13. Castil-Blaze, M. (1833). A biographical notice of Tamburini. The Harmonicon: A Journal of Music. Pinnock, 125-126.
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17. Role creators in the Mercadante operas. Retrieved from: http://opera.stanford.edu/Mercadante/creators.html#TT
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The author clearly outlined the subject and object of the study in the title of the article: "The specifics of opera and vocal performance by Antonio Tamburini." Of course, such a difficult object of research as opera and vocal performance in the first half of the 19th century has to be restored according to separate historical evidence. Accordingly, the possibility of restoring the specifics of the vocal creativity of an individual performer of a distant historical epoch is largely due to the significance of his work for his contemporaries and the degree of reflection of his skill in epistolary sources of the epoch. By choosing the genre of a biographical essay devoted to the specifics of Antonio Tamburini's operatic and vocal performance, the author avoids formalizing the research program and final conclusion, as well as assessing the degree of study of the topic, but the clear logic of presenting the research results covers these shortcomings. The analysis of selected epistolary sources and scientific literature allowed the author to reasonably reveal the subject of the study. In his opinion, the specifics of Antonio Tamburini's operatic and vocal performance are: the basso cantante range ("a wonderful baritone of rich velvety timbre, surprisingly flexible and mobile, whose range extended from the "la" of the bolshoi to the "fa" of the first octave"), vocal improvisation and cadence skills, skills to expand the working range due to falsetto, vocalization of recitatives, dexterity in performing passages, dramatic talent. The validity of the high appreciation of Tamburini's skill by his contemporaries is confirmed by the corpus of outstanding opera works by famous Italian composers, specially written for his performance. The research methodology is based on the historical and biographical method, supported by a thematic selection of sources and literature, analysis and generalization of scattered evidence about the specifics of Antonio Tamburini's operatic and vocal performance in different periods of his life. The genre of the biographical essay, subordinated to the historical and biographical sequence, did not allow the author to withstand the formal and methodological requirements for a scientific article, which is acceptable within the framework of the postmodern scientific and educational paradigm, when the scientific and historical texture is subordinated to the applied tasks of remembering the significant achievements of outstanding masters of art. In general, the unformalized research program is clearly visible in the logic of the construction of the text: each task is set and solved in a separate paragraph, which reveals both the author's statements and their argumentation. The author explains the relevance of the chosen topic by the significance of Antonio Tamburini's achievements in the development of opera vocals, and the disclosed subject of the study emphasizes the applied methodological significance of the article for musical and pedagogical practice. The scientific novelty of the research consists in the author's selection, analysis and generalization of sources and literature, which allowed the author to identify the main features of the specifics of opera and vocal performance by Antonio Tamburini. The style of the text combines the strict scientific nature of the texture and the popular scientific accessibility of the presentation of the material, thanks to which the author solves both the tasks of replenishing the corpus of scientific knowledge about opera and vocal performance of the first half of the XIX century, and musical and educational tasks. The structure of the article is subordinated to the logic of a historical and biographical essay, the main part of which tells about the specifics of opera and vocal performance by Antonio Tamburini. The bibliography reflects the problem area of the study well, some inaccuracies in the design are not significant. The appeal to the opponents is quite correct and sufficient, given the genre of the essay chosen by the author. The article, according to the reviewer, is of interest to the readership of "PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal" and may be recommended for publication.
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