McCormack (14 June 1884 – 16 September 1945), was a world-famous Irish tenor
singer, celebrated for his performances of the operatic and popular song
repertoires, and renowned for his diction and breath control. He was also a
John Francis McCormack was born in Athlone, Ireland,
the fourth of eleven children of Andrew McCormack and Hannah Watson on 14 June
1884, and was baptised in St. Mary's Church, Athlone on 23 June 1884. His
parents were employed at the Athlone Woollen Mills.
McCormack received his early education from the
Marist Brothers in Athlone, and later attended Summerhill
During 1903 he won the coveted gold medal of the Dublin Feis Ceoil. He married
Lily Foley during 1906 and they had two children, Cyril and Gwen.
During March 1904, McCormack became associated
with James Joyce, who at the time had singing ambitions himself. Richard
Ellmann, in his biography of Joyce, states that, "Joyce spent several
evenings with him" (i.e. McCormack), practising; along with Joyce's
acquaintance Richard Best, McCormack persuaded Joyce to enter the Feis Ceoil
Fundraising activities on his behalf enabled
McCormack to travel to Italy
during 1905 to have his voice trained by Vincenzo Sabatini (father of the
novelist Rafael Sabatini) in Milan.
Sabatini found McCormack's voice naturally tuned and concentrated on perfecting
his breath control, an element that would become part of the basis of his
renown as a vocalist.
During 1906, he made his operatic début at the
Teatro Chiabrera, Savona.
The next year he began his first important operatic performance at Covent Garden in Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana,
becoming the theatre's youngest principal tenor. During 1909 he began his
career in America.
Michael Scott ("The Record of Singing" 1978) notes that at this stage
of his career he should be considered a tenor of the Italian style - and he
sang (and recorded) French operatic arias in the Italian language. Steane
("The Grand Tradition" 1971) stresses that, for all his later
devotion to the concert platform (and his Irish identity), he was (for albeit a
relatively brief period) in essence an Italian operatic tenor.
During February 1911, McCormack played
Lieutenant Paul Merrill in the world premiere of Victor Herbert's drama Natoma
with Mary Garden in the title role. Later that year he toured Australia after
Dame Nellie Melba engaged him, then at the height of his operatic career aged
27, as a star tenor for the Melba Grand Opera Season. He returned for concert
tours in subsequent years.
By 1912, he was beginning to become involved
increasingly with concert performances, where his voice quality and charisma
ensured that he became the most celebrated lyric tenor of his time. He did not,
however, retire from the operatic stage until after his performance of 1923 in Monte Carlo (see biography below), although
by now the top notes of his voice had contracted. Famous for his extraordinary
breath control, he could sing 64 notes on one breath in Mozart's Il mio tesoro
from Don Giovanni, and his Handelian singing was just as impressive in this
McCormack made hundreds of recordings, the
first on phonograph cylinder during 1904. His most commercially successful
series of records were those for the Victor Talking Machine Company during the
1910s and 1920s. He also broadcast regularly by radio and performed in a few
sound films, among them the first British colour film, Wings of the Morning
(1937), and Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941), where he had a small uncredited
McCormack was the first artist to record the
famous World War I song "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" in 1914. He also recorded the
song "Keep The Home Fires Burning" in 1917, though he was not the
first to do so. He also sang songs expressive of Irish nationalism: his
recording of "The Wearing of the Green", a song about the Irish
rebellion of 1798, encouraged 20th century efforts for Irish Home Rule, and endorsed
the Irish Nationalist estrangement from the United Kingdom. McCormack was
associated particularly with the songs of Thomas Moore, notably "The Harp
That Once Through Tara's Halls", "The Minstrel Boy",
"Believe Me If All (Those Endearing Young Charms)", and "The
Last Rose of Summer". Between 1914 and 1922, he recorded almost two dozen
songs with violin accompaniment provided by Fritz Kreisler, with whom he also
toured. He recorded songs of Hugo Wolf for the Hugo Wolf Society in German.
In 1917, McCormack became a naturalized citizen
of the United States.
In June 1918, he donated $11,458 towards the USA's world war effort. By now, his
career was a huge financial success, earning millions in his lifetime from
record sales and appearances, though he never was invited to sing at La Scala in Milan.
During 1927, McCormack relocated into Moore
Abbey, Monasterevan, County
Kildare and lived an
opulent life by Irish standards. He had apartments in London
and New York.
He hoped that one of his racehorses, such as Golden Lullaby, would win the
Epsom Derby, but was unlucky.
McCormack also bought Runyon
Canyon in Hollywood during 1930 from Carman Runyon.
McCormack saw and liked the estate while there filming Song o' My Heart (1930),
an early all-talking, all-singing picture. McCormack used his salary for this
movie to purchase the estate and built a mansion he called 'San Patrizio',
after Saint Patrick. McCormack and his wife lived in the mansion until they
returned to England
McCormack toured often, and in his absence the
mansion was often rented to celebrities such as Janet Gaynor and Charles Boyer.
The McCormacks made many friends in Hollywood,
among them Will Rogers, John Barrymore, Basil Rathbone, Charles E. Toberman and
the Dohenys. After his farewell tour of America in 1937, the McCormacks
deeded the estate back to Carman Runyon expecting to return to the estate at a
later date. World War II intervened and McCormack did not return.
McCormack originally ended his career at the
Royal Albert Hall in London,
during 1938. However, one year after that farewell concert, he was back singing
for the Red Cross and in support of the war effort. He did concerts, toured,
broadcast and recorded in this capacity until 1943, when failing health finally
forced him to retire permanently. Ill with emphysema, he bought a house near
the sea, "Glena", Booterstown, Dublin.
After a series of infectious illnesses, including influenza and pneumonia,
McCormack died in September 1945. He is buried in Deansgrange Cemetery.
COUNT JOHN McCORMACK
The Years of Triumph
La Favorita - Spirto gentil. Rec. 1909
L’Elisir d’amore - Una furtiva lagrima. Rec. 1910
Lucia di Lammermoor - Fra poco a mè ricovero. Rec. 1910
Lucia di Lammermoor - Tu che a Dio spiegasti
l’ali. Rec. 1910
La Figlia del Reggimento - Per viver vicino a
Maria. Rec. 1910
Li marinari [with M.Sammarco] duett.
Mira la bianca luna [with
E.Destinn] duett Rec. 1911
Il Barbiere di Siviglia - O, il
meglio mi scordavo [with.M.Sammarco] duett. Rec. 1911
Aida - Celeste Aida. Rec. 1909
Aida - O terra addio [with L.Marsh]. Rec. 1914
La Traviata - Lunge da lei. Rec. 1910
La Traviata - Parigi o cara [with L.Bori]. Rec. 1914
Rigoletto - Questa o quella. Rec. 1913
Rigoletto - La donna è mobile. Rec. 1907
Rigoletto - Quartett [with
N.Melba - E.Thornton - M.Sammarco]. Rec. 1910
Rigoletto - Bella figlia dell’amore [with
L.Bori - J.Jacoby - R.Werrenrath] Rec. 1914
Источник - OperaShare.