Pertile:The Tenor For An Emotional Audience.
By Michael Davis
Aureliano Pertile was born in Montagnana Italy on November 9th 1885, as a child he sang in the local church choir, in 1906 he began studies with Maestro V. Orefice in Padua and made his debut in 1911 at Vicenza as Lyonel in Flotow's Martha, he further studied with Bavagnoli in Milan. In 1916 he was invited to sing at La Scala in Milan, but he was unable to take up the offer due to the opera house closing for the duration of the war. He appeared at the New York Metropolitan 1921/22 and was the leading tenor at La Scala Milan 1921 to 1937 he also sang at London's Covent Garden from 1927 to 1931.
Pertile created the title role in Boito's opera Nerone at La Scala Milan 1st May 1924 with Toscanini conducting, he also premiered the title role in Wolf-Ferrari's opera Sly on 29th December 1927 at La Scala Milan also with Toscanini conducting, there is another opera of Nerone by Mascagni which was also premiered by Pertile at La Scala Milan on 16th January 1935 with the composer conducting.
Pertile's voice was not one of intrinsic beauty but he was a very intelligent singer and actor, he was capable of singing a well controlled legato in the tradition of the true bel-canto style, but at the time he was at his peak public taste was changing and Pertile changed with the times, as a result his singing suffered. At times he tended to go with audience tastes and he would over dramatize to the extent where he would be pushing his voice rather than producing the round tone that he was so capable of.
An example of his singing that shows both of his styles is the aria "Una vergine un angiol di Dio" from Donizetti's La Favorita recorded in 1930, his tone is an example of the true tenor but he also tries to put too much feeling into the words with the result that we get a line "una vegine un angiol di de ho" and this persists all the way through the aria, another aria that shows this tendency is "Ah si ben mio" from Verdi's Il Trovatore at the end of the aria his extra emphasis on the words "a me parra" gives us a line "a me par har ra". His recording of "Celeste Aida" taken from the complete recording is the exact opposite, the tone is very well controlled and so are the words, there is no aspirating or over emotion in this aria.
This over strenuous style gives the voice a bright edgy tone but it loses the emphasis that should be given to the words, so the vocal line suffers, but the extra emotion is displayed in the voice, this is great for the emotional audience but for the conscientious artist it produces a vibrato and the voice loses it's steadiness.
Pertile was a victim of the changing tastes in opera where the public wanted more excitement and emotion, nearly always at the expense of the fine singing the artists were capable of, he was a fine artist who in his great career sang roles and arias from almost every area of opera, from Bizet to Wagner he sang the roles or recorded the arias.
Pertile was the great favorite of his time, he was caught up in the emotion expected by the public of the time, but the voice itself is strong and reliable he was an artist who gave the public what they wanted, excitement, but his overall art as a true Italian bel-canto singer suffered because of it.
Toscanini described Pertile as his favorite tenor and as such he produced what has become known as the "Toscanini voice" with it's emotion laden presentation, he was also a great favourite with Tullio Serafin the great maestro who produced so many fine recordings.
After his farewell from the stage in 1937 Pertile continued to give occasional performances until 1940, he also made guest appearances at a number of venues including London, Paris and Vienna, he was often heard in concerts and on radio, in the last years of his life he worked as a voice teacher.
Aureliano Pertile died in Milan 11th January
1952; he is remembered as a fine tenor, who sang most of the dramatic and
romantic roles with an intensity and passion that made him a favorite with
the emotional audiences of his time.