Giuseppe Anselmi 1876-1929

Giuseppe Anselmi était un ténor lyrique italien qui fut célèbre dans toute l’Europe au cours de la première décennie du XXème siècle siècle. Il fut l’un des derniers représentant de l’école belcantiste du XIXème siècle.

Antonio Giuseppe Anselmi naquit à Nicolosi, en Sicile, les 6, 12 ou 16 novembre 1876 (selon les sources). Il était connu comme un enfant prodige du violon dans sa province natale de Catane, où il a donné son premier concert à l’âge de 13 ans.  Encore adolescent, il étudia au Conservatoire de Naples et commença à composer tout en s’intéressant de plus en plus au chant professionnel. À l’âge de 15 ans, il s’intégra à une compagnie d’opérette en tournée en tant que choriste. À 17 ans, il faisait déjà partie des vedettes de cette compagnie lors d’une tournée dans le sud de l’Italie. Au cours de cette tournée, le célèbre éditeur de musique Giulio Ricordi l’entendit et le poussa à poursuivre sa formation de chanteur auprès de Luigi Mancinelli.

Ses débuts en tant que ténor d’opéra eurent eu lieu en Grèce, à Patras (ou à Athènes) dans Cavalleria rusticana. Puis il fit partie d’une tournée de la compagnie Gonzales en Grèce, en Turquie et en Egypte. Il y chanta dans Manon, Ballo in maschera, Rigoletto, Traviata, Pagliacci, Favorita, Cavalleria rusticana et Gioconda, puis arrivés au Caire ils ajoutèrent également Lucia di Lammermoor, La Bohème et Il Barbiere di Siviglia.  En tant que ténor principal de cette compagnie, il chantait parfois jusqu’à cinq fois par semaine.

Ses débuts italiens eurent lieu au Politeama de Gênes à l’automne 1900, où il chanta La Bohème, Lucia, Sonnambula , Rigoletto, et très vite, il fut invité dans les grands théâtres d’Italie. Le premier fut le San Carlo de Naples (au Carnaval 1901) pour Sonnambula, Rigoletto, et l’une des sept premières mondiales simultanées de Le maschère de Mascagni en compagnie de Angelica Pandolfini et Rina Giachetti (la sœur de la maîtresse de Caruso).

Giuseppe Anselmi

Anselmi fit ses débuts à Londres à Covent Garden en 1901 en tant que duc (Rigoletto) (avec Suzanne Adams en Gilda). Il y chanta ensuite Rodolfo (avec Melba et Scotti) et le solo de ténor dans le Requiem de Verdi (avec Gadski, Brema et Plançon). Les critiques de Londres furent pour la plupart peu impressionnés et parlaient de «mauvaises habitudes» et d’un «ton bêlant désagréable, caractéristique des ténors italiens». Le critique du Times affirma que la voix d’Anselmi serait définitivement ruinée en quelques saisons, ce qui ne fut pas le cas. Il devint malgré cela un favori du public de la capitale britannique, et il chanta ensuite par intermittence à Covent Garden jusqu’en 1909. 

Il revint donc à Londres à plusieurs reprises, et fut aussi particulièrement admiré à Saint-Pétersbourg, Buenos Aires, Milan (La Scala), Varsovie et Madrid dans divers rôles dont Cavaradossi (Tosca), Loris (Fedora), Maurizio (Adriana Lecouvreur), Osaka (Iris), Lensky, Edgardo, Nadir et bien d’autres. Il a également chanté avec grand succès dans des récitals à Bruxelles, Vienne, Berlin, Monte-Carlo. A Paris, il eut l’occasion de chanter Almaviva (Le barbier de Séville) en compagnie de la Rosina d’Adelina Patti qui donna là sa dernière apparition lyrique. Son répertoire, dans les années de maturité, comprenait des rôles lourds comme Manrico et Radames. Ses plus grands triomphes eurent lieu dans les villes de Saint-Pétersbourg (souvent en compagnie de Lina Cavalieri), Varsovie et, en particulier, Madrid, où il a même éclipsé en popularité le célèbre ténor Enrico Caruso. 

Giuseppe Anselmi dans différents rôles
Giuseppe Anselmi

La Première Guerre mondiale a considérablement réduit ses activités et à la fin de la guerre, sa voix commençant à décliner, il mit fin à sa carrière en 1918 lors d’un dernier concert à Madrid, ville qu’il appréciait particulièrement. Il vécut ensuite dans sa spacieuse villa de Rapallo près de Gênes, collectionnant les livres rares et précieux et composant des œuvres pour orchestre, pour piano, mais aussi des chansons. Comme beaucoup d’autres chanteurs célèbres de son époque, il s’est tourné vers l’enseignement. Il revint donner des concerts occasionnels en tant que violoniste, et se montra en public pour la dernière fois à Rapallo en 1926 pour un récital de charité, en tant que chanteur, violoniste et accompagnateur au piano de ses élèves.

Il est décédé d’une pneumonie le 27 mai 1929. Il a été enterré dans la cathédrale de Catane. Sa tombe se trouverait dans l’une des chapelles funéraires privées non ouvertes au public. Son cœur a été déposé au Conservatoire de Madrid, selon ses dernières volontés.

Giuseppe Anselmi

Giuseppe Anselmi était un bon acteur, de grande taille, ayant sur scène une présence physique princière. Malgré quelques défauts comme une mauvaise intonation, un excès d’ornements et une tendance à forcer les notes de tête, il fut un ténor léger élégant et raffiné, au timbre pur et à la voix très souple. Il a réalisé près de 150 enregistrements, principalement des Fonotopias, mais aussi quelques Edisons qui parlent d’eux-mêmes concernant ses qualités vocales et son intelligence musicale.

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