December 18, 2011

The Vannuccini School in America: Part II


Fedele Fenaroli

How far back can one trace a lineage? It is this thought that keeps me digging on Google Books at odd hours and at the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts even if the place is woefully understaffed since the financial debacle of 2008. (Have a question at the research division on the 3rd floor? You have to go down to the 2nd floor to find a music librarian.) The lineage in question? That of Luigi Vannuccini (1828-1911).

Vannuccini's School came to America through Annie M. R, Barnette, Myron W. Whitney, and his son William L. Whitney, the latter teaching at New England Conservatory. One of the younger Whitney's students was Eleanor Steber.

Vannuccini? His own teacher was a man named Pietro Romani (1791- 1877), who canny readers of this blog encountered in Barnette's book, Talks About Singing. She called him il babbo di tutti maestri- the father of all the teachers. (Barnette also compared Romani to Manuel Garcia II for his longevity.) Of course, because Romani was so influential, I can't find an image of him, at least not yet! Be that as it may, Romani taught singing at the Real Istituto Musicale in Naples and later conducted in Florence. He also composed two operas, il qui quo in 1817 and Carlo Magno in 1823, but is better known for composing an aria - Manca un foglio - for a performance of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia because the bass was unable to sing Bartolo's famous aria Un dottor della mia sorte. As you have undoubted figured out by now: all the Italian singing-masters composed as well as taught the art of singing. Who does that today?

Romani's teacher? He was a gentleman named Fedele Fenaroli (1730-1818). Fenaroli taught at the  Conservatorio di Santa Maria di Lereto in Naples, himself a pupil of Francesco Durante and Antonio Gallo. He is credited with maintaining the "purity of ancient doctrines." Gleaned from the second part of a fascinating and comprehensive account of the singing schools of Naples, you can read all three 1) here 2) here and 3) here.  (It took some seriously creative googling to obtain the proper links.) The third part also notes that Niccolo Zingerelli was one of Fenaroli's students, who, if memory serves, was reported as having tutored the aforementioned Manuel Garcia II. Degrees of separation anyone?

Reaching back even further, we find that Fenaroli's teacher, Francesco Durante, was a pupil of Gaetano Greco (1657- 1728) - one of the earliest singing masters in the Old Italian School in Naples. One of his pupils was Nicola Porpora. He also taught Leonardo DaVinci and Domenico Scarlatti. Hello! Genius alert. Greco's own teacher was Alesandro Scarlatti (1660 - 1725). And going back one more step, we find that Scarlatti studied with Alessandro Stadella (1639 - 1682). He got his start in Venice, lived quite the life and came to a bad end. Who did he study with? The trail goes cold.

A bit overwhelmed? Try using this handy table to orient yourself. This link also delves deep into the history of Neapolitan conservatories. Just scroll up a few pages to the beginning. Fascinating stuff.

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