The combination of being tall, dark and handsome and in possession of a superlative tenor voice is rare in the opera world, but Corelli had it all (his nickname, of ‘golden thighs’ gives a measure of his sex appeal). Listening to his voice today, it can seem old-fashioned, a throwback to a former era, with a rapid vibrato and a tendency to show off. He would hold high notes far beyond their written worth (12 seconds in the great cry of ‘Vittoria!’ during a Covent Garden Tosca, for instance), and some critics made a point of disapproving of what they regarded as ‘cheap effects’. However, his qualities as a singer shine through in the recordings and in contemporary accounts: a dark, lustrous voice with a rich palette of thickly spread colours that enabled him to explore the psychological depths in the great Verdi and Puccini roles.
In his own words: ‘Many who teach [larynx-lowering] cause their pupils to force their voices to the point of ruination’
Greatest recording: Donizetti Poliuto (recorded live at La Scala, 1960) EMI 565 4482 (2 discs)