Franco Corelli, one of the Metropolitan Opera's leading tenors from 1961 to 1975, passed away last October. Well before then, the ringing, richly colored timbre of Corelli's voice had become as legendary as the tall handsome figure he cut on stage. No one who heard him could forget the power and passion conveyed by the sheer tone he produced, not to mention the Italianate fervor with which he produced it. Corelli made his Met debut in the same performance of Il Trovatore as did Leontyne Price on January 27, 1961, and it was love at first sight (and hearing) for New York audiences.
Few singers in the company's history have had so ardent and so numerous a following, and every Corelli appearance became an event. Of the 19 roles he sang at the Met, most were of the standard Italian repertory‹Radames, Rodolfo, Cavaradossi, and Calaf were among the most frequent‹along with three notable French roles, Don José, Roméo, and Werther. His height and masculine good looks made him what one writer called "a soprano's dream," and film critic Rex Reed dubbed him "the Rock Hudson of opera." Long a victim of anxiety, Corelli retired early from the Met, his last performances being on the company tour in 1975.