Mario Del Monaco (July 27, 1915 - October 16, 1982) singing the great aria from Aida at age 37. Beautiful chiaroscuro register balance!!!
After studying with Arturo Melocchi which gave him an open and free voice Mario Del Monaco competed for a place at the Rome Opera Studio at the request of Tulio Serafin. After a couple of years study there he went through a vocal crisis whereupon he denounced vocal schools and went back to Melocchi to fix the problem. Today we have the same problems with the universities and conservatories.
Here is an interview of Mario Del Monaco in 1981, he was 65. In the beginning he is talking about training a student he was working with at the time:
"What can one do in so short a time? One can show the way up to a point, but there is no opportunity to work. This is the problem today with all those who arrive too fast at the goal. He [the student] has already developed trouble in the top of his voice because of heavy roles he has undertaken, and I am trying to correct this. Too much too soon. I am happy looking back that I did not have an easy time at first, and that I had to to find myself.
It was lucky I did not become a star overnight, but had to fight for my success. I studied singing for ten years. I was studying violin in Pesaro when it was discovered I had a big voice. At the age of 13 it was already established that I was a tenor. My father first sent me to study voice at 14 with Maestro Raffaelli, who--incredibly--made me sing almost at once in a small, lovely new theater at Mondolfo Marotta. I was very thin then, and the next teacher almost ruined me. Basing her opinion on my physique, she sincerely believed I was a light tenor and made me study Don Pasquale and Il Matrimonio Segreto. My voice got smaller and smaller, and I was very worried.
Lamberto Gardelli was a fellow student at the conservatory and advised me to change teachers. I went to Maestro Melocchi at the conservatory and he did wonders, reconstructing the voice to its original form. With him I studied several years until 1936 I won a scholarship for advanced students at the Rome Opera. In Rome they were convinced I was a lyric tenor, and the same thing happened--my voice got small and constricted. It took a lot to persuade Maestro Melocchi to take me on again, as he had disapproved very strongly of the Roman experiment.
For a tenor to go on singing leads until he is sixty, in good condition, is something of an achievement, and I am proud of it. To sing well is not only difficult, one wonders at times whether it is a lost art. However many people may disagree with me, let me tell you that the abuse of pianos and pianissimos end by becoming the cancer of a voice. Twice in my beginnings I almost lost my instrument by using this system of reducing and reducing the voice. It works for light voices, but not for large ones. A solid instrument must open the larynx a lot, or it loses the support. Listen to Caruso's recordings--he always sang full voice. To make the sound pliable, smooth and mellow is another matter and this is what I worked toward during my entire professional life. It is very much like a person who becomes hooked on remaining thin and eats very little. Eventually the stomach becomes smaller and to enlarge it again is impossible."