Yes, it’s an encore of encore week! Dead Tenors’ Society is showcasing a collection of previously featured vocalists in recordings never before heard on this channel.
Romèo Berti (1867-1954) is one of those frustrating tenors of whom we know almost nothing today. Born in Ravenna, he reportedly studied in Paris with Jean de Reszke and made his debut around 1890. Although his son recalled in a 1950s radio interview that Berti sang leading roles in major European houses, there is absolutely no evidence of the tenor having sung ANY role in an international theater. His activity before the recording horn suggests that he performed in London and Berlin during the early 1900s, but Berti’s career seems to have been primarily relegated, for some reason, to the provincial opera companies of France. This has led to the misconception that the tenor was, in fact, French and not Italian. In another bizarre twist, rumors abounded during the 1930s and ‘40s that Berti’s recordings were actually those of Jean de Reszke, recording under a pseudonym! It is known that Romèo Berti’s career was not destined to be a lengthy one. While in his early 40s, the tenor suffered a devastating vocal crisis, from which he never fully recovered. When it became obvious that his singing days were over, he settled permanently in London, where he established a successful voice studio in 1914. Berti spent the remaining four decades of his life in London, dying there in 1954 at the ripe old age of 87.
Romèo Berti made a respectable number of recordings for Odeon, Columbia, APGA, Homophon, Edison and other labels. These discs showcase a sturdy, well produced spinto tenor with impressive musical instincts and interpretive skills. Here, Berti sings Manrico's serenade, "Deserto sulla terra" (accompanied by what seems to be a rather clunky brass band!) from Act I of Verdi's Il Trovatore. This rare recording was made in London for Edison Records in 1906.