Nicola Zerola (1876-1936) was born in Naples and began his career as a baritone, making his debut as Tonio in Pagliacci in 1898. Realizing that he was singing in the wrong range, Zerola retrained his voice and reemerged as a tenor in 1900. After appearances in Trieste, Bologna, Cremona, Barcelona, Paris, Cairo, Liège, Malta and Amsterdam, the busy tenor visited the U.S. for the first time in 1908. He was signed to a contract with Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera where he remained until 1910. Now making the U.S. his permanent home, Zerola began working with such companies as Chicago Grand Opera, the Baltimore Opera Company and Philadelphia Grand Opera. During the 1920/21 season at the Metropolitan Opera he performed Vesti la giubba and Celeste Aïda on a Sunday Night Concert and sang Canio in a concert version of Pagliacci. Apart from these two performances, Zerola never again sang at the Met. Among his roles were Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, Raoul in Les Huguenots, Rodolfo in La Bohème, Manrico in Il Trovatore, Riccardo in Un Ballo in Maschera, Radames in Aïda and the title roles in Ernani and Otello. One of his final performances was the New York premiere of Février’s opera Monna Vanna in April of 1928. Zerola died in New York in the summer of 1936 at the age of sixty.
Nicola Zerola made a few recordings for the Gramophone Company in Milan and for Victor in Camden, New Jersey between 1909 and 1911. Here, Zerola sings Manrico's serenade, "Deserto sulla terra" from Act I of Verdi's Il Trovatore. This recording was made for the Victor Company on December 17, 1909.