The most lyrical of all baritones, Giuseppe de Luca (1876-1950) in a superb belcanto performance of "Il balen del suo sorriso", from Verdi's Il Trovatore. Recorded for Italian Fonotipia in 1907 when de Luca was in his prime. What phrasing, legato, diction. And the voice - pure velvet with a solid core. How cleverly the voice sheds weight at the top so there is absolutely no sense of strain.
Count Luna's love for Leonora is a key element in the opera. Baritones like Titta Ruffo, Pasquale Amato or Carlo Galeffi are more obviously black-hearted in the "villainy", but this is Verdi's most tender romance, worthy of Bellini, after all. NO ONE ever sang this better than de Luca.
Il balen del suo sorriso è un canto d'amore, va cantanto con atteggiamento estasiato. Giuseppe de Luca canta con un controllo assoluto del mezzo, nessuna difficoltà nella tessitura quasi tenorile del Conte di Luna e nel legato, che il canto d'amore impone e che - confesso - in quaranta anni di Trovatori non ho mai sentito. Perché il cattivo metodo di canto oggi universalmente praticato nega quella rotondità di suono e quella morbidezza di emissione, che sono il presupposto irrinunciabile del canto d'amore. In difetto di questi requisiti il conte di Luna diviene iracondo, trucido e spesso un vecchio bavoso. Verdi voleva un ragazzo, languido ed appassionato nel canto d'amore e nell'esercizio del potere anche negli affari di cuore.
The following biographical profile comes from "Giuseppe De Luca was a famous Italian baritone who achieved his greatest triumphs at the New York Metropolitan Opera. He notably created roles in the world premieres of two operas by Giacomo Puccini: Sharpless in Madama Butterfly (at La Scala, Milan, 1904) and the title role in Gianni Schicchi (Metropolitan Opera, 1918).
He appeared at Italy's foremost opera house, La Scala, Milan, from 1902 to 1910, and made his London debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1907.
Subsequently, De Luca moved to America where he became a leading baritone at the Metropolitan Opera for 20 years, from 1915 to 1935. (He returned briefly to the Met in 1939-1940.) His first appearance at that house was on 25 November 1915, as Figaro in The Barber of Seville.
After his retirement, he taught voice at the Juilliard School. He died in New York City at the age of 73.
The illustrious but dictatorial conductor Arturo Toscanini is reputed to have once called De Luca, 'absolutely the best baritone I ever heard'. Certainly, he was praised by critics and audiences alike in a wide range of operatic roles, ranging from buffo and bel canto parts through to the core Verdi and Puccini characters.
De Luca's elegant vocalism is preserved on numerous recordings which he made for the Gramophone (and Typewriter) Company, Fonotipia and Victor companies in Italy and America from the early 1900s through to the 1920s and '30s. On some of them, he is partnered by other great singers of the Metropolitan Opera's golden age, including Enrico Caruso, Giovanni Martinelli, Beniamino Gigli, Amelita Galli-Curci, Elisabeth Rethberg, Rosa Ponselle and Ezio Pinza. CD reissues of his recordings are widely available today. Film clips of him performing also exist.
De Luca was renowned as a master of lyric, smooth-toned legato singing and his recordings confirm his excellence in this regard. Being a small man, his voice was not of huge dimensions; but it was immaculately used and had ample carrying power in even the largest theatres. During De Luca's best years, his voice also possessed exceptional beauty of tone in the middle register. He was a clever and versatile actor, too, and was considered to be especially memorable in ebullient comic roles."