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Reviews

The Singer and the Song

Memory and testimony have kept alive the reputation of Fernando de Lucia, and so have the four hundred recordings that tenor made between 1902 and 1921. His old discs- Gramophone and Typewriters, Fonotipias, and Phonotypes—are among the most fascinating of historical recordings. What they suggest about the man and his context has inspired Michael Henstock to go after his subject with a maximum of zeal. Though the performer's art is evanescent, Henstock has done everything humanly possible to recreate the matrices of De Lucia's career and even to impress his reconstructed sound upon the mind's ear.

Henstock's extensive researches—a labor of love if I've ever seen one—have resulted in an elaborately documented and even exhaustive account of a singer's life. The survey of critical reactions to De Lucia's performances cover three continents, three decades, and comments in Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, et cetera. Henstock builds his case systematically, showing how De Lucia formed his style upon those of three stars—Gayarre, Masini, and Stagno—and how he ascended to take their place as an internationally celebrated performer. The author is as precise as words allow in rendering subtleties of style and in leading the reader to understand De Lucia's portamento, his mezza voce, and his sfumature—qualities that his recordings...

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