Carlo Guasco

Carlo Guasco

Italian tenor
Date of Birth: 16.03.1813
Country: Italy

  1. Biography of Carlo Guasco
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Opera Career
  4. Vocal Style
  5. Later Years and Legacy

Biography of Carlo Guasco

Carlo Guasco was an acclaimed Italian tenor who performed in major Italian and European opera houses from 1837 to 1853. While he participated in many world premieres, he is primarily remembered as the leading tenor who first sang the principal roles in Verdi's operas "I Lombardi alla prima crociata," "Ernani," and "Attila."

Early Life and Education

Carlo Guasco was born on March 16, 1813, in Solero, a small town in the Piedmont region of Italy. He displayed his musical and vocal talents at a young age but also excelled in mathematics, initially pursuing a career as a surveyor at the University of Turin. Carlo took piano lessons from his cousin Giuseppe Guasco. However, when vocal teacher and composer Giacomo Panizza heard Carlo Guasco's voice, he convinced him to abandon his chosen profession and study under his guidance in Milan. Despite the resistance from his family, who opposed a career in the performing arts, Guasco began his studies with Panizza in September 1836.

Opera Career

Within a few months, in 1837, Guasco made his debut at La Scala, performing the relatively small role of Ruodi in Rossini's "Guillaume Tell." His debut was a great success, and soon he secured several leading tenor roles in various operas, including premieres. The most notable of these are Gaetano Donizetti's "Maria di Rohan," which premiered on June 5, 1843, at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna, as well as Verdi's "I Lombardi alla prima crociata" (1843), "Ernani" (1844), and "Attila" (1846). Throughout his career, Guasco performed across Italy, as well as in Paris, London, Madrid, Saint Petersburg, and Vienna.

Vocal Style

Contemporaries described Guasco's voice as melodic and sweet rather than powerful, and it perfectly suited the operas of Rossini, Donizetti, Pacini, and Mercadante, which formed his early repertoire. However, his voice was neither sweet nor reliable on the evening of the "Ernani" premiere. Verdi, dissatisfied, wrote that Guasco was completely off his voice and terribly hoarse. The tenor indeed experienced hoarseness because he had been screaming at the management of La Fenice all day before the premiere on March 9, 1844. Chaos reigned backstage, the sets were not ready, and costumes were missing. Additionally, he was nervous about taking on a role that did not suit his vocal abilities and had tried to withdraw from the production at least three weeks before the premiere. Nevertheless, the premiere of "Ernani" turned out to be a success for Verdi, and according to the recollections of the composer's friend Giovanni Barezzi, subsequent performances with Carlo Guasco were much better.

Later Years and Legacy

In September 1844, during his first major performance at La Scala, Guasco once again sang the role of Ernani. This time, critics wrote that the always magnificent first tenor Carlo Guasco sang and performed the role of the protagonist with exquisite mastery, convincing everyone that he was still a top-tier star without any rivals in elegant, melodious, and emotionally charged performances. After performing in Ferrara in the spring of 1846, Guasco went to St. Petersburg, signing a contract with the Imperial Italian Opera. He enjoyed great success there, performing in "Ernani," "Maria di Rohan," "Norma," "I due Foscari," "I Lombardi alla prima crociata," and "Linda di Chamounix." At the end of the 1848 season, he returned to Italy, his hometown Solero, despite offers to extend his contract. Guasco took a kind of break, enjoying the activities he loved in his youth, especially hunting.

In August 1851, he got married and, at the insistence of his young wife, resumed his opera career. Guasco accepted an offer to perform at the Comédie-Italienne theater in Paris during the 1852 carnival season, where he triumphed once again with "Ernani." Unfortunately, political turmoil following the state coup in December 1851 left theaters partially empty, making life in France difficult for impresarios and artists. In the spring of 1853, Guasco received a contract for several performances in Vienna, after which he concluded his performing career. Carlo returned to Solero and became actively involved in the city's administration while also teaching singing. His most famous student was the dramatic tenor Giovanni De Negri, one of the most renowned interpreters of Verdi's Otello. Carlo Guasco died at the age of 63 on December 13, 1876, in Solero.