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The tenor Mario

Mario (October 18, 1810 – December 11, 1883) was an Italian opera singer, considered to be the most famous tenor of the 19th century. His real name and hereditary title was cavaliere nobile ("noble knight") Don Giovanni Matteo De Candia. Born in Cagliari, he came from a noble family which belonged to Sardinia's social elite. His family formed part of the Royal Court of Turin and his father was an army general.

Contents

Career

In order to free himself from the burdensome ancestral traditions which he had inherited, and mitigate his father's opposition to a member of the high-born De Candia family pursuing a 'lowly' musical career, the young singer disguised his aristocratic origins by adopting the stage name of "Mario", when aged in his 20s.

Mario's decision to become a professional singer was the result of accidental circumstances, however. While serving as an officer of the King of Sardinia's Guards, he had been imprisoned at Cagliari for a trifling offence. When his period of confinement was over, he resigned his commission and went to Paris in the company of a ballerina, with whom he had eloped.He took singing lessons from two teachers, Ponchard and Marco Bordogni, and his success as an amateur vocalist led to the offer of an engagement with the Opéra. He made his debut there in 1838, as the hero of Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable.

Mario's success was immediate and complete but he did not stay long at the Paris Opéra. In 1839, he joined the Théâtre Italien, which included on its roster of artists such celebrated singers as Maria Malibran, Henriette Sontag, Fanny Tacchinardi Persiani, Giulia Grisi, Giovanni Battista Rubini, Antonio Tamburini and Luigi Lablache. His initial appearance with this company was in the role of Nemorino in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore. London heard him for the first time during the course of that same year.

The acclaim he achieved in Italian opera surpassed even that which he had won in French opera, and he soon acquired a Europe-wide reputation. He had a handsome face and a graceful figure, and his lyrical voice, though less powerful than that of his virtuoso tenor rival Rubini, or the baritone Tamburini, possessed a beguiling velvety softness that made it unique.

Mario created few operatic parts, that of Ernesto in Don Pasquale (1843) being perhaps the only one deserving of mention. Among the most successful of his other parts were Otello in Rossini's opera of that name, Gennaro in Lucrezia Borgia, Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Fernando in La favorite, the Duke in Rigoletto and Manrico in Il trovatore. The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, was the scene of many of his stage triumphs. He sang there in 1847–1867 and again during 1871, which would prove to be his last operatic season in London.

He also made occasional appearances in England in oratorio, singing for example at the Birmingham Festival of 1849 and at the Hereford Festival of 1855. He undertook various concert tours in the United Kingdom, but his name is principally associated with triumphs in the theatre. Around 1849 he acquired the "Villa Salviati" in Florence and made it his home in Italy. Here he played host to many "grandi" art figures and, of course, members the European nobility. In 1854, he toured America.

Family

Two years later he married, in London, Giulia Grisi, the famous soprano, who had links to the patrician Colonna family and the Royal Houses of Greece and Russia. He and Grisi had five daughters and a son. One of his daughters was the writer Cecilia Maria de Candia, who married Godfrey Pearce (also spelt "Pearse").

Retirement

Mario bade farewell on the stage in 1871. His decision to retire followed the loss of his wife, who had died in Berlin a few years earlier while returning from engagements in Russia. Mario ended his singing career at the imperial Russian opera house in St Petersburg. During this time, his daughters were put under the care of tutors assigned by their Godmother, the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaievna, Duchess of Leuchtenberg and president of the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg.

Last years

Mario returned to Italy and spent his last years composing music and writing; but he never fully recovered from the death of his spouse. A benefit concert was mounted for him in London in 1880. He died in Rome three years later in difficult financial circumstances.

De Candia's home in Sardinia, Italy

De Candia Palace was purchased in 1846 from the very famous opera singer tenor Giovanni Matteo De Candia (known as Mario). He was head hunted by the European Courts for his beautiful voice (J. Joyce on the Ulysses wrote: - “They used to say that Mario …” ). During his trips he sent to his family, who lived in the palace, many precious books, furniture and objects: you can still see today a portion of a papier peinte (tapestry). He wrote to his mother:

“The wall paper is joyful: satin background with flower and leaves patterns of an exquisite taste and for that there is the curtain similar to the tapestry”.

The De Candia Palace (approximately 1850) is situated at the bottom of Via dei Genovesi in Cagliari old town (Castello), where until the XVI century there used to be the Pisan town-walls between the Elephant and the Lion Towers. The façade was designed in neoclassical style by the famous architect Gaetano Cima. On the noble floor (1st F) there are wide halls with frescoes and a large terrace with scenic views of the gulf of Cagliari. [1]

References

  1. ^ Palazzo De Candia Today

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