Martinelli, Giovanni, famous Italian tenor; b. Montagnana, Oct. 22, 1885; d. N.Y, Feb. 2, 1969. He sang and played the clarinet in his youth. His potential as a singer was discovered by a bandmaster during Martinelli’s military service. In 1908 he first appeared on the operatic stage in Montagnana as the Messenger in Aida. He then studied voice with Mandolini in Milan, where he made his concert debut as a soloist in Rossini’s Stabat Mater on Dec. 3, 1910. His formal operatic debut followed there at the Teatro del Varme as Ernani on Dec. 29, 1910. Puccini was impressed with his vocal gifts and invited Martinelli to sing Dick Johnson in the European premiere of the composer’s La Fanciulla del West in Rome on June 12, 1911. He subsequently sang that role in various Italian music centers, including Milan’s La Scala in 1912. On April 22, 1912, he made his first appearance at London’s Covent Garden as Cavaradossi, and sang there again in 1913–14, 1919, and 1937. Martinelli made his first appearance with the Metropolitan Opera in that same role during the company’s visit to Albany, N.Y, on Nov. 18, 1913. His formal debut at the Metropolitan Opera in N.Y. followed as Rodolfo on Nov. 20, 1913, with remarkable success. He rapidly acquired distinction there and, after Caruso’s death in 1921, became one of the principal tenors on the Metropolitan Opera roster. He sang there every season until 1943, winning acclaim for his portrayals of such roles as Otello, Radames, Manrico, Eléazar in La Juive, Don José, Canio, Faust, Samson, and Andrea Chénier. He also appeared in Boston (1914), San Francisco (1923–39), Chicago (1924–31; 1933–44), St. Louis (1934–41), and Cincinnati (1940–45). In 1944 he returned to the Metropolitan Opera, where he made his farewell appearance as Pollione on March 8, 1945. During the 1945–46 season, he returned to the Metropolitan Opeia as a concert artist. After singing in Philadelphia (1945–50), he taught voice in N.Y. while making occasional appearances as a singer. The Metropolitan Opera honored him on the 50th anniversary of his debut with the company with a gala on Nov. 20, 1963. He made his last public appearance as a singer in his 82nd year when he sang the Emperor in Turandot in Seattle. Martinelli’s brilliant vocal and dramatic gifts made him one of the foremost singers of heroic roles of his era.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire