The Voice | High C | Early Romantic | Classical
On Rossini’s advice, the already established tenor Adolphe Nourrit (1802–39) took singing lessons in order to acquire an Italianate flexibility of tone. His subsequent performance in the premiere of Rossini’s Le siège de Corinthe at the Paris Opéra in 1826 was a triumph, and in the same year he was made principal tenor of the Opéra. He appeared in each new work, including Le Comte Ory (1828) and Guillaume Tell (1829), to great acclaim. However, the appointment of Gilbert Duprez as joint first tenor was to prove fatal. When, in 1836, Duprez sang the role of Arnold in Guillaume Tell, instead of the usual weak high C, he sang the first-ever high C from the chest (the sound that is produced by tenors today). Although Rossini, who was in the audience, declared it ‘the squawk of a capon whose throat is being cut’, Donizetti and Nourrit, who were also in the audience, recognized its power. Nourrit resigned from the Opéra and moved to Italy, where he committed suicide soon afterwards.
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