Though largely forgotten, Galliano Masini was one of Italy’s leading tenor’s in the 1930s. Many of the sopranos who sang with him thought his was the most beautiful voice of his era. Though one of them, Magda Olivero, thought him slow. She was not referring to his tempi, but to his mental faculties.

Born in Livorno in 1896, the tenor died in the same city 90 years later. Masini spent most his career in his native country. He sang at the Met for just one season (1938-39). He gave only 9 performances in New York. World War II intervened and by the time the war was over Masini’s voice had declined which likely explains his failure to return. Masini had sung in Chicago the season before his Met appearances. He also appeared at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.

This disc contains 22 arias recorded between 1929 and 1947. The seven selections recorded in 1947, when the tenor was 51 years , reveal the effects of almost 25 years of singing. His voice had coarsened and his intonation was faulty. The earlier, recordings show a rich spinto that is perfect for the heavy Verdi roles in which the tenor excelled. Addio fiorito asil from Madama Butterfly was recorded in 1929. Masini’s voice was not as full as it was on the recordings made a few years later, but his sound is bright and appealing. The recording also shows his penchant for holding high notes a little longer than indicated.

Fra poco a me ricovero from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor was recorded in 1932 when the tenor was at his vocal best. Edgardo is a role that can be sung by either a lyric or a spinto tenor. Masini keeps his tone under control throughout the aria; his rendition is straight forward and pleasing.  Masini was the first tenor to appear on a complete recording of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino. His leading lady was Maria Caniglia. Alvaro’s great aria O tu che seno agli angeli begins half way through the recitative. It was recorded in 1941 which was at the end of the tenor’s best years. I don’t think Masini’s singing of this piece is a good as that of Richard Tucker whose approach to this music most closely resembles that of the older Italian. But it still displays a major talent singing music that perfectly suits his instrument.

Masini’s main attraction is the beauty of his tone. He does not offer great interpretive insights, but the voice is clearly an exceptional one. He shows both the virtues and vices of the typical Italian tenor of the first third of the 20th century. Beautiful tone and straight forward delivery marred by too long high notes and sobbing. This collection will appeal to those who are particularly interested in the Italian tenor, a species that may be going extinct.