Nicola Fusacchia (1876-1956) really deserves a spot on this site. After earning a medical degree from the University of Rome in 1901, he trained as a surgeon and became chief of surgery in Norcia Hospital in Perugia in 1904. Somehow he found time to study singing. He made his stage debut as Radames in Aida at Bari’s Teatro Petruzzelli in 1908. Dr Fusacchia became tenor Nicola Fusati. He appeared widely in Italy and toured the US and Canada. He was drafted into the army as a doctor following Italy’s entrance into World War I in 1915. He was wounded in 1916 and given convalescent leave. During his furlough he made his La Scala debut as Ernani.
Following the war he returned to the stage only to leave it in 1920 to resume his practice of surgery. In 1925 he resumed singing and was Otello on what I think is the first complete recording of Verdi’s Otello made in 1931-32 under the baton of Carlo Sabajno. He permanently retired in 1932 returning to surgery. His medical career ended in the early 50s. I can think of no other singer who was productive in both medicine and opera as was Fusati, much less someone who bounced back and forth through both professions.
Fusati’s few recordings were made using both the acoustical and electrical recording techniques. His voice sounds best on the last recording he made – Otello. First Amor ti vieta from Giordano’s Fedora. It’s a competent job, but nothing special. The same holds true for his singing of Recondita armonia from the first act of Tosca. Di quella pira from Trovatore is forced. O Paradiso from L’Africana shows a darker voice that’s solidly in the spinto category, but his style is still gruff. The last act tenor-baritone duet from La Forza Del Destino, Le minacce, i fieri accenti is sung with baritone Luigi Montesanto. Montesanto is best known for being the first Michele in Puccini’s Il Tabarro and as Giuseppe Di Stefano’s teacher. Fusati fails to take the big high note in the middle of the duet. The odd pause in the duet is likely because a new disc had to be used.
The remaining recordings were made using the electrical technique and at a time when the tenor’s vocal technique and sound were better. Si pel ciel from Otello was made with the outstanding baritone Riccardo Stracciari. The remaining excerpts are from the complete Otello under Sabajno leading the La Scala Orchestra. First, Otello’s reappearance in the first act to break up the fight started by the drunken Cassio, Abbasso la spade, leading to the great love duet. The soprano is Maria Carbone. Then Oh! Mostruosa Colpa! leading to Si pel. The baritone is the wonderfully named Apollo Granforte who had a voice able to live up to his monicker. Shortly after these recordings were made, Fusati returned to medicine. His vocal condition as you can hear was excellent. I can only guess he preferred surgery to opera.
If Dr Fusacchia appeared today, I’m sure he would have no difficulty in getting engagements at the world’s leading opera house. I can’t tell if he would get a job as chief of surgery.
Agree. Impressive Otello. Can’t think of anyone better.