Three Edison Tenors
As the producer, Lawrence F. Holdridge, points out in his excellent notes, this is a three-tenors record with a difference. Yet all were famous in their time, which was, for Anselmi and Bonci, the first two decades of the century and for Mojica the third and fourth. All were lyric tenors, Anselmi and Mojica enjoying the good looks to go with their romantic roles, Bonci compensating for his shortness of stature with sweetness of tone. Anselmi, “the tenor of the ladies”, was particularly admired in Russia; Bonci became Oscar Hammerstein’s answer at the Manhattan to Caruso at the Metropolitan; and Mojica, after a decade with the Chicago Opera, went into films, became a missionary priest in Peru, and wrote an autobiography called
They also recorded for Thomas Edison, which was a passport to rarity-status in the collectors’ market. Results are happiest with Mojica, in the mid-1920s. The voice has an attractive individuality and is consistently well caught. He sings a graceful, fluent “Ecco ridente” (Barbiere di Siviglia), an elegantly poetic “Bianca al par” (Raoul’s “Plus blanche” in Les Huguenots), and his Lakme aria compares well with Schipa’s. There used to be an LP of him on Club 99 but otherwise he has not been favoured with reissues, and the present disc is particularly welcome for his sake.
The Anselmi and Bonci selections are of more variable quality and value. On the whole, the Fonotipia recordings of both tenors are preferable (for instance, Anselmi’s “Vesti la giubba” is more expressive and less wayward in the earlier version). With Bonci it is interesting to compare the Columbias made in the same year (the Columbia “Quando le sere”, for example, is sweeter, more passionate, and more characteristically Bonci). Yet the Edisons have lovely things too, both of the tenors sounding most gracefully ‘at home’ in the solos from Lucia di Lammermoor. I wouldn’t want to listen to them again in sequence – too many incidental regrets arise concerning intonation, breaths taken in the wrong places, and so forth – but the disc will be in constant use for reference; and individually even the most flawed of the items have something special, some quality of grace, imagination or individuality which is distinctively of their time as opposed to our own.'