Magazine article Opera Canada

Grand Tradition: Great Canadian Musical Figures: Ernesto Vinci 1898-1983

Magazine article Opera Canada

Grand Tradition: Great Canadian Musical Figures: Ernesto Vinci 1898-1983

Article excerpt

IN TALKING TO CANADIAN SINGERS ABOUT THEIR studies and technique, a name comes up time and again--that of Ernesto Vinci, a man who left a distinct and indelible impression upon the face of vocal music in Canada.

Vinci was born Ernst Moritz, on April 20, 1898, in Berlin, Germany. His long and fruitful career exploited his numerous talents, embracing the roles of operatic baritone and lieder recitalist, teacher, adjudicator and physician. Having commenced vocal studies at the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin in the early 1920s, he pursued medical studies at the same time, receiving his MD in Berlin in 1924. It was also during this period that he met and married Ellen, his wife of over 50 years. After qualifying as a doctor, he continued to study voice privately, both with Ernst Grenzebach and the eminent teacher Louis Bachner, author of Dynamic Singing. A physically handsome man of strong build, Vinci's voice developed into a rich and powerful baritone suited to the demands of the operatic repertoire.

When the Nazis came to power, Vinci, being of Jewish heritage, left Germany for Italy, and in 1933 received his MD in Milan. There he both practised medicine and carried on with his vocal studies, and for the next five years sang in recitals, on the radio and in opera, appearing at Teatro alla Scala in leading Verdi baritone roles.

In 1938, with the mounting tension of war in Europe, Dr. and Mrs. Vinci departed for New York City. It was here that the singing physician won the admiration and friendship of legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini, who subsequently referred him to the distinguished Canadian conductor Wilfrid Pelletier. Pelletier had been an assistant conductor at New York's Metropolitan Opera since 1922, and had been asked to recommend a director for the Maritime Conservatory of Music in Halifax. At Toscanini's urging, Vinci was sent there, and held the post from 1938-45. During this time he also lectured at Dalhousie University and at Pine Hill Divinity Hall, taught singing at the Halifax Ladies' College, appeared in recital and opera, and in 1944 became a naturalized Canadian.

The year 1945 saw Vinci join the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, at that time intimately linked with the Royal Conservatory of Music. He rapidly built a reputation as one of the country's leading voice teachers, counting many now-famous Canadian singers among his pupils. …

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