Charles Hackett

51005-2 (1 CD)  | $ 18.00
VOCAL

 

Charles Hackett
Gifted with a beautiful lyric tenor voice and a handsome stage appearance, Charles Francis Hackett was one of the first American tenors to establish a solid, international career. In 1917-1918 he had great success at the Teátro Colón in Buenos Aires and in 1919 was invited to the Metropolitan Opera, making his debut there as Almaviva in Il Barbiere. He had a highly successful career at Milan, Monte Carlo, and Paris. He was engaged at the Chicago Opera (1923-31) and sang at Covent Garden (1926). This one-CD set contains highlights of Hackett's recording career. In addition to liner notes by Lawrence F. Holdridge, the booklet includes very personal recollections of Hackett, by his only son, Charles Hackett, Jr.
Total Time: 79:21
Edison
1. BOHEMIAN GIRL: Then you'll remember me (Balfe) 4:22
13 September 1912; (1285-A) 80070

U.S. Columbia
2. DON GIOVANNI: Il mio tesoro (Mozart) 4:05
20 October 1922; (98047-2) 98047
3. IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA: Ecco ridente in cielo (Rossini) 3:49
24 March 1919; (49604-4) 49604
4. LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR: Verranno a te (Donizetti) 4:11
with Maria Barrientos, soprano
11 March 1920; (49766-1) 49766
5. LA BOHÈME: Che gelida manina (Puccini) 4:14
1 July 1919; (49645-1) 49645/Transposed down a semi-tone to G
6. LA BOHÈME: Ah, Mimi, tu più non torni (Puccini) 2:49
with Riccardo Stracciari, baritone
3 June 1921; (49937-1) unpublished
7. ROMÉO ET JULIETTE: L'amour... Ah! lève-toi, soleil (Gounod) 4:21
9 October 1922; (98045-3) 98045
8. MANON: Je suis seul... Ah, fuyez, douce image (Massenet) 4:17
27 September 1923; (98095-3) 9020-M
9. MANON: Instant charmant... En fermant les yeux {La Reve} (Massenet) 3:26
7 October 1927; (W98337-12) 9034-M
10. MIGNON: Ah! non credevi tu (Thomas) 4:19
28 March 1927; (W98315-3) 9032-M

English Columbia
11. FAUST: All Hail, Thou Dwelling [Salut! demeure chaste et pure] (Gounod) 3:37
25 June 1926; (WAX 1691-1) L1832 Transposed down a whole tone to G-flat
12. Who is Sylvia [An Sylvia], op. 106, no. 4 (Schubert) 3:22
30 June 1926; (WAX 1710-1) 7367R

U.S. Columbia
13. Parted (Tosti) 3:12
12 December 1921; (98003-3) 98003
14. Could I [Vorrei] (Tosti) 4:00
25 February 1921; (49936-3) 49936
15. The Snowy Breasted Pearl (Robinson) 4:09
19 October 1922; (98038-8) 9021M
16. IN A PERSIAN GARDEN: Ah, moon of my delight (Lehmann) 4:22
10 May 1927; (W98335-5) 9030-M
17. Beloved, it is Morn (Aylward-Hickey) 4:02
10 May 1927; (W98336-6) 9030-M
18. I Heard you Singing (Coates-Barrie) 3:00
22 October 1926; (W142859-2) 4037-M
19. Duna (McGill) 2:43
13 October 1927; (W144857) 4040-M
20. I Look into your Garden (Wilmott) 2:36
24 May 1928; (W146337-3) 1911-D

Victor (Lucky Strike Advertising Record)
21. ROBERTA: The touch of your hand (Kern) 2:59
August 1937; CA.011426
All tracks accompanied by orchestra
Languages: English [1, 11-16, and 18-21]: French [7-9]; and Italian [2-6, 10 and 17]

Marston would like to thank Joan Hackett Ames, Charles Hackett, Jr., and Carla Hackett Quijano for their help in the production of this CD release.

Photographs: Charles Hackett, Jr., Lawrence F. Holdridge and Charles Mintzer

Producer: Lawrence F. Holdridge

Audio Conservation: Ward Marston

Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi


Gifted with a beautiful lyric tenor voice, a handsome stage appearance, and intelligence, Charles Francis Hackett was one of the first American tenors to establish a solid, international career. He had considerable ambition and the patience to advance step by step (to “chart my course,” in his words).

Hackett was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, 4 November 1887, of English and Irish ancestry. Some years later upon his début in England, Charles traced his forebears back to an Archbishop of Canterbury and a Lord Mayor of London, as well as a “famous English bandit,” much to the delight of the British Press. Sometime early in his career, 1889 became publicized as his birth year, and as a result most contemporary reference sources list it incorrectly. His sister, Mabel, was born on 7 June 1889.

The other five children in the Hackett family demonstrated musical talent as well. Brother Arthur (born 5 April 1884) became a noted concert and oratorio tenor in the U.S. and England, and was for years head of the Voice Department of the University of Michigan.

Charles (“Charlie” as he was known by his friends) first studied piano and then voice with Arthur J. Hubbard in Boston. His first operatic experience was in 1910, as Gounod’s Faust in Boston’s Jordan Hall. While the performance was designed as a showcase for the Hubbard students, rather than as a professional rendering, the tenor’s success was so emphatic that it resulted in numerous area concert bookings.

The next major stepping stone, the tenor’s most important engagement to date, was a performance of Rossini’s Stabat Mater in Providence, Rhode Island’s Infantry Hall on 25 April 1911. The solo quartet included both Hackett and the celebrated American soprano, Lillian Nordica. After due attention to Mme. Nordica’s contribution, the Musical Courier praised the tenor. “He proved a revelation to the Providence public who had never heard him before. Not having much opportunity to show what he really could do except in the ‘Cujus Animam’... , he availed himself so excellently of this one solo, even to the extent of ... a daring D-flat, [that] he was immediately rewarded by the sort of applause which at once spells success.”

During 1911, Charles decided to investigate singing opportunities in New York City and promptly secured a position of soloist at the St. Thomas P.E. Church. In addition to church work, he obtained a number of bookings in the area, including the Verdi Requiem in Carnegie Hall, 18 December 1911, with Alma Gluck (soprano), Louise Homer (contralto), and Herbert Witherspoon (bass). He also did some recording work for Edison. All these activities provided an extraordinarily lucrative income for that era, “nearly ten thousand dollars a year,” as the tenor mentioned at one point. Still, Hackett’s ambition was to sing in opera, so he gave up his New York work, booked passage to Italy, and on 28 September 1912 set sail for Florence, where arrangements had been made for him to study voice and operatic roles with Vincenzo Lombardi.

Over two years of preparation were completed before Hackett was given his first opportunity on the Italian operatic stage. He was summoned to Pavia on the morning of 5 January 1915 for an appointment which, he presumed, was to be an audition for a possible future engagements. After running through the whole score of Boito’s Mefistofele with the company’s conductor, Mr. Hackett was advised by the management that the leading tenor, Giulio Rotondi, was ill. Would Hackett consent, they pleaded, to appear that evening? Despite the fact that he had been given no stage rehearsal and had, for all practical purposes, already sung the role once that day, he agreed. His début was eagerly applauded and resulted in additional performances.

He was subsequently heard in several Italian theaters, including the Teátro Rossini, 2 March 1915, as the Duke in Rigoletto (with Isabella De Frate and Adolfo Pacini) and the Teátro Municipale di Reggio Emilia as Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. His La Scala début took place on 28 December, 1916, as Wilhelm Meister in Thomas’s Mignon (with Rosina Storchio), and he was heard at the Rome Teátro Costanzi, 29 March 1917, again in Mignon (here with Gabriella Besanzoni and Elvira de Hidalgo). The Costanzi was then under the directorship of Emma Carelli, who, along with her husband Walter Mocchi, was responsible for the summer operatic season at the Teátro Colón in Buenos Aires. On the strength of his Costanzi success, Hackett was given a Colón concert. This proved to be an eventful and exciting season.

The sheer bulk and variety of repertoire Charles Hackett was expected to prepare for the Colón season would be enough to send most tenors into hiding. Included in the contract were Mefistofele, Mignon, Rigoletto, Romeo e Giulietta, La Traviata, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, La Bohème, Werther, Lohengrin, La Sonnambula, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Falstaff, I Pescatori di Perle, and Faust. Fortunately, these happened to be operas that Mr. Hackett had studied and/or performed at one time or another, but added to the collection were Puccini’s La Rondine, Mascagni’s Lodoletta, and Buchardo’s The Dream of Alma, all new works. The contract was signed, and the tenor left for Argentina on 15 April 1917, fully ready.

One of the delights of that Colón was a friendship that developed with Enrico Caruso, with whom Hackett shared leading tenor roles. In an unidentified British clipping. Charles told of their first meeting:

The night Caruso arrived at Buenos Aires, he happened to hear me sing for the first time. He had not been there for fifteen years, and was surrounded with influential friends. Yet as I was going on in the second act he broke through the crowd, and with that generosity and great-heartedness which made him so loved, put his arm ‘round my shoulders and said, “How you have sung to-night! You make me feel old, for you have done things with your voice which remind me of what I used to do when I was younger. Now go on. If you do anything I do not think you ought to do I will tell you.”

A most important moment in the singer’s personal life occurred during that first Buenos Aires season—marriage to Virginia Zucchi, niece of the famous 19th century ballerina of the same name, and also a dancer. She first met Charles at La Scala, where she was Prima Ballerina. As chance would have it, Miss Zucchi was made Prima Ballerina of the Teátro Colón company and romance developed. Hackett soon proposed, and Caruso, receiving word of the engagement, wrote: “Hear you are being married. Have a little influence at the Metropolitan. Unless I am best man will use it against you.” “Needless to say,” Mr. Hackett wrote, “I was honored and happy to have Caruso as best man.” The wedding took place in Sao Paolo, Brazil, after the close of the Colón performances. The Hacketts eventually had three children: Carla (Mrs. José Santos Quijano), Joan (Mrs. George Foster Peabody Ames), and Charles.

Hackett’s New York Metropolitan Opera début was on 31 January 1919, as Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, with Frieda Hempel and Giuseppe de Luca. Other operas in which he sang that season were La Traviata and a novelty, Gounod’s Mireille. In all his appearances he garnered exceptional reviews for both his singing and acting.

During his three New York seasons, Hackett frequently performed in concert, notably in partnership with the outspoken soprano, Frances Alda. Manager Charles L. Wagner, in his biography,

Seeing Stars, recounted an amusing incident relating to an early Alda/Hackett recital. One of their first bookings was in Birmingham, Alabama, early in October of 1919. Hackett was new to Birmingham, while Alda had sung there several times in the past. Madama Alda, not known for her diplomacy, loudly expressed her disappointment over the small audience and, despite the fact that she had just been paid, berated the committee for failing to completely fill the house. The president of the concert association tactfully replied that Birmingham was the loser artistically and the association financially. “Well, after all,” declaimed Alda, “nobody knows Hackett anyway.” “Yes,” replied the president, “but they do know you!” and disappeared through the door. What must have been the icing on the cake for Alda was the newspaper review the following day: “Without at all wishing to take away even an iota of praise due from the splendid performance of Madame Alda it was easily to be seen that Mr. Hackett carried off the real honors of the occasion, the audience receiving him with... spontaneous and genuine admiration.”

At the conclusion of the New York opera season in April 1921, Hackett decided to sever his connections with the Metropolitan. Manager Giulio Gatti-Casazza had booked a number of new tenors for the 1921–22 season, including Lauri-Volpi, Armand Tokatyan, and Pertile. Added to a roster already featuring Gigli, Martinelli, Chamlee, Orville Harrold, Giulio Crimi, Rafaelo Diaz and Morgan Kingston, there was limited exposure opportunity.

Hackett’s departure from the Metropolitan, however, seemed an ideal time to pursue European performance invitations, so in 1922 Hackett reappeared at La Scala as Rossini’s Almaviva. He then visited Monte Carlo for the first time, singing there Cavaradossi in Tosca, followed by appearances at the Paris Opéra as the Duke in Rigoletto (with Ritter-Ciampi and the legendary Battastini) to resounding success. Before leaving La Scala, he had been invited by Toscanini to sing Fenton in Verdi’s Falstaff the next season. However, the number of American concert bookings this would have required canceling made it an impossibility.

In 1923, Hackett made his début in London’s Covent Garden to considerable enthusiasm. Among the more notable evenings there in which he participated was the Farewell Performance of Melba in 1926: Romeo to Melba’s Juliette. On 22 November 1923, the tenor first sang with the Chicago Opera as Alfredo in La Traviata, beginning an association with that company which lasted into the early 1930s. In addition to the standard repertoire, he created roles in the premieres of Cadman’s A Witch of Salem (with Eidé Noréna), Moret’s Lorenzaccio (with Vanni-Marcoux), and Hamilton Forrest’s Camille, championed by and starring Mary Garden.

In addition to his Columbia records, Hackett’s voice could be heard via Vitaphone films made in the twenties and frequently on the radio. In 1934, he returned to the Metropolitan and was featured there for six seasons of his most successful roles, including Romeo, Pinkerton, the Duke in Rigoletto, and Wilhelm Meister in Mignon. During this period he was approached by the Juilliard School of Music to fill a voice faculty opening created by the death of Herbert Witherspoon. After due consideration he accepted and, from all accounts, was soon recognized as an outstanding voice pedagogue.

While Hackett was seldom bothered by poor health, he had experienced some problems with his gall bladder and appendix. Although the situation did not demand immediate attention, he elected surgery to remedy these sources of annoyance. For some unknown reason, he chose the evening of 31 December 1941 for the event, a most unlikely time, considering the demands placed upon a New Year’s Eve skeletal hospital staff. Shortly after the operation, Mr. Hackett lapsed into shock and died the following morning. It was a most tragic and apparently avoidable death, thereby ending the life and career of a particularly remarkable artist.

© Lawrence F. Holdridge, 1998

Recollections by Charles F. Hackett, Jr.

My father died when I was not quite fourteen, so my real memories of him span only a half-dozen years or so. Memories filtered through pre-teen senses, perhaps, and the passage of many years, but warm and wonderful memories nonetheless. He had stopped his worldwide travels by the time my memories started, so at least I saw a lot of him.

We had a summer place in Maine, and the day after school was out we’d start the two-day car trip from our home in the New York suburbs. I was the only one who loved the trip. Father and mother were in the front seat, my two sisters, I and the dog in the back. To my knowledge, my father never had an accident, which is amazing considering that his hands were never on the steering wheel. He was always waving about and emphasizing, his verbal onslaughts at other motorists’ driving habits. There were several things you could count on during these trips: we’d get at least two flat tires; we’d be stopped at least twice for speeding; my sister would get car sick; my mother would be in a constant state of high anxiety. The stops by police were the most fun. My father would pull out his Knights of Columbus card and the Sons of Ireland ID or, depending upon the perceived ethnic background of the cop, he’d stage whisper police-friendly comments to my mother in Italian. He never got a ticket. Best part of the trip was when we’d get about ten miles from our destination. My father would let me drive. I’d sit in his lap and steer, which did nothing to ease my mother’s distress. No one spoke to each other for days after we arrived. As I say, I was the only one who enjoyed the trip.

The fact that my father was a well-known Metropolitan Opera singer had little impact on me as I recall. He was certainly more colorful and dramatic than the fathers of my friends, and he was home more during the day and home less in the evenings and on Saturdays. “He has sort of a night job,” I’d explain to my friends.

I remember a huge party my parents once gave for opera folks. I arrived home in the middle of it, just having fallen off my bike. I was a mess: dirty, scuffed, scraped, tattered, torn. My mother wanted to throw a blanket over me and rush me to my room for thorough sanitizing. My father shook his head, put his arm around my shoulders and introduced me “as was” to all assembled. My hero.

My father was warm, friendly and very talkative. There was a local farmer in Maine who sold fresh vegetables door-to-door from the trunk of his car a couple of days a week. He’d stop by our house and he and my father would chat for hours and hours, much to the annoyance of the other people on his route. President Roosevelt seemed a favorite topic. Eventually, the fellow would say, “Whell, Chaahlee, I guess I’d better get home now.” So my father, feeling guilty, would buy up most of his produce. And I’d hear about it from our neighbors.

I was the classic pain-in-the-neck, brat little brother. I always had something on my teenage sister and would blackmail her into letting me tag along with her friends on their outings. Once, at a lakeside picnic, I was particularly obnoxious and a couple of boys threw me bodily into the lake. I was furious. When we got home, one the boys took me by the arm, still wet, and sheepishly presented me to my father. “Mr. Hackett, we threw Charlie in the lake.” I anticipated the wrath of God. “Well,” my father said, “I imagine he deserved it.” And to me, gently, “Charles, behave yourself with these people. Next time they may throw you in and leave you there.” Thus are born folk-heros.

There were serio-comic events, too. In the mid-thirties, anyone could buy fireworks. My favorite was a cherry bomb, a fused ping-pong ball sized device at once loud, powerful... and dangerous. My father caught me holding one, lighting it, and throwing it. A stern, persuasive lecture followed whereby all but the tiniest of firecrackers were forbidden to me. But there was only one cherry bomb left in the box. We took it and laid it on the stump in the back yard. My father lit the fuse and we scampered twenty yards away. Unfortunately, a neighbor’s cat sprang from a bush and picked up the bomb. My father lunged for the cat, yelling at the top of his voice. Too late. My father was totally beside himself. Horrified. Devastated. We buried the cat and took a solemn vow never to reveal what happened to a living soul. It’s a vow I’ve kept for sixty years.