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Nicholas Tochka

(b Brockton, MA, USA, Nov 4, 1925). Albanian tenor and pedagogue. Born in the large Albanian immigrant colony in New England (USA), Athanasi returned as a child to his parents’ hometown of Korça, where he participated in its vibrant prewar choral, theatre, and sports scenes. During World War II, he performed with resistance groups singing patriotic and partisan songs and, in 1948, he was selected as a soloist in the newly formed National Army Ensemble by director Gaqo Avrazi. Athanasi was among a handful of young men in this ensemble to receive a scholarship to study in the Soviet Union, and following the completion of his degree in vocal performance at the Moscow State Conservatory in 1958, he was appointed soloist at Tirana’s Theatre of Opera and Ballet. He performed leading roles in premières of Albanian operas, and was active as a recitalist, performing a broad range of art music works from the Western European and Albanian repertories as well as arranged folk songs into the 1980s. In ...

Article

John Koegel

[Francisco Rafael ]

(b San Antonio, TX, May 16, 1883; d New York, NY, Dec 12, 1943). American operatic tenor and recitalist of Mexican and German heritage. He was the most prominent Mexican American opera singer of his day, although perhaps to advance his career he used the Italian-sounding first name “Rafaelo,” and press reports sometimes identified him as Spanish instead of Mexican American or Mexican. Díaz attended the German-English School and the West Texas Military Academy (now Texas Military Institute) in San Antonio. He studied piano with Amalia Hander, a local music teacher, and at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. After vocal studies with Vincenzo Sabatini in Milan, he returned to the United States and in 1911 began appearing in small roles with the Boston Grand Opera Company, quickly moving up to more prominent assignments. He accompanied the soprano Luisa Tetrazzini on a tour in 1913 and made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Massenet’s ...

Article

Thor Eckert Jr.

revised by Beth McGinnis

(b Ojai, CA, Dec 27, 1939). American tenor. He studied at the Music Academy of the West, UCLA with martial Singher and from 1963 to 1972 at the Juilliard School with Jennie Tourel. He began his professional career as Francesco Cavalli’s Ormindo with the Opera Society of Washington (1969) and as Tonio in a concert performance of Gaetano Donizetti’s La fille du régiment with Beverly Sills at Carnegie Hall (1970, recorded on the Adagio Classics label). Shortly thereafter he made his New York City Opera debut in Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and went on to sing with opera companies in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, France, Switzerland, and England. His repertoire of more than seventy roles includes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Ferrando, Belmonte, and Tamino, Charles Gounod’s Faust and Roméo, Georges Bizet’s Don José, and Claude Debussy’s Pelléas. He has appeared regularly with major American orchestras, choral societies, and music festivals and has performed Franz Schubert’s song cycles with fortepiano. Known for his versatility and acute attention to style, he has sung in the premieres of works by Leonard Bernstein, Jack Beeson, Thomas Pasatieri, Alberto Ginastera (...

Article

Charles Jahant

revised by Jonas Westover

(b Norfolk, VA, Dec 27, 1909; d Amsterdam, Holland, Nov 7, 1987). American tenor. He began singing at the age of 14, studied with May Hamaker Henley, and in the 1930s sang with Benny Carter and Fletcher Henderson’s jazz bands. He appeared in Marc Connelly’s drama Green Pastures and the film Hullabaloo (1941), and had a 13-week concert program on NBC radio. He then became a pupil of Georges Le Pyre, an assistant to Bruno Walter, in Hollywood, California. He moved to New York, where he studied with Clyde Burrows and performed in Jeb (1948), Hall Johnson’s Run Little Chillun’, Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts, and the premiere of Blitzstein’s The Airborne. Holland felt that he was unable to make a life for himself as a respected singer in the United States due to racial prejudice, and thereafter decided to make his home in Europe. After settling in France in ...

Article

Michael Meckna

(b Albion, NY, Oct 23, 1928; d Ashland, OR, Aug 12, 2000). American composer and tenor. Born into a musical family, he toured as a youth, appearing both as a pianist and a boy soprano. After attending the Eastman Preparatory School (1941–4), he was a pupil of Vivian Major and William Willett at SUNY, Fredonia (BM 1950), then of Wolfgang Niederste-Schee while on a tour of military duty in Frankfurt (1950–2). During this period he gave organ and piano recitals, and was a clarinetist in the 4th Division Infantry Band. At the Eastman School (MM 1954, DMus 1958) he studied with wayne Barlow , bernard Rogers , and howard Hanson . After holding several teaching positions he was a member of the music faculty of San Francisco State University (1959–80) and a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii (1970–1). He was active for many years as a concert tenor....