(14 June 1884 – 16 September 1945)
John McCormack was an Irish tenor of great renown.
He was particularly famous for his great diction and extraordinary breath control.
0bviously talented his countrymen rallied to fundraise for him to enable him to travel to Italy in 1905 to have his voice trained in Milan.
He debuted in 1906 in Savona at the Teatro Chiabrera and the following year he sang Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana at Covent Garden thus becoming the theatre's youngest principal tenor.
In 1909 he appeared in America and started to make the first of many recordings.
In 1911 John McCormack sang Lieutenant Paul Merrill in the world premiere of Victor Herbert's Natoma opposite Mary Garden in the title role.
He also began a tour of Australia with Dame Nellie Melba who engaged him. At the age of 27 he was an established star tenor for the Melba Grand Opera Season.
For several years he devoted himself to the concert platform where he continued to garner a large public following.
One of his signature arias was Il Mio Tesoro from Don Giovanni where he would effortlessly glide through no less than 64 notes in the one breath.
He was also a fine exponent of Handel- and his gifts were well suited to the long florid Handelian passages.
His recorded war songs "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" in 1914 and "Keep The Home Fires Burning" in 1917 added to his fame. He became an American citizen in 1917 and he was earning millions in royalties from his many recordings yet he was never invited to sing at La Scala.
Enjoying the trappings of great success he had homes in Moore Abbey, County Kildare, Runyon Canyon in Hollywood appartments in London and New York and lived an opulent life by Irish standards that included owning racehorses.
He toured often and even had a crack at making a movie which was not hugely successful but it did enable him to use the salary from it to purchase a mansion he called 'San Patrizio' after Saint Patrick. (Faith and begorra!)
When he was absent the mansion was often leased to other stars including Janet Gaynor and Charles Boyer.
In 1937 he returned to England to tour and give concerts. He intended to return to America but never did.
A farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1938 was an official farewell however he still continued to sing until 1943 when serious health issues forced him to retire permanently.
He bought a house by the sea near Dublin to help ease his emphysema but after a series of infectious illnesses including influenza and pneumonia he died in 1945.
Being the quietly devout Irish lad that he was, he raised a lot of money for Irish charities earning him a Papal recognition from the Pope.
It was only one of many awards.
In his time he was not renowned for his numerous stage performances of opera and in fact one might well say he was one of the first "stadium and concert performers" who achieved enormous wealth and fame through the numerous recordings he made.
Nonetheless, his name and the brief association he had with the opera world, not to mention his glorious effortless voice, will forever qualify him to be remembered as one of the legends of opera.