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Richard Bonelli (Baritone)

Born: February 6 (or 2), 1889 - Port Byron, New York, USA
Died: June 7, 1980 - Los Angeles, California, USA

The American baritone, Richard Bonelli, was born George Richard Bunn, son of Martin and Ida Bunn. The family would later move to Syracuse, New York where George would soon prefer to be called Richard. Prior to entering into a singing career, Bonelli was a close friend of David Abbot Jenkins, the father of salt racing. He studied at Syracuse University and with Arthur Alexander in Los Angeles, and Jean de Reszke and William Valonat in Paris.

On April 21, 1915, Richard Bonelli made his operatic debut as Valentine in Charles Gounod's Faust at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. From 1922 to 1924 he toured the USA with the San Carlo opera company. After touring in Europe with the Max Sauter Company in 1925 (including appearances at the Monte Carlo Opera, Milan's La Scala), he was engaged at the Theatre Gaite Lyrique in Paris. That same year he was to join the Chicago Opera Company, remaining there until 1931. Between 1926 and 1942 he was a frequent guest at the San Francisco Opera. On December 1, 1932, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in New York as Germont, remaining on its roster until 1945. Bonelli debuted in Italy as Riccardo Bonelli, making him an international star. He holds two other significant records, being amoung the performances on the day that Opera was first broadcasted by radio on January 13, 1910 and performed on the first TV broadcast of Opera on March 10, 1940. He was best known for his Verdi roles, but also was praised for his portrayals of Wolfram, Tonio, and Sharpless.

Richard Bonelli also was a movie actor, having a supporting role in the 1935 film Enter Madame staring Elissa Landi and Cary Grant. He appeared as himself in the 1941 film There's Magic in Music staring Allan Jones and Margaret Lindsay:

After retiring from the stage Richard Bonelli dedicated himself to voice pedagogy and was a much-appreciated teacher. He taught at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California and in New York. He received an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Music from Syracuse University in 1937. In 1965 he received the American Guild of Musical Artists Merit Award(AGMA). He was twice married, first to Pauline Cornelys and second to Mona Chapman Wood.

Source: Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Port Byron's Historian Corner Website (December 2009); AOC Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (January 2011)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Under his name


G.F. Handel: Aria from Brockes Passion, HWV 48

Links to other Sites

Port Byron's Historian Corner : American Baritone Richard Bonelli
Guide to the Richard Bonelli Collection (OAC)

Richard Bonelli (baritone) by Charles A. Hooey (MusicWeb)
Richard Bonelli (IMDB)

Biographies of Performers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Explanation | Acronyms | Missing Biographies | The Sad Corner


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