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Antonio Paoli
Antonio Paoli (April 14, 1871 – August 24, 1946) was a Puerto Rican tenor. He was known at the height of his fame as "The King of Tenors" and as the "Tenor of the Kings". He is considered to be the first Puerto Rican to reach international fame in the musical arts.

Early years

Paoli (birth name: Antonio Emilio Paoli y Marcano) was born in Ponce, Puerto Ricomarker. He was the son of Amalia Marcano Intriago, from the island of Margarita, Venezuela and of Domingo Paoli Marcatentti, from Corsica. When Paoli was young, his parents would often take him to operas at Ponce's La Perla Theater. There, on one occasion he saw a performance by Italian tenor, Pietro Baccei, and at that moment knew what he wanted to do as an adult. His parents were very supportive of his ambition and guided him on this route during his youth, enrolling him in a school of "voice" directed by Ramon Marin. In 1883, when Paoli was only 12 years old, both his parents died and he went to live with his sister, Amalia, who was living in Spainmarker and who was herself a singer.
Amalia Paoli


In 1884, Amalia helped Paoli to obtain two scholarships from her Majesty Queen Maria Christina, Queen Regent of Spain. Paoli started his studies at the Royal Monastery of El Escorialmarker and in 1897, went to study at the Academia de Canto La Scala in Milan, Italymarker. On April 26 1899, he made his debut in Gioacchino Rossini's opera William Tell in Paris, Francemarker. Paoli, also performed in the following countries: Argentinamarker, Russiamarker, Polandmarker, Egyptmarker, Hungarymarker, Belgiummarker, Cubamarker, Chilemarker, Haitimarker, Colombiamarker, Venezuelamarker, Brazilmarker, Canadamarker and the United Statesmarker.


Paoli was awarded The Cross of St. Mauricio medal by the Czar of Russia Nicholas II and in 1907, he was also decorated by Carlos I of Braganza. He was named as "Singer of the Royal Court" by William II of Germany. Paoli was the first opera artist to record an entire opera when he recorded Pagliacci by Ruggiero Leoncavallo. In 1912, he sang again in the opera Lohengrin in Viennamarker and received a standing ovation from the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph.

His return to Puerto Rico

In 1917, when World War I broke out in Europe, Paoli returned to Puerto Rico. He wanted to sing in the Metropolitan Opera House in New Yorkmarker, but apparently his competitor Enrico Caruso opposed this. Paoli eventually lost his fortune (2 million dollars) in bad investments and was forced to become a professional boxer in order to earn an income.

In 1922, Paoli started giving voice lessons and together with his sister, Amalia, established a school. Paoli helped produce Othello at the Municipal Theater in San Juanmarker. In 1934, the Puerto Rican legislature honored Paoli by renaming the Municipal Theater "The Paoli Theater" and also gave him a life-time pension.

Antonio Paoli died of cancer in San Juan, Puerto Rico on August 24, 1946 and was buried in the Puerto Rico Memorial Cemetery of Isla Verde. On April 13, 2005 the remains of Paoli and those of his wife Adina Bonimi (who had died in 1978) were transferred to Ponce and buried in the National Pantheon in Ponce by the base of his statue.

Music Conservatory and legacy

The Music Conservatory for which he worked so hard to establish was finally realized shortly after his death. In San Juan's "Centro de Bellas Artes" there is a 1,883 seat "Antonio Paoli Festival Hall".

A book was written about Paoli by Jesús M. López: Antonio Paoli, el León de Ponce; a numbered edition published by the author. However according to "Review of the Paoli Book" by Thomas Kaufman and Francois Nouvion, this book is full of mistakes, inventions and does not do justice to this great singer, It is recommended that the book be not used for research.

The "Paoli Award", founded in 1983, honor the effort, work and success of professionals dedicated to all media including: music and recording, television, radio, written communication, fashion and beauty. Originally an award designated for the outstanding achievements of Puerto Ricans, the award has branched out internationally since 1993 and now includes Hispanics and Latin Americans around the world.

The Casa Paolimarker in Ponce, Puerto Rico (his birth house) was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in October, 2009. There is also a music school in Caguas, Puerto Rico called: "Escuela Libre de Musica Antonio Paoli".

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