Mardones, José

Spanish bass, 1869 - 1932

As Fiesco in Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra”

Biographical notes:

He was born in Fontecha (Alava) and began his musical life as a boy soprano at local choirs. He subsequently studied at the Conservatory of Madrid, but remained mainly a self-taught singer. In 1891 he appeared for the first time at the Teatro de la Opera in Buenos Aires and at the Opera de Rio de Janeiro. Until the end of the century he mostly sang in Spanish opera houses and Zarzuela theatres.  From 1909 - 1910 and 1913 - 1916 he was engaged at the  Boston Opera. In 1913 he was invited by Arturo Toscanini to sing the bass solo in Verdi’s Requiem. In 1917 he changed to the Met and appeared there until 1926 where he outshone Adamo Didur, Andrés de Segurola and Léon Rothier by the splendour of his voice. Some of his 21 Met roles: Sparafucile, Mefistofele, Raimondo, Padre Guardian, Pimen, Basilio, Wallace in Fanciulla del West, Rudolph in Catalany’s Loreley (first performance), Walter Fürst in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, Silva, Fiesco, Indra in Massenet’s Le Roi de Lahore, Alvise and Ramphis. He sang in Spontini’s La Vestale opposite Rosa Ponselle who was deeply impressed by his voice. In 1926 he returned to his native country where he was active until the time of his death.


As Ramphis, one of his greatest roles


 ”He had the greatest bass voice I ever heard. Nobody could even come close to that sound. It was like the lowest pedal on the pipe organ of a great cathedral - a real basso profondo. He had everything vocally: a huge voice, excellent technique, and a top that could go way up into the baritone range. Now, he wasn’t any kind of actor, but he was good for those “robe parts” - the toga roles, things like that.”

 Rosa Ponselle



The Great Spanish Bass


Recital (Arias and duets by Boito, Bizet, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Verdi, Gounod, Mozart, Puccini and Rosa)

Preiser - LV

Recital (Arias by Bellini, Meyerbeer, Boito, Rossini, Verdi, Mozart, Zarzuelas)


Famous Basses of the Past

Preiser - LV

20 Great Basses sing Great Arias


Giovanni Martinelli: Excerpts from Rossini’s Guglielmo Tell

Preiser - LV


His voice is  a sonorous basso profondo, its range extending more than two octaves to a phenomal easy top (he was able to sing Celeste Aida in the original key!). You will notice a narrow vibrato which gives his voice a vibrant quality. He is at his best in Silva’s aria Infelice e tuo credevi and in Zaccaria’s Del futuro nel buio discerno.

I have found not to take some critics too seriously! Michael Scott considered Mardones “the best kind of a house singer.” He depended on a statement by Lauri-Volpi who could not find any “characterization or depth in Mardones’ interpretations.” But nevertheless, Lauri-Volpi considered Mardones “the greatest suonatore of all basses.”

 Infelice e tuo credevi (Silva in Ernani / Verdi / Columbia 1919)