Cortis, Antonio

Spanish tenor, 1891 - 1952

“Il Caruso Espagnol - Il Piccolo Caruso”

Biographical notes:

He was born Antonio Tomás Montón Corts to Spanish parents, on board a ship sailing between Oran (Algeria) and Altea (Spain). The small family (his father had died a week previously) moved to Valencia, later to Madrid. Antonio and his brother received musical education. Antonio entered the Royal Conservatory of Music in Madrid (at the age of 8!) where he studied composition, violin and theory. His goal was to become a composer or a violinist. In 1909 Cortis entered  the Municipal Conservatory and received vocal tuition. He was soon engaged as a member of the Gran Teatro del Liceu Chorus. He subsequently appeared in comprimario tenor roles. In 1917 he sang in South America as Arlecchino in I Pagliacci. Enrico Caruso was Canio. The famous tenor tried to persuade the young singer to accompany him to the United States, but Cortis declined the offer. In 1919 Cortis departed with his family to Italy where he was soon contracted by the Teatro Costanzi of Rome, Napoli and Bari. He also appeared at La Scala and was re-invited to sing in South America.

As Cavaradossi

His career became essential  when he he was engaged as a member of the Chicago Opera. Cortis considered this engagement the peak of his career. For the next eight years he was closely connected with this excellent opera house. He continued to sing  performances in London, at La Scala, in Verona, Torino, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Boston, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Washington, Pittsburgh and Santiago de Chile. During this successful epoch he made some of his finest recordings for Victor and Voce del Padrone. The American recession in 1932 forced him to leave Chicago. He returned to Spain, but the Spanish Civil War restricted his movements severely. Worldwar II prevented Cortis from continuing his career. His last performance was in Zaragoza in 1950, as Cavaradossi. After retirement he intented to become a teacher, but poor health caused his untimely death in 1952.

As Manrico


“...the bitter outburst of the tricked weakling painter and poet in Act I is one of the most vivid pieces of vocal characterisation on record.”

J.B. Steane about Cortis’ interpretation of Giannetto in Giordano’s “La Cena delle beffe”


As Des Grieux in  “Manon Lescaut” (1926)


As Rodolfo



Antonio Cortis - Acoustic and Electric Recordings, 1918-1930

Aria (3 CD)

Recital (Arias by Verdi, Gounod, Meyerbeer, Bizet, Massenet, Mascagni, Giordano, Puccini)

Preiser - LV

Recital (see above, incl. arias from La Cena delle Beffe)


Verdi - Il Trovatore: “Di quella pira” in 34 interpretations


Famous Tenors of the Past

Preiser - LV

Mike Richter’s Opera Page: The Record of Singing Vol. 3


Covent Garden on Record Vol. 4


Berühmte Tenöre der 30er Jahre

Preiser - LV


As Alfredo


As Dick Johnson in “La Fanciulla del West”


Antonio Cortis is certainly the most beautiful and thrilling tenor of all Spanish tenors. It was essentially a lyric, yet a “romantic” voice. He was superior to Miguel Fleta, Hipolíto Lazáro and even to Francesco Vignas. It is the richness of his tone, which is ideally combined with a lively and spontaneous responsiveness of style that makes him one of the greatest tenors. At home in many styles he did not overplay the emotion in a character like his antipodes Fleta and Lazáro.

There was undoubtedly a certain similarity in emission and style between him and Caruso. Comparing the two singers, Cortis is probably the more “romantic” interpreter. But it would do no justice to either singer to push the comparision further. Cortis’ recordings are a “must”!

My favorite recordings:

- Questa o quella (Duca in Rigoletto / Verdi / HMV 1930)

- La donna č mobile (Duca in Rigoletto / Verdi / HMV 1930)

 Ella mi fu rapita! (Duca in Rigoletto / Verdi / HMV 1930)

- Non piangere Liů (Calaf in Turandot / Puccini / HMV 1929)

- Nessun dorma (Calaf in Turandot / Puccini / HMV 1929)

- Io non ho amato ancor (Title role in Andrea Chénier / Giordano / HMV 1930)

- O Paradiso (Vasco da Gama in L’Africana / Meyerbeer / HMV 1930)

- Ah, che tormento (Giannetto in La Cena delle Beffe / Giordano / HMV 1930)

- Mi svesti (Giannetto in La Cena delle Beffe / Giordano / HMV 1930)


“The Crown of Aragon”

Titta Ruffo

(Cortis was Valencian, Fleta Aragonese and Lazáro Catalan)



Miguel Fleta

Hipolíto Lazáro



“He never had a teacher, except for Caruso who gave him some advice.”

(Cortis’ wife, 1952)