Dr. Thomas Lo Monaco 1922-2012
D. Thomas Lo Monaco was born in 1922 and is a graduate of Columbia University. He was the teacher of Jerry Hadley, Linda Strummer, Peter Strummer, Rufus Muller, William Joyner, Dorotha Roschman, Claude Heater, Abe Polakov, Craig Sirianni, Jeremy Silver, Héctor Palacio, Stephanie Sundhine, Victor De Renzi among many other singers with international careers.
He also briefly gave voice lessons to Marilyn Horne early on in her career as a soprano. Additionally, Dr. Lo Monaco gave voice lessons to Peter Boyle and Anthony Quinn. Anthony Quinn, in fact, wanted him to tour with him as his sole teacher, but Tom would not leave his other students.
Dr. Lo Monaco's brother, Jerome Lo Monaco, was also the lead tenor at NYC Opera for more than a decade. He taught Hildegard Behrens who said, "Jerome is the only teacher who ever helped me because he taught me to sing in chest voice." Both Dr. Lo
Monaco and Jerome Lo Monaco were students of voice scientist Douglas Stanley who wrote many books on the science of singing. Both Dr. Lo Monaco and his brother Jerome greatly modulated Stanley's technique to take advantage of the good things they were taught while leaving behind things that did not work or were misinformed. Douglas Stanley also taught Nelson Eddy and Cornelius Reid.
Dr. Thomas Lo Monaco was a world class tenor in his own right. In 1953 Dr. Lo Monaco had stepped in as a last minute substitute for an ailing Salvatore Puma in the role of Canio from the opera Pagliacci. The following are reviews of that performance:
The Philadelphia Daily News stated, “A brilliant new tenor star was born last night at the Academy of Music, in the La Scala production of “Pagliacci”. In true story-book fashion a last-minute substitute artist by the name of Thomas Lo Monaco stepped into the part made so famous by the great Caruso, and literally shook the rafters of the auditorium with the most thrilling and powerful tenor voice the younger generation has ever heard. His conception of the role contained all the savage pathos it demands and his singing of the familiar “Vesti la Giubba” was far-and-away the vocal highlight of the entire season. If Lo Monaco is heard in every dramatic tenor role with La Scala next season it will still not be enough for the enraptured audience of last night.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer stated, “The role of Canio, originally scheduled for Salvatore Puma, was sung beautifully by Thomas Lo Monaco. He portrayed dramatically the agony suffered by the betrayed husband. Bravos rang out above the thunderous applause as his “Ridi Pagliaccio” at the opera's dramatic close.”
The Evening Bulletin stated, “Mr. Lo Monaco substituted for the absent Salvatore Puma on short notice and, as far as Philadelphia was concerned, made the hit of his career. Not in several seasons has such a compelling, full-throated account of this dramatic role been heard in this city. Mr. Lo Monaco's voice is that rare thing, a true dramatic tenor—dark, vibrant and powerful. He relished impassioned climaxed and heroic accents, and so it was not surprising that he sang “Vesti la giubba” with a sweep and intensity that won him prolonged personal recognition from the house: His final scene was also unusually convincing in its dramatic urgency and sense of situation.”
Dr. Lo Monaco also did several recital with Alberta Masiello. Alberta Masiello (c.1916-1990) was born in Milan, Italy, to a family of renowned opera singers. Her grandfather, Giuseppe La Puma, began singing at an early age, and worked with many famous opera singers and conductors (e.g. Caruso, and Toscanini). He had a repertoire of about 100 roles for the baritone voice. In addition to singing, he founded the Mascagni Center of Culture, where he taught piano and voice with his daughter (and Masiello’s mother), Giuseppina La Puma. She inherited her father’s gift for singing, and after his death in 1940, continued to prepare students for traditional Grand Opera performances.
Masiello was considered a child prodigy on piano, and earned a degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Milan in 1932. Although she intended to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a singer in America, she first attended Juilliard for several years. She also taught there as an assistant instructor and accompanist, working with Paul Althouse and Mme. Anna Schoen-Rene, while doing private vocal coaching at home. During World War II she found some success in New York City as a folk singer, adopting a Spanish persona named “Yola.” Her singing career continued after the war with major mezzo-soprano roles at the New York City Opera, Fort Worth Opera, and Wagner Opera Company. But within a few years she turned to the coaching and accompaniment side of opera, and worked for the Dallas Civic Opera and Chicago Opera (where she established a professional relationship with Maria Callas). Of note upon Masiello's deah a folder with three letters from Maria Callas, written in Italian was found. She then began a long tenure (over 20 years) at the Metropolitan Opera House, and earned the title of Assistant Conductor. However, she remained a vocal coach, and did not conduct any operas for the Met. She continued to give private lessons, and taught master classes at the Mannes College of Music and Juilliard. But
opera audiences perhaps best knew Alberta Masiello as a guest panelist on the Texaco Opera Quiz, a radio program that ran during intermission of Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts.
Dr. Lo Monaco unfortunately had health issues which halted his own singing career. He then decided to dedicate himself to teaching voice. He made important discoveries about the singing voice that had never been documented before. One of the most important discoveries was about the Valsavla maneuver and singing. This lead to major insights on the importance of the breathing coordination required in singing and as well as vocal registration, “covering”, the use of the tongue in singing, the vibrato and the psychological aspect of singing. Never before had these things been covered in such a way. Dr. Lo Monaco embarked on writing a book on vocal technique that has not been finished as of yet. Jerry Hadley was to write the forward to the book, but unfortunately met a tragic end. Dr. Lo Monaco's book is still being worked on and will be available in the future.
Dr. Lo Monaco died on January 21. 2012, he was 90.