Riccardo Martin (1874 -1952) was born Hugh Whitfield Martin in Hopkinsville (Kentucky). While studying music composition at Columbia University his voice was discovered. In 1901 he studied in Paris with Giovanni Sbriglia, Jean de Reszke and Léon Escalaïs and later completed his studies with Vincenzo Lombardi in Florence. Debut as Faust in Nantes in 1904. Two years later he made his American debut in New Orleans, singing with the visiting San Carlo Opera. Debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1907 in Mefistofele. He remained with the Metropolitan until 1914 and was among the first American-born male singers the company employed. He returned for the 1917-18 season. Among the roles in American operas he created at the Met was Walter Damrosch’s Cyrano and Horatio Parker’s Mona. After 1917 he appeared with numerous companies throughout America and Europe, and spent three seasons with the Chicago Civic Opera. Martin died in New York City in 1952.
Enrico Caruso had whole generations of tenors trying copy and imitate his voice and the effects of his singing. Almost all of them had neither the vocal potential nor the artistic value of the Neapolitan, but some stood out of the numerous “Caruso clones” (Mario Chamlee was another) for some reason or the other. Riccardo Martin was among the first American tenors to have a considerable career at the Met. Yet – he belonged to those American singers, who still went toEuropefor training and first gained experience there continuing his career in his home country.
The vocal potential is there, although certainly more on the lyric side – His singing is effortless, very correct and also has feeling. One clearly hears the merits of his teachers, the voice is well schooled with a solid technique, but he neither has the refinement of De Reszke nor the drive and class of Escalais and he fails to hold the listener´s attention.