Of all the great singers of the Bel Canto genre, Irish Tenor John McCormack was the most versatile. He made his operatic debut at Savona in 1906 and continued to dazzle audiences throughout the world until emphysema rendered him unable to perform in 1943.
The great Polish tenor Jean de Reske had been McCormack’s predecessor as the dominant singer on the international scene. De Reske attended all of McCormack’s appearances at Monte Carlo during 1921 and 1923, and even invited the Irishman to his own villa to sing to his pupils. After McCormack obliged the gathering with a private performance Jean de Reske told his pupils: "That is how I want you to sing." He followed the meeting with a warm letter praising McCormack’s greatness as a singer, saying:
"YOU ARE THE TRUE REDEEMER OF BEL CANTO."
Though McCormack pronounced his words clearly as he told the story of each song, he didn’t imitate any other singer or try to sound like an Italian. Some university teachers might tell you that learning to sing Bel Canto means to "purify" your pronunciation of vowels so that you sound exactly like a certain Italian way of speaking. Those teachers are mistaken.
Jean de Reske had the experience and knowledge to recognize that the very Irish sounding Irishman John McCormack sang with VOCAL FREEDOM and that he made his performances about the storytelling, not tones and sounds. He personalized himself for the audience in a magical way. That’s what made McCormack the "Redeemer of Bel Canto."