(b Buenos Aires, 17 Aug 1905). Argentine tango singer. She started singing and acting as a young girl, winning the nickname of La Joyita Argentina (the Little Argentine Jewel). After 1925 she made over 200 recordings for the RCA-Victor and Odeon labels, many with the band of Francisco Canaro. She was one the most popular of Argentine radio artists in the first half of the 1930s and also appeared in films; her legendary green eyes gave her the allure of a femme fatale. After 1935, however, she gradually distanced herself from singing, and in the early 1940s went to live at Salsipuedes (Córdoba province) as a lay sister of the Franciscan order; she later moved into a convent (1980) and then into an old people’s home (1985), never breaking her strict provincial seclusion.
Falcon, (Marie) Cornélie
(b Paris, 28 Jan 1814; d Paris, 25 Feb 1897). French soprano. She studied with Felice Pellegrini and Nourrit at the Paris Conservatoire, and in 1831 won premiers prix for singing and lyric declamation. She made her début at the Opéra as Alice in Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable (20 July 1832). Her acting ability and dramatic voice greatly excited Meyerbeer, who wrote for her the part of Valentine in Les Huguenots (29 February 1836). Other notable creations were Rachel in Halévy’s La juive (25 February 1835) and the title role in Louise Bertin’s Esmeralda (14 November 1836); her repertory also included Donna Anna, Julie in Spontini’s La vestale and Rossini’s French heroines. Her success at the Opéra led to overwork followed by loss of voice. In March 1837 she broke down during a performance of Niedermeyer’s Stradella. She resumed a busy schedule of perfomances shortly afterwards, but continued to experience vocal difficulties. She stopped singing in October and after a last appearance in Les Huguenots (15 January 1838), she twice visited Italy in the hope of recovering her voice. She returned to the Opéra on 14 March 1840 to sing parts of La juive and Les Huguenotsat a benefit performance, but her voice had been permanently damaged. Successful concerts with Cinti-Damoreau in Russia in the winter of 1841–2 were followed by some private performances in Paris and rumours of miraculous medical cures, but Falcon never appeared on stage again.
In later years the designation ‘Falcon soprano’ was given to the type of roles in which she excelled, and those written expressly for her give some indication of her vocal strengths. Using little ornamentation, she specialized in long lyrical lines, large upward leaps and sustained high notes. Her voice was noted for its crystalline clarity, and the ease with which it could rise above an orchestra, aided by a fast, narrow vibrato. Despite the strength of her top and bottom registers, Gilbert Duprez (who sang with her several times) suggested that her inability to create a smooth link between the two contributed to her vocal demise.
B.Braud: Une reine de chant: Cornélie Falcon (Le Puy-en-Velay, 1913)
C.Bouvet: Cornélie Falcon (Paris, 1927)
PHILIP ROBINSON/BENJAMIN WALTON
(b Cosenza, c1570–75; d Cosenza, 9 Nov 1600). Italian composer. His musical education was supervised by his father Antonio, who was also a composer. Achille became a member of the Accademia of Cosenza and from at least 1597, he was maestro di cappella at Caltagirone in Sicily. The most important source of biographical information concerning him is his book of five-voice madrigals posthumously published by his father. The book also includes a report on the musical dispute which took place in 1600 between Falcone and the Spanish composer Sebastián Raval, then director of the royal chapel at Palermo. Falcone’s growing fame aroused the envy of Raval, who, meeting him in the spring of 1600 at Palermo, provoked him to wager a gold ring on his success in a competition of compositional skill. Falcone gave nine problems to Tommaso Giglio who sent them via Antonio Il Verso to Raval. He proposed that they should improvise fugues in canon, and ricercares in chromatic and diatonic styles and in a mixture of both, with fixed rules for the observance of the subjects and for various mensural signs and proportions. Falcone also requested that they should first hold a theoretical debate on all the compositions. But in fact, the competition was limited to the improvisation of a five-part canon, the subject for each competitor being set by the other. The Dominican Father Nicolò Toscano gave judgment on 18 April 1600 that Raval’s canon at the unison showed no sign of skill or invention and that he had not defended his work with convincing theoretical argument. Falcone’s composition, on the other hand, showed great skill both in the entry of the voices and in the fact that the work could be sung in eight different ways, while the commentary included with it was founded on the best authorities.
Furious at this defeat, Raval challenged Falcone to improvise compositions before the Spanish Viceroy, Bernardino di Cardines, Duke of Maqueda (Raval’s patron). Falcone accepted, but on condition that problems previously set should be answered first, and that they should debate the theoretical and practical aspects of the music at length. Raval, supported by some local musicians and by the Spaniards at the Palermo court, refused, saying that knowledge of such things was not necessary to a good composer. So the return contest at the royal palace was limited to the improvised composition of a canonic motet for seven voices and madrigals for three and six voices respectively, on fugal subjects, which were to be used in all voices, chosen by the supporters of the contestants: Toscano for Falcone, and the celebrated lutenist Mario Cangelosa for Raval. The compositions were immediately sung before the viceroy. But Raval, with the complicity of the Spaniards at court, intercepted his rival’s compositions before they reached the judges, and falsified them. Falcone’s protests and accusations and a statement written by Toscano on 26 July 1600 were in vain. Raval promptly published an Apologia, in which he printed a falsified version of Falcone’s works, together with his own compositions on the same subjects, rewritten ‘with much time and study’ (seeRaval, sebastián, ex.1). Falcone was forbidden to take part in any such competition in Sicily and proposed to renew the contest with Raval in Rome. But in Cosenza on 1 August, as he was preparing for the journey, he fell severely ill with fever, and died in November.
In 1603 Antonio Falcone published a collection of his son’s madrigals Alli signori musici di Roma: madrigali a cinque voci … con alcune opere fatte all’improviso a competenza con Sebastiano Ravalle … con una narratione come veramente il fatto seguisse (RISM, 160311); in addition to madrigals, the collection contains the competition pieces by both composers and other works by Falcone that proved the injustice of the judges at Palermo, the falsity of Raval’s Apologia, and, in particular, Falcone’s exceptional skill and new and inventive style. On the whole, Antonio Falcone’s evaluation of the competition works and his son’s other music is reliable. Falcone’s five-part madrigals show the mature stage of the genre; chromaticism is used for expressive effects (e.g. in Dolce ha madonna il viso), and his understanding of the seconda prattica is evident in Ahi dolente partita (ed. in Bianconi, 1974), which is constructed entirely from chains of dissonances. Dissonance is again used effectively in the two four-part ricercares, and in some of the madrigals (e.g. Bianchi cigni). Falcone’s prodigious contrapuntal skill is also exploited in the madrigals; Allor che prima vidi consists entirely of sections each on three or four fugal subjects, and sections such as these occur elsewhere, as in S’avien che reticella and Sfidi tu forsi a baci. Of one other madrigal, only the tenor and bass parts survive; in Pietro Maria Marsolo’s Secondo libro de madrigali a quattro voci (Venice, 1614; ed. in MRS, iv, 1973), the piece is presented as monody for tenor and basso continuo; Marsolo reworked it for four parts.