Valentino's Voice

While in New York during the spring of 1923, Rudolph Valentino paid a visit to the Brunswick studios and recorded two songs. El Relicario in Spanish and The Kashmiri Song in English. According to legend, Valentino recorded these songs for his new bride, Natacha Rambova since they had recently wed after a few very tense years of legal difficulties concerning Valentino's divorce from Jean Acker.

It was reported that after he heard his voice, he quipped "There goes my opera career!" It is difficult to imagine what his true speaking voice would have been based solely on the evidence of his two extant vocal recordings. The recordings were made using the acoustical process (singing into an acoustical recording horn). Because of this, the sound is far more primitive than the far superior technical process which came a mere 2 years later, the birth of the electrical process (microphone recording). Had Valentino chosen to try his hand again at making a recording during the electrical period, we would have had a truer voice picture from which to judge.

Nevertheless, many contemporary accounts state that Valentino's speaking voice was very pleasant with an accent leaning more towards Spanish/French rather than a heavy Italian. It is his Italian accent that can be heard very clearly on the recording of the Kashmiri Song. Most particularly in his pronunciation of the word "whom" in the phrase "Whom do you lead on rapture's roadway far?" -- which sounds more like "oom-ma" (illustrating the problem experienced by many native Italian speakers with the Americanized "who" sound).

Since these two recordings are the only known extant recordings of Rudolph Valentino's voice, one can hardly speculate on his future had he lived to make talking pictures with any real accuracy. The quality of his singing voice aside, I would like to think he would have succeeded well into the sound era, he just would not have been a musical star! He would have adapted himself to acting in sound films with aplomb. By the time he made Son of the Sheik in 1926, his acting style had matured and he, like many silent other stars, had refined and raised his acting ability far above the norm. He had a patrician elegance and grace that transcends. Once moviemaking had past the 1928-1932 awkward "talkie" stage, and Valentino himself aged a little bit, he would have perhaps fulfilled his dream of producing and directing in the later years of his career. Rudolph Valentino was a far thinking man and had planned to retire the romantic hero not too far in the future, he knew that being a romantic idol was not a career of longevity. Death cut his aspirations short and we are left only with speculation of which direction his career would have turned.

To hear Rudy sing The Kashmiri Song or El Relicario, click on the links below and enjoy!

Kashmiri Love Song

El Relicario

If you want to hear some restored versions of these two songs, plus a lot of other great 1920's Valentino-related songs, I cannot recommend highly enough the CD Rudolph Valentino: He Sings & Others Sing About Him

This CD was produced as a labor of love by Grammy winning producer Phillip York in memory of his late Mother, who was a long time Valentino fan herself.  This is a fun CD of modern renditions of songs from Valentino films or songs written about Valentino.  Phil also remastered Valentino's two extant recordings, laboriously correcting the pitch and backing Rudy with a new band!  You can buy the CD or download the entire album for your iPod at cdbaby.com.

Valentino's Voice
To listen to the recordings, just click the links or the record labels.
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