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Giovanni Raffo - Manchester's Famous Italian Tenor

Domenico Raffo came to Manchester from Chiavari about 1864 and he and his wife Julia (nee Rocca) had seven children, six boys and a girl. Their eldest son, Giovanni, was the leading tenor at the Holy Name Church when the choirmaster was Leslie Stuart. The latter became famous for composing "Lily of Laguna" and "Little Octoroon", which he wrote especially for Eugene Stratton, the great American black-face performer.

Giovanni Raffo joined Eugene Stratton's act and his career as a tenor singer took him to theatres and concert halls all over the country. He often appeared at the Free Trade Hall and on several occasions he sang for the Duke of Westminster at Eaton Hall, Chester, and for Lord Egerton at Tatton Hall. Amongst his friends were George Formby senior, Gertie Gitana, Little Tich (who wore three-foot long boots!) and Fred Walmsley, all of whom were top-of-the-bill artists.

Giovanni was not only a distinguished vocalist; he was also an excellent cyclist and won various events. The "Cycler's News" in September 1897 wrote of him:

"The legion of cycling clubs that have a happy recollection of the pleasure they have derived from his singing in past years, will doubtless be looking forward with much eagerness to being entertained by this vocalist during the coming season. They will not be disappointed."

Giovanni (Jack) Raffo died in July 1925 at the age of 56.

 

 
Giovanni Raffo 1869 - 1925*
 

All text and images (unless marked *) Anthony Rea 2010
not to be used without permission. All rights reserved