Casa Paoli – Honoring the Tenor of the Kings

Situated in the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Casa Paoli was once the home of the late Antonio Paoli, a Puerto Rican opera singer who was known affectionately as both “The King of Puerto Rican Tenors” and as the “Tenor of the Kings”. Casa Paoli is currently a museum exhibiting documents and other memorabilia from the life of this well respected singer, along with examples of Puerto Rican art and a history of the city of Ponce. It also serves as the home of the Puerto Rico Center for Folkloric Research.

Antonio Paoli was born in Ponce on 14 April 1871. From a young age, he would accompany his parents to opera performances at the La Perla Theater in Ponce. After attending an inspiring performance by the Italian tenor, Pietro Baccei, he knew without a doubt what career path he wanted to follow. His parents nurtured his ambition by enrolling him in a voice training school. Sadly, when Paoli was only 12 years old both his parents died. He moved to Spain to live with his sister, Amalia, who also happened to be a singer. Amalia encouraged her brother to pursue his dream of becoming an opera singer.

After studying at the Royal Monastery of El Escorial in Madrid, Spain, and the Academia de Canto La Scala in Milan, Italy, Paoli made his debut in Paris when he performed in Gioacchino Rossini’s opera, William Tell. Antonio Paoli went on to earn numerous honors and awards before returning to Puerto Rico in 1917. Together with his sister Amalia, Paoli established a voice training school and helped in theater productions at the Municipal Theater in San Juan. The theater was renamed in his honor in 1934 and Puerto Rican legislature awarded Paoli a life-time pension. Upon his death from cancer on 24 August 1946, Antonio Paoli was buried in the Puerto Rico Memorial Cemetery of Isla Verde. On 13 April 2005, his remains, along with the remains of his wife who had died in 1978, were transferred to Ponce and buried at the base of his statue in the National Pantheon. The Antonio Paoli Festival Hall in San Juan’s Centro de Bellas Artes bears testimony to his musical achievements.

Antonio Paoli is considered to be the first Puerto Rican to achieve international fame in the musical arts. The museum at Casa Paoli gives visitors insight into the fascinating life story and achievements of Puerto Rico’s “Tenor of the Kings”.