He had a very good career in Europe, and the basis of his fame was the elegance of his singing. His predilection for bel canto—while not reflected so much in his repertoire choice –made possible some very refined singing, and opened the door for older works. He sang the bigger Italian roles quite consistently (Canio, Turridu,Cavaradossi,Il Duca, for example), so while some might loosely call him a "bel canto" tenor, that did not rule out for him the heavier Italian roles. The divisions between voice types and roles barely existed at that time, and singers often sang a very wide repertoire. Anselmi sang Ottavio and Almaviva as well as Canio and Turridu, and would also sing Handel and Richard Strauss. He even recorded one song in Russian.
Anselmi's reputation for elegance came not only from his bel canto training and his linguistic abilities; he was an excellent musician, having studied both piano and violin at the Naples Conservatory as a young man. His debut was in Genoa, in 1900, when he was very young indeed, and he quickly became popular. His next move, the following year, was to Covent Garden, and subsequent debuts at San Carlo, La Scala, Monte Carlo came quickly. From there, it was Brussels, Germany, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Poland and Spain; everywhere a success. While he did not travel to North America, he did travel to South America, and sang at the Colón in Buenos Aires. He was not in very robust health, it seems, and by 1910, he was waning, and, sadly, died of tuberculosis in 1929, only 53 years of age.
While Anselmi sang a lot of the "bread and butter" Italian roles, he was no stranger to more modern and more refined music, witness this recording of R. Strauss' "Morgen":
I think you will agree that this is beautiful and musically elegant. This is not a "trendy" or "occasional" thing that he was doing. His singing reveals both an understanding of and control over the style of the song.
Here is an example of bel canto training as reflected in his handling of Loris' famous aria from Fedora. We are used to hearing this done by some very robust tenors, but this is another approach to the song that works very well:
How about that!? Talk about elegance and bel canto technique! That is absolutely beautiful singing, and the stylistics and musicality are inspiring. It is not hard to see why he was revered throughout Europe. That kind of singing is close to being a lost art among tenors.
Here is an Anselmi rarity. He recorded a soprano aria from Handel's Xerxes, "Va godendo," only recently posted. This is a real treat:
Just lovely! We can say exactly the same thing about this aria that we can say about the first two selections: purity, elegance, musicality, control of style, tone and phrasing. All the arts of beautiful singing. And as for recording a soprano aria from Handel, that just wasn't done by tenors in his day. There are clearly resonances of a very much earlier time here.
Finally, and I present this because it is linguistically very rare, a recording of an Italian tenor singing in Russian. I suspect, as I point out in the description I put on this video when I posted it, that this is something he learned in St.Petersburg, where he was exceptionally popular: (I wrote the first half of the description on this video in Russian, for my Russian audience, but scroll down a bit, I also posted it in English.):
An unusual tenor, a golden age, and arts now largely lost, but there is always the possibility of recovering the essence of the lost arts, if not the actual techniques.