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Beniamino Gigli

Beniamino Gigli was the foremost Italian tenor of the 1920s through the 1940s, possessed of a smooth, lush voice with a lyric sweetness often described as "honeyed." He became a Metropolitan Opera star, singing 28 roles there, and was a legitimate heir to the tenor Enrico Caruso, who had died at the beginning of the 1920s. No one person could fill Caruso's shoes, but it was widely conceded that Gigli inherited his lyrical and romantic parts, while Giovanni Martinelli took over the more heroic roles. Gigli was also one of the most-beloved performers of Italian song, with a special gift for the traditional Neapolitan repertoire. His singing was heavily mannered by modern standards, characterized by sobs, catches, and portamenti, but it had an inherent beauty and sincerity that are still easy to appreciate. Although an even more stylized actor than singer, Gigli had a successful film career, appearing in almost 20 films.

Gigli began his singing career as a child, performing for treats and coins at a local café. At age 7, he entered the choir of Recanati Cathedral, where his father was Sacristan. When he was 17, he moved to Rome to live with his brother, a student of sculpture; the two led a bohemian existence, frequently cold and hungry, until Gigli was offered a position as a servant in a wealthy household. There he was provided with room and board and given afternoons off to practice or to take lessons with a local teacher.

During World War I, a music-loving colonel saw to it that he was posted to a non-combat position in Rome and also encouraged him to audition at the famous Academia di Santa Cecilia, where his evident musical talent led them to waive the normally required piano examination. He studied there for two years, and upon graduation won the famous Parma vocal competition. On the strength of that, he was offered roles at various small opera houses and made his official opera debut as Enzo in La Gioconda at Rovigo in 1914. By December 1916, he made his Rome Opera debut as Faust in Boito's Mefistofele. When the war was over, HMV set up a studio in Milan, and it was there where Gigli began his extensive recording career. In 1918, he made his La Scala debut also as Boito's Faust in a performance conducted by Toscanini. The next year, he made his first appearance in the Americas as Cavaradossi in Tosca at the Teatro Colon. His Met debut followed in November 1920, also as Faust, and he sang there every season until 1932.

His Covent Garden debut was not until 1930, as Andrea Chénier. After World War II, which he mostly spent in Italy, he largely restricted his singing to concert performances; his last public appearance was in May 1955, at a concert in Washington, D.C., ending a professional career of 41 years.

Gigli was one of the first singers to make complete opera recordings, including a particularly fine Andrea Chénier (EMI) and Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci released as a set on Nimbus. Among his solo CDs, a two-disc set on Pearl (Gemm) captures him in his youthful prime.
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The Very Best Of Beniamino Gigli

Disc 1
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Title: Aida, Opera
Title: Rigoletto, Opera
Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Title: L'elisir D'amore, Opera
Composer: Charles Gounod
Title: Faust, Opera
Composer: Jules Massenet
Title: Manon, Opera In 5 Acts
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Title: La Bohème, Opera
Title: Tosca, Opera
Title: Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly), Opera
Composer: Ruggero Leoncavallo
Title: Pagliacci, Opera
Composer: Pietro Mascagni
Title: Cavalleria Rusticana, Opera (Melodramma) In 1 Act
Title: Isabeau, Opera (leggenda Drammatica) In 3 Acts
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Title: Manon Lescaut, Opera
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Title: Stabat Mater For 2 Sopranos, Tenor, Bass, Chorus & Orchestra
Composer: César Franck
Title: Panis Angelicus For Tenor, Organ, Harp, Cello & Bass
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Title: Requiem Mass, For Soloists, Chorus & Orchestra (Manzoni Requiem)
Composer: Franz Schubert
Title: Ellens Gesang III ("Ave Maria"), Song For Voice & Piano, D. 839 (Op. 52/6)
Composer: Salvatore Cardillo
Title: Core 'Ngrato (Catari), For Voice & Orchestra
Composer: Luigi Denza
Title: Funiculì Funiculà, For Voice & Orchestra (& Chorus Ad Lib)
Disc 2
Composer: Eduardo di Capua
Title: O Sole Mio, For Voice & Piano (Or Orchestra)
Composer: Paolo Tosti
Title: La Serenata For Voice & Piano/orchestra
Composer: Gioachino Rossini
Title: La Danza. Tarantella Napolitana ("Già La Luna È In Mezzo Al Mare"), For Voice & Piano (Soirées Musicales)
Composer: Paolo Tosti
Title: Aprile For Voice & Piano (or Orchestra)
Composer: Ruggero Leoncavallo
Title: Mattinata, Song For Voice & Piano (Or Orchestra)
Composer: Ernesto de Curtis
Title: Torna A Surriento, For Voice & Piano (Or Orchestra)
Composer: Paolo Tosti
Title: L'Ultima Canzone For Voice & Piano/orchestra
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Title: La Forza Del Destino, Opera
Composer: Francesco Cilea
Title: L'arlesiana, Opera
Composer: Umberto Giordano
Title: Andrea Chénier, Opera
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Title: Un Ballo In Maschera, Opera
Composer: Fromental Halévy
Title: La Juive, Opera
Composer: Edouard Lalo
Title: Le Roi D'ys, Opera In 3 Acts
Composer: Jules Massenet
Title: Manon, Opera In 5 Acts
Title: Werther, Lyric Drama In 4 Acts
Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Title: L'elisir D'amore, Opera
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Title: Turandot, Opera

Comments

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my favorite favorite!
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natafog557
I heard him in Buffalo about 1950, probably towards the end of his career, but still sharp & perfect.
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this song reminds me that i am in italy so nice
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Gigli, always my favourite!
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Dan; you are right! his voice was so clear and sharp as a sword, Pavarotti followed him in bel canto with a few years apart. He was ne of the precursors for the second half of the XXs operatic singers. Ciao!
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Gigli was one of the greatest tenors of the 20th century, often mentioned along with Enrico Caruso and Jussi Bjorling as "The three great tenors."

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