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Beniamino Gigli - The Gigli Edition Volume 5. Camden and New York Recordings 1927-28.
Beniamino Gigli (tenor)
Orchestra conducted by Rosario Bourdon
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra conducted by Giulio Setti
Recorded 1927-28
NAXOS 8.110266
[79.07]


Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
The Pearl Fishers – Del tempio al limitar - with Giuseppe De Luca (baritone)
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886)
La Gioconda – Enzo Grimaldo - with Giuseppe De Luca (baritone) [2 takes]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

Lucia di Lammermoor – Tombe degl’avi miei – [2 takes]
Giusto cielo, rispondete [2 takes]
Tu che a Dio spiegasti L’ali
Chi mi frena in tal momento?
With Amelita Galli-Curci (soprano), Louise Homer (contralto), Angelo Bada (tenor) Giuseppe De Luca (baritone), Ezio Pinza (bass)
Guiseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Rigoletto – Bella figlia dell’amore – with Amelita Galli-Curci (soprano), Louise Homer (contralto), Giuseppe De Luca (baritone) [2 takes]
La Traviata – De’ miei bollenti spiriti
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Mignon – Ah, non credevi tu
Mignon – Addio, Mignon fa core
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)

L’africaine – O Paradiso
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

Cavalleria rusticana – Viva il vino spumeggiante
Ernesto DE CURTIS (1875-1937)

Voce ‘e notte
Canta pa’me

Once again as with previous issues in this series owners of Romophone’s Gigli editions will recognise this selection, which derives from the Complete Victor Recordings Volume II 1926-28. As before the songs and arias are in, largely, chronological sequence. Mark Obert-Thorn has worked on his Romophone transfers somewhat but differences are minimal. One interesting feature to note for prospective purchasers is that he has sequenced two successive versions of the Tomb Scene from Lucia di Lammermoor by combining different takes, though the third side (of three) remains the same, the only issued take. As a result we depart briefly from the chronological run of this series. Listeners will therefore have an identical recording of Tu che a Dio spiegasti L’ali to end each scene – which they can doubtless programme out should they wish.

These early electrics, famous though they are, repay close listening, and not just for the stellar ensemble for the Rigoletto extracts - Amelita Galli-Curci, Louise Homer and Giuseppe De Luca or the comprimario Angelo Bada and Ezio Pinza in Donizetti. In Ponchielli we can hear that De Luca is inclined to be slightly one dimensional, though his voice deployment is superior to Ruffo on previous Gigli recordings – fortunately we also get a chance to hear the first and second takes of Enzo Grimaldo. I can’t say that I feel sympathetic to Gigli stylistically in Tombe degl’avi miei (in either of the preserved takes), a piece he’d actually previously recorded slightly earlier. Though it was a role he performed widely, not least at the Met, his exaggerated phrasing, no matter how intrinsically beautifully sung, comes between the music and this listener at least. Pinza is magnetic however in his small role in Giusto cielo.

Gigli shows his truer colours in the ringingly declamatory Mascagni extract and the De Curtis are of course, as much a part of his repertoire as any here, and sung with scrupulous attention as well as beauty of tone. If only his Thomas Mignon (sung in Italian; on stage he partnered Bori) weren’t quite so, well, full of fretful manly catches in the throat, and not so intent on promoting legato phrasing over genuine depth of characterisation. Still this is a small blot on the musical landscape. The fine transfers allow us untrammelled access to Gigli’s commanding musicianship. Naxos has given full matrix details so that one can follow what they’ve done with accuracy.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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