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Beniamino Gigli - The Gigli Edition, Vol. 8
Beniamino Gigli (tenor), Iva Pacetti (soprano), La Scala Orchestra/Carlo Sabajno, Franco Ghione, Dino Oliveri, Orchestra/John Barbirolli, Berlin State Opera Orchestra/Alois Melichar
Recorded in Milan, London and Berlin 1933 – 1935
NAXOS 8.110269 [74:06]

Umberto GIORDANO (1867 – 1948) Andrea Chenier: "Sì, fu soldato";
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863 – 1945) Cavalleria rusticana: "Mamma, quell vino è generoso;
George Frederic HANDEL (1685 – 1759) Serse: "Frondi tenere ... Ombra mai fu;
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858 – 1919) Pagliacci: No! Pagliaccio non son!;
Teodoro COTTRAU (1827 – 1879) Santa Lucia;
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797 – 1848) L’elisir d’amore: "Una furtive lagrima";
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924) Tosca: "È lucevan le stele";
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901) Rigoletto: "La donna è mobile";
Eduardo DI CAPUA (1864 – 1917) O sole mio;
Ernesto DE CURTIS (1860 – 1926) Addio bel sogno;
Cesare A BIXIO (20th Cent) Solo per te Lucia;
Ernesto DE CURTIS: Senza nisciuno
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO: Pagliacci: "Pagliaccio, mio marito ... O Colombina" (w Iva Pacetti)
Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875) Carmen: "La fleur que tu m’avais jetée;
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO: Mattinata;
Ernesto DE CURTIS: Torna a Surriento;
Johann Paul Aegidius MARTINI (1741 – 1816) Plaisir d’amour;
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1867 – 1948) Paride ed Elena: "O del mio dolce ardor";
Jules MASSENET (1842 – 1912) Élégie;
Franz SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828) (arr. Alois MELICHAR) Mille cherubini in coro (Wiegenlied, D.498);
Ernesto DE CURTIS: Non ti scordar di me;
Alois MELICHAR (1896 – 1976) Serenata Veneziana

Comparative Review

Another welcome dose of Gigli comes courtesy of Naxos’s eighth volume in its series. It takes us to his early to mid -forties. Once more these are in effect ex-Romophone CDs, the transfers of which are up to the usual standard. The majority were recorded in Milan though the 20th March 1933 session was in Kingsway Hall, London and there was an October 1935 excursion to Berlin. The repertoire is classic Gigli and the expressive means warmly inviting in a way by now entirely characteristic of him.

The Giordano has tremendous histrionic power and the Mascagni – disfigured or graced, depending on one’s preference by sobs – equally theatrical. He turns the recitative of the Handel into a slice of verismo and adds a few luxuriant portamenti in the aria. This was the first title waxed at this Barbirolli-led session. By the time we come to the Leoncavallo we find the voice fully warmed; the dramatisation is intense and the catches in the voice fail to impede the line. He is on pretty much home ground for the Neapolitan songs, so much a feature of his recorded and concert appearances, but one does part company in his handling of E lucevan le stele. Recorded in Milan he gives us a full panoply of sobs which, for all the leonine magnificence of the voice, fatally compromise the sense of direction. This is of course a well-rehearsed feature of Gigli’s legacy, one that has been noted almost every time his recordings are mentioned. One can note it in passing even in a warhorse such as Plaisir d’amour. One may cite Di Capua’s O sole mio for his tendency to ring every drop from a song. De Curtis’ Senza nisciuno is probably the pick of the 7 April 1934 bunch in which, despite or because of syrupy strings, Gigli evinces total freedom and tonal beauty even in the (very) slight strain to maintain pitch on the last note. He produces a rich stream of tone for the Bizet, impressive though rather more on its own terms.

Alan Blyth’s notes are succinct and helpful, as before.

Jonathan Woolf

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