Neither last nor least of the Gigli centenary recitals, this from RCA draws on the famous tenor's American decade from shortly after his Metropolitan debut in 1920 to shortly before his resignation from the company over salary cuts in 1932. It also offers a fascinating bonus in the two recordings made in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 60 and little known to listeners elsewhere. These are of arias by Carlos Gomes, one from Il Guarany, in which he appeared at Rome in 1937, the other the relatively familiar solo from Lo schiavo recorded in their respective and magnificent primes by Caruso and Lauri-Volpi. At the start of Gigli's recording it is natural to note that this is the voice of an older man: after the first phrase or so it would beRead more highly unnatural to do anything other than sit back in admiration and delight. Singing with full voice and ending with a ringing high B, he sounds inexhaustible, in spirit as in vocal resources. These were the last operatic arias in his published studio recordings, and the recital is worth having for them alone.
But of course it contains much else, including several highly desirable items also found in recently published issues on the Pearl and Nimbus labels. Alas, for readers who have already bought either or both of those; it has to be said that on the whole this new issue is better. One transfer, of which the Nimbus version ((CD) NI7807, 5/90) is decidedly preferable, is the Faust aria: RCA have what sounds like an inferior copy, the kind of thing which on a 78 or LP makes one get up to clean the stylus, whereas the Nimbus transfer is splendidly free and clear throughout.
In other instances, such as the Andrea Chenier and La favorita arias, the RCA versions are brighter and more distinctively Gigli—the Nimbus resonance lends a slightly generalizing effect, I find, and Gigli acquires a more Caruso-like weight and thickness. With Pearl ((CD) CDGEMM9367, 5/90) there is none of that, and generally the voice comes out remarkably well; but comparing the L'elisir d'amore arias on RCA, we find ''Quanto e bella'' at correct pitch and ''Una furtiva lagrima'' with clearer detail, while the I lombardi trio, taken from a flawed copy in the case of the Pearl, has never sounded better than here on the RCA. It should be added that Pearl have now issued a complete edition of Gigli's early records up to 1923 ((CD) CDGEMM9423), and that this, an important issue in view of its completeness, will also involve some overlap.
Among the rarities on RCA (''first release'' they announce, though many collectors have known them for years) the duets with Lucrezia Bori are particularly fine. Hearing them again made me wonder what had happened in the studio to make the second so much more lively and affectionate in feeling than the first. It is also interesting to note that the Chenier and Tosca solos were recorded in the same session, the Tosca having exactly the mobility and responsiveness lacking in the Chenier. Both, of course, are marvellous examples of the great voice and the unforced production that served him so well that he could still sing as he did in Rio at the age of 60 years.
Lucia di Lammermoor: Fra poco a me ricoveroby Gaetano Donizetti Performer:
Beniamino Gigli (Tenor)
Period: Romantic Written: 1835; Italy Language: Italian Notes: This selection begins with the recitative "Tombe degl' avi miei..."
The best single-disc GigliJanuary 31, 2014By Christopher D. (Kokomo, IN)See All My Reviews"It's hard to really represent such a major singer as Beniamino Gigli on one disc, but this disc does it well. It focuses on his best period, his Victor recordings of the 1920's. His voice was incredibly easy and beautiful, his phrasing usually natural and alive. He could be sobby and careless, true, and you don't listen to Gigli for gracefully turned ornament. But for gorgeous tenor singing there's been no one to touch him since. And here also are Titta Ruffo, Ezio Pinza and Elisabeth Rethberg in ensembles - how could you do better? The transfers here are beautiful,bright, smooth, clear, and lifelike, the best you'll hear. This disc is better than any other for showing you why Gigli was Gigli."Report Abuse