pars media // films // Belcanto - The Tenors of the 78 Era // 9 Gigli (1890-1957)

scene: A wine festival in Recanati, the town in which Beniamino Gigli was born. The regular guests in a bar are discussing Gigli, who over the course of his career continually returned to give benefit concerts in his home town.

music: Meyerbeer, Mascagni, Zandonai, Puccini, songs

analysis: Apri la tua finestra (Iris, Mascagni), 1921

When I hear him sing, I am filled by a special feeling. A cold chill goes down my back. We call it "goose-pimples". (Pagliarini) When you hear records of the very young Gigli you hear the genuine, original Italian tenore di grazia. It is a very soft, gentle voice, totally pure and clear. It does not have the fullness and energy of Caruso's voice but it is called in Italian dolcezza - very sweet, but not sweetish. (Kesting)

I sang for Hitler. I sang a concert with my father and then Hitler received me and my father and complimented us very much. We didn't really have anything to do with that. (Rina Gigli) The accusations made against Gigli came from Anglo-Saxon critics and from a few German critics. The Germans were perhaps criticising an under-tone which could have been heard in the 1930s and 1940s not only in artistic performances but also in political speeches. Flattering, giving orders, complaining, shouting, exaltation. All the elements you can hear in the political spectrum from Goebbels and Hitler to Mussolini. Gigli is a fascinating example of the impression made by the political currents of the day on artistic performances. (Kesting) He had a fabulous voice, and a natural gift. But he did not have very much taste. He tended to imitate Caruso. He sobbed, because Caruso had tears in his voice. In Gigli's case, the tears were rather artificial. (Celletti) The sobs flowed out of his response to words and music and they did not disrupt the music's flow. He integrated the sobbing into the dynamic curve of the phrases. (Zucker) It helped to breathe, in order to bring the phrase to an end. It was a technical trick which he used as means of expression. I liked it. (Simionato)

I have sung so close to him, for instance in the 'Dream' scene in Manon. It was magnificent, to follow his notes from so close up. These pianissimi, which rise on the breath. It was a great pleasure for me because I could hear how well he breathed. The lovely, gentle notes - his technique was fantastic. (Olivero) Even if he did not have a particularly dark voice he could still do everything with it. He used it in whichever way he wanted. You realize that I'm an admirer of Gigli, don't you? (Cerquetti)