OP2901. AÏDA, Live Performance, 22 June, 1937, Berlin, w.de Sabata Cond. La Scala Ensemble; Gina Cigna, Beniamino Gigli, Ebe Stignani, Ettore Nava, Tancredi Pasero, etc.; [Caniell’s Archivist Note about Act IV: ‘So far as we can determine, Act IV was either not broadcast, not recorded or was lost. In order to achieve a plausible Act IV as close to the 1937 vocal estate of the principal singers as possible, I used the 1937 Met AÏDA broadcast for Cigna and the 1939 Beecham conducted AÏDA (Covent Garden) for Gigli, as well as for Stignani’]; LA GIOCONDA – Excerpts, Live Performance, 10 July, 1934, Cremona, w.Serafin Cond. Gina Cigna, Beniamino Gigli, Mario Basiola, Gianna Pederzini, etc.; BENIAMINO GIGLI, w.Ormandy Cond. Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Live Performance, 2 Oct., 1938: Arias from L’Elisir, Rigoletto, Martha & Pagliacci. (Canada) 3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1034. Restoration, re-creation & transfers by Richard Caniell. Elaborate Edition features numerous lovely photos. - 74825290040
“If you are seriously interested in Verdi and in Verdi performance tradition, and if you can hear through the sonic inconsistencies, this is a truly remarkable document, one we are fortunate to have.
One might think that Gigli’s Radamès is the key reason for obtaining this performance, and it certainly is a magnificent achievement, marrying beautiful tone to deep emotional commitment and involvement. And while it is more spontaneous and free than the tenor’s studio recording, and it is a performance to treasure, it is not, in my view, the most significant aspect of this release. Ditto for Cigna’s Aïda, great though it is....What is unique about this recording is the extraordinary conducting of de Sabata...his recorded legacy is small, and there is no other AÏDA...the feel the shape and thrust of the de Sabata performance [makes one] realize what a truly great conductor he was. Power and drive in the music’s exciting passages (the end of the second act takes off and practically goes into orbit) are combined with sensitivity and flexibility in the more tender scenes.
Cigna is a magnificent Aïda...a bit more vocally steady here [than her] 1937 Met broadcast début...she has taken an already fully integrated dramatic portrait of the character and deepened it with a few more subtle touches...Stignani and Pasero are also magnificent in their roles. Despite sound that varies in quality...what comes through clearly enough is the grandeur and power of this remarkable performance.
Among the bonus features: a 1938 radio broadcast...Gigli is in splendid voice...Ormandy’s sensitive accompanying is an asset [Detroit Symphony]...the booklet has superb notes on the performance and wonderful photos.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE, May/June, 2014
“Gigli’s début performance as Radamès took place on 28 March 1937 at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome. He sang the role there four times….and only a few months later he was recorded in this role when he was part of the La Scala tour. Cigna joined the tour after a succession of Aïdas she sang in 1937, beginning in February of that year at the Metropolitan Opera (we released our restoration of this broadcast, IP 1020-3, available at [OP2599]). Thereafter on the 20th of May, she sang the role at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden with Martinelli, Stignani and Tibbett. And then, a month later, she was again heard as Aïda with Gigli in the Berlin performance. We’re fortunate that the final performance of the tour was broadcast.
So far as we can determine, Act IV was either not broadcast, not recorded or was lost….In order to achieve a plausible Act IV as close to the 1937 vocal estate of the principal singers as possible, I used the 1937 Met AÏDA for Cigna and the 1939 Covent Garden AÏDA for Gigli, as well as for Stignani.
The bonus offerings are composed of two extremely rare recordings. The first is derived from a 1934 broadcast of a complete performance of Ponchielli’s GIOCONDA, alas preserved only in small portions. From these excerpts are heard: Tullio Serafin Cond. Cremona Ensemble, 10 July 1934, with Gina Cigna (Gioconda), Beniamino Gigli (Enzo), Mario Basiola (Barnaba) and Gianna Pederzini (Laura). Gigli’s portions are all from the 1934 broadcast except from the passage following Barnaba’s ‘Barcarolle’ – the recitative Gigli sings up to and including ‘Cielo e mar’ is from a 1927 Vitaphone recording about which Dr London Green writes: ‘The commercial records of Enzo’s aria are progressively more beautiful in vocal sound….In the Vitaphone version, the introductory words to the sailors, never otherwise recorded by Gigli, are delightfully conversational in the tenor’s way, and the aria is not only uncut but, since it was originally taken down from a 1927 Vitaphone 16-inch ET disc and not on a 4-minute 78-rpm record, it is even more spacious than the commercial recordings. It lasts 4 and three-quarter minutes, and sounds as if Gigli’s Enzo is inventing the prayer-fantasy as he sings it — full of the most felicitous detail and beautifully shaped by him throughout: surely one summit of this vocalist’s technique. The Gigli conception of the complete aria here is thus the most profoundly moving and beautifully sung performance of this music on record’.
The second bonus with Ormandy conducting the Detroit Symphony, offers arias (all in good sound) from the first occasion Gigli was heard following his return to America after many years’ absence. The selections, without the broadcast commentary, were previously released in inferior sonics by EJ Smith on his private LP label: EJS 414 in November 1967."
- Richard Caniell, Program Notes
"Gina Cigna was one of the most gifted and admired dramatic sopranos of the 1930s. At La Scala, where she appeared every season throughout the decade, and at many other Italian theatres, she was considered a Norma, an Aïda, a Gioconda, and a Turandot without rival. A very handsome woman with a powerful, vibrant voice, she excelled in those rôles which most nearly matched her own passionate temperament. Although a motor accident cut short her operatic career at a tragically early age, she continued to teach, first in Canada, then in Italy, until 1965.
Gina Cigna was born in Paris in 1900; her father, of Italian origin, was a general in the French army. Having played the piano from an early age, she studied at the Paris Conservatory, where Alfred Cortot was her professor, and embarked on a career as a pianist. In 1923 she married Maurice Sens, a tenor who sang rôles such as Gerald (LAKMÉ), Des Grieux (MANON) and Julien (LOUISE) at the Opéra-Comique; it was Sens who discovered her voice and suggested that she become a singer. After studying with Lucette Korsoff, on the advice of the great French soprano Emma Calvé, Cigna went to Italy. There she worked with other well-known sopranos, Hariclea Darclée, Rosina Storchio and Giannina Russ. In 1926 she auditioned at La Scala for Toscanini, who declared that she had a voice suitable for Verdi and advised her to study the rôles of Violetta, Leonora in IL TROVATORE and Aïda. After a second audition, however, she was offered the part of Freia in DAS RHEINGOLD and made her début – under the name Ginette Sens – at La Scala in 1927, attracting little attention. After further study and an engagement at Trieste singing in ANDREA CHÉNIER and Wolf-Ferrari's SLY, in 1928 she gained her first major success at Carpi, in the title rôle of Catalani's LORELEY. During 1929 she sang Elena in Boito's MEFISTOFELE at Nice, Marguerite in FAUST at the Verona Arena, her first Aïda at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence and Leonora in LA FORZA DEL DESTINO at Pavia, before returning, now under the name of Gina Cigna, to La Scala as Donna Elvira in DON GIOVANNI. This time she scored a great triumph and a few weeks later sang Elisabeth in TANNHÄUSER, with equal success; her career was launched. After appearances in Lisbon, Genoa, Parma and Rome, in 1933 Gina Cigna made her Covent Garden début as Marguerite in the first staged performance in Britain of Berlioz's LA DAMNATION DE FAUST, and also sang Elisabeth de Valois in DON CARLOS. She returned to Covent Garden in 1936 as Tosca; in 1937, when she sang Aida on Coronation Day (12 May), to the annoyance of some members of the audience, who felt that Eva Turner should have been given that honour; and in 1939, when she repeated her Tosca and also sang Leonora in IL TROVATORE. Meanwhile, in 1935, the centenary of the death of Bellini, Gina Cigna sang Alaide in LA STRANIERA at La Scala and Norma in Catania, the composer's birthplace. That year she ventured outside her usual romantic repertory to sing Gluck's ALCESTE at the Maggio Musicale in Florence, where in 1937 she was a notable Poppea in Monteverdi's L'INCORONAZIONE DI POPPEA. Having made a much-acclaimed Metropolitan début in 1937 as Aïda, she sang in New York for two seasons, as Leonora (IL TROVATORE), Gioconda, Norma, Donna Elvira and Santuzza in CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA. Aïda was again her début rôle at San Francisco in 1937, when she also sang Amelia in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, Norma and Violetta.
Toscanini's judgement, that Gina Cigna had a voice suitable for Verdi, was amply proven; as well as those already cited, her Verdi rôles included Elvira in ERNANI and Abigaille in NABUCCO. She also sang Mascagni's Isabeau, Catalani's Wally, Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini and Respighi's Fiamma, operas in which her handsome appearance, magnetic personality and dramatic involvement were of paramount importance. As Turandot she was specially praised for the tremendous vocal authority she brought to the rôle. She also sang in a number of non-Italian operas, taking part in the Italian premières of Janácek's JENUFA (1941) at Venice and of Richard Strauss’ DAPHNE (1942) at La Scala.
After the Second World War, Cigna continued her career, appearing chiefly in Italy. On the way to Vicenza to sing Tosca in 1948, she was seriously injured in a motor accident and in consequence was forced to retire from the stage. She became a teacher, first in Toronto, later in Milan and Siena. Her complete recordings, made in the late Thirties, of three of her finest rôles, Aïda, Turandot and Norma, are available on CD. The AÏDA reunites Cigna with Giovanni Martinelli, Ezio Pinza and other members of the 1937 Metropolitan cast [as well as with Gigli, Stignani and Pasero in the 1937 Berlin performance conducted by de Sabata].”
- Elizabeth Forbes, 2 July, 2001
“Ebe Stignani sang more than one hundred roles in her career that lasted more than three decades! Her last appearance was as Ulrica in Florence in 1957. Clemens Höslinger wrote: ‘The mezzo-soprano Ebe Stigani had a prominent place in the ensemble of La Scala between the wars. She was a versatile, devoted artist, a lively and passionate actress, a singer with an expansive, metallic voice, eminently suited for dramatic, high-strung roles such as Amneris, Eboli, Carmen and Santuzza. Veracity of expression, absolute dedication to the artistic task in hand were characteristic of her personality….’ Her voice is glorious.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“Tancredi Pasero is a splendid bass of unique beauty. In my opinion, the tonal opulence makes him one of the most exquisite basses to be heard on recordings. His voice impresses by its richness and the evenness of its quality from top to bottom of the wide range. Pasero added some baritone roles at the end of his career. Pasero’s expression is not only distinguished by its lyrical qualities but also of great feeling and dignity. He avoids exhibiting the voice in any overt emotionalism. In this, he is an antipode to Nazzareno de Angelis. He considered the beginning of his artistic life on 15 December, 1918 as Rodolfo in Bellini’s LA SONNAMBULA. Shortly afterwards he repeated the role at La Scala. Pasero’s illustrious and unusually long career was mostly centered in Italy. His main house was La Scala, where Arturo Toscanini engaged him for leading roles. He made guest appearances at Covent Garden, and also in Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Berlin and Hamburg. He was a member of the Met from 1929 until 1933 where he appeared opposite an amazing number of glorious voices. In 1933 he enjoyed an enormous success at the Maggio Musicale in Florence in Spontini’s LA VESTALE opposite Rosa Ponselle. He often appeared at the Arena di Verona. In 1948 he sang at a concert commemorating the 100th anniversary of Donizetti’s death, and in 1950 he appeared for the last time as Wotan in DIE WALKÜRE. Pasero’s most famous roles are Mosè, Sarastro, Don Basilio, Philip, Boris Godunov and Escamillo, as well as several important Wagner assumptions: King Heinrich, Gurnemanz, King Marke, Pogner and Hagen. He also participitated in the world premières of several operas, among them Mascagni’s NERONE at La Scala and Pinzetti’s ORSEOLO in Florence.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile