Beniamino Gigli, Vol. XV  (Carnegie Hall)   (Naxos 8.111104)
Item# V1164
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Beniamino Gigli, Vol. XV  (Carnegie Hall)   (Naxos 8.111104)
V1164. BENIAMINO GIGLI, w.Dino Fedri (Pf.): The 1955 Carnegie Hall Farewell Recitals, incl. Songs by Caccini, Weckerlin, Donaudy, Grieg, Chopin, Curci, Carnevali, de Crescenzo, de Curtis, di Veroli, Bixio, di Capua & Curran; Arias from Xerxes, Don Giovanni, L’Africaine, Manon, Werther, Lo Schiavo, Tosca, La Fanciulla del West & Lohengrin. (E.U.) Naxos 8.111104, Live Performances, 1955, Vol. 15. Transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn. - 747313310425


"When Gigli gave his three farewell recitals at Carnegie Hall he was in his mid-sixties and determined to say goodbye in true style. He relates in his autobiography about how he did his last tour of the United Kingdom in February, then did the same in Lisbon. He continues: 'The condemned man is allowed a last wish. I had not been to the United States for more than sixteen years. So many people must have forgotten me, in that country, where yesterday belongs to the garbage can, that a farewell hardly seemed necessary. But I had not forgotten the Americans. I wanted very much to sing for them once again. I wanted myself for one last time to hear myself called 'Mr Giggly'. I wanted to take one last look at the Metropolitan. 'It was not easy to arrange an American tour at short notice but Gorlinsky [his agent] came to my rescue and shouldered the ungrateful task with his usual dynamic efficiency ... And so on 17 April 1955, I was back singing at Carnegie Hall only a few steps from the apartment on West 57th Street, which had been my home for twelve years. How New York had changed! I felt like Rip Van Winkle … 'I gave two more concerts on 20 and 24 April… singing, clapping, shouting, coughing … and the three concerts were registered with items from them, put onto an LP, and I often play it over to myself now.' The famed tenor was right in his assessment of the enthusiasm which, fifty years later, can be felt on these CDs. Gigli remained to the end his old, communicative self, still able to pour into whatever he was singing an immense tranche of emotion. He just loved to be up there performing and if - now in his mid-sixties - some allowance has to be made for the passing years when he puts pressure on his voice on high, the overall sound is still remarkable for a man his age and the honeyed mezza-voce remains a thing to delight in, untouched by the passing years. Items were judiciously chosen from the three recitals to preserve the occasion in permanent form. As ever in a Gigli programme, operatic titles are intertwined with more popular material. By and large Gigli, understandably, kept faith with those pieces he most enjoyed singing and that his public adored. Lohengrin's arrival, as ever sung in Italian, Des Grieux's Dream Song, Werther's Pourquoi me réveiller, Ottavio's Dalla sua pace (Don Giovanni), E lucevan le stelle (Tosca) are all given the full Gigli treatment, persuasive and gentle half-voice followed by the full measure of attack at the climaxes (where needed). For the rest we have a whole succession of those sweetmeats Gigli loved devouring at his recitals. He is quite irresistible in the vocal version - Tristesse - of a Chopin Etude, in Caccini's Amarilli, in that charming trifle Bergère légère and in De Curtis's Addio bel sogno. The nuances he finds in these delicacies is truly unique. Then there's Gigli in typically outgoing, jolly mood as caught in Curci's Notte a Venezia, Bixio's hugely popular Mamma and, of course 'O sole mio. The two English numbers give us one last chance to hear Gigli's delightfully accented English. The devoted audiences on each occasion break in with applause well before the item is completed, but that is part and parcel of such a farewell. As so often, if we compare these readings with Gigli's studio performances of the same music, we find that extra spontaneity here in the concert hall. Gigli gave his farewells at the right time. He had only two more years to live. As he writes in the envoi to his book: 'It was only through my audiences that this exercise of lungs, diaphragm and vocal cords became transmuted for me into a profound spiritual experience. Like a squirrel counting his hoard of nuts in the winter, I treasure their applause in my memory.' Through fifteen volumes we have heard this great tenor give our and future generations the wonderful benefits of his golden voice and generous style. It is an achievement unlikely to be repeated in the future. Gigli was truly unique."

- Alan Blyth