The tenor Beniamino Gigli
was one of the most famous opera singers of the twentieth century. The youngest of six children, he was born in Recanat
i, in the south of the Marche region. Since when he was a little child, he showed a great aptitude for singing, he sang when he was seven years old in Pueri Cantores Choir of the Cathedral of Recanati. His family's poverty forced him to hard sacrifices, but he managed to take singing lessons from the master Quirino Lazzarini, the director of the choir of the Holy House of Loreto.
His theatrical debut, after winning another singing competition in Parma, took place at the Teatro Sociale di Rovigo as Enzo in "La Gioconda. He also sang in some of the major Italian theatres (Palermo, Naples, Genoa, Catania, Costanzi in Rome), in works like Manon, Tosca, Mephistopheles, La Favorita.
In 1917 he began working abroad (Madrid, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Rio, Buenos Aires) and, after making his debut at Milan's Teatro Lirico in the spring of 1918 with Lodoletta, he debuted at La Scala in Mefistofele, under the direction of Arturo Toscanini.
On 26 November 1920 he sang at the Metropolitan in New York, again with Mefistofele; it was a success and the director of the theatre confirmed him, first for another two months and then for four years. On August, 1921 Caruso died and the season of the Metropolitan, he had inaugurated for eighteen years, in that year was opened by Gigli with La traviata. It was regularly present at the "Met" for over a decade and his success spread to many other cities (San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago). In the same period he toured in Europe (including the important debut on May 27, 1930 at London's Covent Garden in Andrea Chenier) and South America.
In 1932 Gigli returned to Italy, making the Opera House in Rome the headquarters of his activities. Moreover, until the outbreak of the war, he was present in other major European cities (major debut in Aida in Vienna, conducted by Victor de Sabata in 1936) and even in South America.
Later, with the advent of sound, he started working in the cinema, shooting a continuous series of sixteen films from 1935 to the early fifties.
After liberation he temporarily withdrew from the scene, starting again n 1946, still capable of thrilling audiences despite his age. Because of health reasons, he was then forced to stop at first his theatrical productions and then the concerts, the last of which, at the official level, was at Carnegie Hall in New York on April 20, 1955. In the last tours he performed at times with his daughter Rina, a soprano.
From the beginning, he was accompanied in his career by its agent and particular secretary Amedeo Grossi, who with his wife Barbara also created a monumental archive, now housed at the "Gigli Museum" in Recanati.
There is no doubt that - among the leading singers of the twentieth century - Gigli is considered as one of the best. His homogeneous voice, with a rare stamp that united brillancel and softness, very musical, though not very large, is still today unmistakable even at first listening to one of the many records left by the artist. On the interpretative level, he profused constant dramatic tension, never showing coldness or indulging to the routine.
His worldwide fame is also due to the many songs and salon music he often interpreted in films, among which the very famous "Non ti scordar di me" (1935 - Don't forget about me) and "Mamma" (1940 - Mother). Beniamino Gigli died in Rome on November 30, 1957.
To learn more about Beniamino Gigli, we suggest you visit the Museum Beniamino Gigli and the Teatro Persiani, both in Recanati.