Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Personal Reminiscence - Beniamino Gigli

Until this very day, I had long forgotten about one of the more memorable recitals I had ever been witness to, and it's a mystery to me as to why it had slipped my memory until this afternoon:
While studying in Germany, I took the opportunity to witness many concerts in some of the great halls. One recital came back to me today, and I believe that it, both in terms artistically and historically, may very well be the most important in my memory.
I remember going to this particular recital in Frankfurt - it was a performance of the legendary tenor Beniamino Gigli, in the twilight of a career listed among the greatest of the great singers.
At this time, within just a handful of years before his passing, he had pretty much gone past one of the most powerful of the opera careers of his time, and was almost always in recital, rather than in opera.
Gigli had essentially become the second Caruso after that great tenor's passing, and established himself as one of the vocal giants of his day. When I saw him, the power of his projections had diminished, but the unparalleled sweetness and purity of his voice remained. If one goes to a u-tube performance of Gigli, one will immediately become aware of the staggering ease Gigli possessed in bringing to life a truly unique form of vocal art.
When he came out on stage, sadly noticeable was the aging process which appeared in his physical entity, plus the corpulence that was attendant as well - but when he began the recital, all in the audience were within a fraction of a second transported into a world of rapture and a sense of timelessness, which only a truly great artist can make possible.
The reality that I was looking at and listening to a piece of history coming out of the Caruso era totally enveloped my consciousness - I cannot remember, but I'd be surprised if tears had not formed among many of us witnessing that indescribable event.



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