(March 20, 1890 – November 30, 1957)
Easily the most revered tenor of his generation, Gigli became internationally recognised for the great beauty of his voice and a solid technique that other singers envied and tried to emmulate.
Some critics carped at his emotional interpretations saying he often went too far - but regardless none could take away his status as being considered one of the very finest tenors EVER!
He debuted in 1914 in La Giocconda and then made many important debuts in great succession at Palermo, Naples, la Scala in Milan and then in 1920 at the Metropolitan.
Roles that Gigli particularly became associated with followed- Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Rudolfo in La Boheme and as Andrea Chenier. He was the natural successor to Enrico Caruso who died in 1921. Caruso had a larger darker voice whereas Gigli's was a more honey toned lyric instrument.
There was drama at the Met when he and other leading singers refused to take a pay cut so he left and returned to Italy and sang in houses in Europe and South America. The war interrupted his career but post war his popularity was even greater once he had got past the Mussolini scandal.
Gigli's personal life was not scandal free for those days- he lied in his memoirs about the date of his marriage to hide the fact that his wife was already pregnant with their first child of two and he went on later to have three more with another lady plus there were rumours he had at least three others to different women.
For a time he had career difficulties due to him being Mussolini's favourite singer and no soprano would sing with him. His daughter Rina became a well known soprano in her own right with a not unpleasant voice and she sang with him during this time. A concert at Covent Garden ended this situation when the public realised what they were missing.
Gigli left a large recorded legacy and was the first to sing Giordano's Anrea Chenier. His hugely popular recording of Nessun Dorma revived so successfully years later in popularity with the public, by Luciano Pavarotti is remarkably similar in phrasing- it seems clear Senor Pavarotti followed or was influenced by Gigli's rendition. He seemed to have an instinctive gift to know the way audiences liked to hear songs and arias.
With Gigli he never lost the beauty of his voice as he aged. Towards the end he lost some of its power but never the beauty which made him one of the most revered singers of the 20th Century. His final concert was in Rio de Janeiro and he died soon after. In the pantheon of the world's greatest singers- Beniamino (sometimes spelled Benjamino) Gigli has an assured place.