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Leoncavallo: Pagliacci
Ruggero Leoncavallo, Franco Ghione, Beniamino Gigli
Leoncavallo: Pagliacci
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (23) - Disc #1

This is Beniamino Gigli's show, and he gives it all he's got, which is more than a handful of tenors have done in the last century, including the PBS Three Tenors. The voice at this stage of his career (1934) was glorious,...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Ruggero Leoncavallo, Franco Ghione, Beniamino Gigli, Jr. Mario Basiola, Giuseppe Nessi, Iva Pacetti, Arnaldo Borghi, Leone Paci
Title: Leoncavallo: Pagliacci
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Naxos
Original Release Date: 1/1/1934
Re-Release Date: 8/21/2001
Genre: Classical
Styles: Opera & Classical Vocal, Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 636943115527

This is Beniamino Gigli's show, and he gives it all he's got, which is more than a handful of tenors have done in the last century, including the PBS Three Tenors. The voice at this stage of his career (1934) was glorious, warm, and full, instantly captivating. Gigli also gives a lot of his unbridled emotionalism, sobbing through the postlude of "Vesti la giubba" and throwing himself into the drama as if he were Canio in the flesh. His colleagues are topnotch: Pacetti sings with fervor, her big voice adding to the drama. Basiola is a treat, putting the drama first, but also delivering a true Verdian baritone sound. Nessi's lovely light lyric tenor is another plus, as is Ward Marston's remastering, which makes this the Gigli Pagliacci of choice, especially at Naxos's price. --Dan Davis

CD Reviews

Evviva! Il principe sei de' Pagliacci!
John Austin | Kangaroo Ground, Australia | 06/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Hurrah for the Prince of Clowns!" is the greeting given to Pagliacci when villagers learn that he and the troop of players is to perform for them that night at 11pm. In1934 the record buying public greeted this "Pagliacci" recording, the first complete opera recording to feature the reigning prince of tenors, Beniamino Gigli. There were to be seven more Gigli opera sets (not five as stated in the notes with this CD), which was indeed a record in the days of 78s.

With a voice of incredibly beautiful timbre and ever resourceful in finding means - some crude and others inspired - for acting with it, Gigli was a tenor who could be counted on to dominate any recording project.

Although I had not heard this 70 year old recording until now, I reckon it to be one of the most successful of the "Gigli" opera sets. Canio is a role easily encompassed by Gigli, imaginatively and musically. Iva Pacetti makes a refined Nedda, one who could sound a little more flirtatious as Colombina. Mario Basiola, the only one of these singers I saw in performance, may not have been the greatest Tonio on record but the microphones of the 1930s caught his rich voice to perfection. Franco Ghione directs these principals and the La Scala forces. The balance between singers and orchestra is good and the recording quality top class for its period.

A curiosity is added as an appendix. A four minute 78 side featuring Arlecchino's serenade sung by Gigli and the music before and after it was recorded during the full opera recording schedule. Why this was done is not known. Anyway, it allows posterity to hear how Gigli handled the hit number for the second tenor in this famous opera."
The real thing -- primo tenore assoluto!
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 01/09/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The professional review above really says all that has to be said. The sound is astonishing for a 1934 recording. With the exception of Gigli, the rest of the cast have largely faded from memory, but each one of them would be a blazing star in today's sadly depleted opera houses.

For those of you who have never heard a truly great Italian tenor, Gigli will knock your socks off. I guarantee it.

For those of you who know Gigli from his recital discs, you are in for a surprise. This is the earliest of Gigli's complete opera recordings. (The others include Aida, Andrea Chenier, Ballo in maschera, Carmen in Italian, Cavalleria rusticana, La Boheme, L'amico Fritz, La Traviata, Madam Butterfly, Tosca and the virtually operatic Verdi Requiem.) The Gigli of the complete recordings is quite different from the recitalist. Gone is his mannered dodging into head voice and in its place is the blood-rare meat of a full-fledged verismo tenor with more technique and sheer voice at his command than in all the Three Tenors combined (with Bocelli and Alagna thrown in for ballast.)

A comment on style: Gigli sobs. He laughs. He holds onto high notes because he can, and better than anyone else. He twists written musical lines into dramatic shape of his own choosing. His contemporaries were pretty much agreed that he wasn't much of a physical actor and his appearances on film seem to confirm it. But, oh, how that man could act with his voice! Here in I Pagliacci he accomplishes the almost impossible task of turning Canio from a jealousy-riven, homicidal nut into someone whose descent into hell is both understandable and infinitely regrettable.

This single-disc version is filled out with a pair of additional takes with soprano Iva Pacetti. For a fine demonstration of what being a great tenor is all about, listen to the second one, the scene in which the second tenor, Beppo, sings his serenade. Gigli takes over the lesser role and invests it with glory. (The story goes that Gigli's rival, Enrico Caruso, wondered whether his vast fame rested on talent or on hype. Once he went out on stage unbilled to sing the part of Beppo. He sang as well as he was able and was rewarded with . . . silence.)

This is my recording of choice for I Pagliacci, purely on the basis of performance quality. I give it only four stars in recognition of the fact that many among you hold the benighted opinion that only digital recordings are worth listening to."
A Pagliacci without menace
Rekerd Knutt | 01/25/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I adore Gigli, but this is not a role for him or any other lyric tenor. If you just want to listen to Gigli's gorgeous voice, by all means, buy this performance. If, however, you want the protagonist sung with a voice which conveys jealousy, rage and menace, keep searching. The rest of the cast, now long forgotten to all but the most ardent fans of historic singers, are superb."