- Category : Entertain-Music-Vocalist-Opera
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Split - Small (52,57)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Vessel of Love 1
Italian opera singer, a great bel canto lyric tenor with a powerful and superb voice. Immensely popular, he influenced several generations of Italian tenors. In lyric roles, his vocal color showed great emotion; his pianissimos floated like none other, and one left the theater with a delicious echo in memory.
Born on the Adriatic coast near Ancona, Gigli was the son of a shoemaker. He joined the choir at age seven, became a carpenter's apprentice at eight, a tailor's apprentice at ten, a pharmacist's assistant at twelve and also attended school during this period. He sang duets with his mother, studied voice and took saxophone lessons. His introduction to opera was while playing overtures and arias in a youth band. With a voice still unchanged at 15, he made his debut as the female protagonist in an operetta, "La Fuga di Angelica." After developing into a tenor he went to Rome where, after voice lessons with Agnese Bonucci, he won a scholarship to the Liceo Musicale, studying first with Antonio Cotogni, then with Enrico Rosati. At age 24, he won first prize in a voice contest in Parma out of 105 entrants.
Gigli's debut as a tenor was 10/14/1914 in Rovigo, as Enzo in "La Gioconda." He followed his debut with a variety of lyric and spinto roles. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut on 11/26/1920 in "Mefistofele," and was well received. After Caruso's death in 1921, Gigli and Giovanni Martinelli divided his repertory with Gigli concentrating on the more lyrical operas, but including some heavier repertory.
In the '20s and early '30s he appeared in concerts throughout the U.S. and operas in South America, Germany, Sweden, Hungary and England, as well as Italy. When the Met asked some of its stars to take salary cuts because of the Depression, Gigli refused and returned to Italy. When he returned to the Met in 1939 for five performances of "Aida" critics wrote that his voice had lost a little of its sweetness and freshness but had gained in range, richness of expression and dramatic power.
During the conflicts surrounding WW II, Gigli declared himself a supporter of Mussolini and published a book called "Why I Am a Fascist" and often sang for Hitler. When the Allies took Rome, crowds demonstrated against him and he was denounced as "the tenor of the regime." The authorities forbade him to perform for fear of "incidents." Gigli made a comeback in March 1945 and continued to perform opera into 1954. In his last years he performed frequently with his daughter Rina and gave recitals, including a brief tour to the U.S. His repertory ultimately totaled 60 operas. His discography includes seven complete operas made commercially, as well as a number of others recorded live.
Gigli had a daughter Rina and son Enzo with his wife Costanza. He also had three children with his mistress of 22 years. After retirement, Gigli wrote his memoirs, published in ten languages and now out of print.
History revealed that he was opportunistic, deceptive with benefactors, women, amoral and easily led. Big-bellied and heavy set, he starred in 17 films dating from 1935 though he was an awkward actor.
He died 11/30/1957, Rome of heart disease and diabetes. On his tombstone are words from his favorite role, "Chénier": "With my voice I sang the fatherland."