Italian Tenor Beniamino Gigli – Caruso Secondo
Here, his Italian passport containing his photograph, signature, stamps and visas, issued on December 10, 1954. The stamps are from West/East Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, the United States, and Canada, all dated 1955 and acquired during Gigli’s farewell world tour. Beniamino Gigli Caruso Secondo
In 1914, he won first prize in an international singing competition in Parma. His operatic debut came on 15 October 1914, when he played Enzo in Amilcare Ponchielli’s La Gioconda in Rovigo, following which he was in great demand. Gigli made many important debuts in quick succession, and always in Mefistofele: Teatro Massimo in Palermo (31 March 1915), Teatro di San Carlo in Naples (26 December 1915), Teatro Costanzi di Roma (26 December 1916), La Scala, Milan (19 November 1918), Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires (28 June 1919) and finally the Metropolitan Opera, New York City (26 November 1920). Two other great Italian tenors present on the roster of Met singers during the 1920s also happened to be Gigli’s chief contemporary rivals for tenor supremacy in the Italian repertory—namely, Giovanni Martinelli and Giacomo Lauri-Volpi. Beniamino Gigli Caruso Secondo
Gigli rose to true international prominence after the death of the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso in 1921. Such was his popularity with audiences he was often called “Caruso Secondo”, though he much preferred to be known as “Gigli Primo”. In fact, the comparison was not valid as Caruso had a bigger, darker, more heroic voice than Gigli’s sizable yet honey-toned lyric instrument. After leaving the Met, Gigli returned again to Italy, and sang in houses there, elsewhere in Europe, and in South America. He was criticized for being a favorite singer of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, having recorded the Fascist anthem “Giovinezza” in 1937. Toward the end of World War II, he was able to give few performances. However, he immediately returned to the stage when the war ended in 1945, and the audience’s acclaim was greater and more glamorous than ever. Beniamino Gigli Caruso Secondo
In addition to his stage performances, Gigli appeared as an actor in over twenty films from 1935 to 1953. Some notable appearances include 1936’s Johannes Riemann-directed musical drama Ave Maria opposite actress Käthe von Nagy and Giuseppe Fatigati’s 1943 drama I Pagliacci, opposite Italian actress Alida Valli.
In the last few years of his life, Gigli gave concert performances more often than he appeared on stage. Before his retirement in 1955, Gigli undertook an exhausting world tour of farewell concerts. This impaired his health in the two years that remained to him, during which time he helped prepare his memoirs (based primarily on an earlier memoir, fleshed out by a series of interviews). He died in Rome in 1957. Beniamino Gigli Caruso Secondo