Aida 1939 – Gigli
Caniglia, Stignani, Gigli, Borgioli, Walker, Giusti, Wray; Beecham. Chorus of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Chorus Master: Robert Ainsworth, London Philharmonic Orchestra. 24 May 1939
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Gigli’s timbre is lovely, more beautiful than in the 1946 recording, his top notes, in particular. He doesn’t try to force, push or pump up his sound to meet the conventional expectation that Radamès be sung with a heavy voice. Nor does he contrive chiaroscuros, as in Butterfly. For the most part he sings “Pur ti riveggo” with closed tones. He moves ahead the phrase “Sarai tu il serto della mia gloria, vivrem beati d’eterno amore.” And he floats a lovely mezza-voce B-flat. In “Ah no! fuggiamo!” he uses open tones to exciting effect. In the “Tomb Scene,” unlike in the 1946 recording, he doesn’t contrast covered with open sounds. He covers “O terra, addio,” whereas in 1946 he sings it in mezza voce, to better effect. His B-flats are better here, however. Indeed, the one in the duet with Stignani, on “vita!” is thrilling.
Stignani ignites here, unlike in the 1946 Aïda, particularly in the duet with Gigli.
Gigli pushes Beecham’s tempo in “Celeste Aïda.” Beecham is at his best in the prelude, also in the orchestra and dance music in the Act II finale. The chorus is uninvolved dramatically and flat on high notes, but the orchestra playing is cleaner than in the 1946 recording.
Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Opera in Four Acts by Antonio Ghislanzoni
Il Re d’Egitto…Norman Walker
Un messaggero…Blando Giusti
Una sacerdotessa…Josephine Wray
Chorus of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden
Chorus Master: Robert Ainsworth
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Sir Thomas Beecham
24 May, 1939