Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Beniamino Gigli - E lucevan le stelle 1938

Okay then. So, singers. We've been talking about, thinking about singers, some unusual singers from the past, and some strangely beautiful contemporary singers who seem to grasp and pull the distant past back into the present moment. But this is even more immediate. Gigli. I don't have Gigli recordings, though perhaps I should. When you hear him, you know where Domingo and Pav and the gang get all their tricks (and also from Mario Lanza, the most underrated tenor of all). But no one else could express the exposed, terrifying vulnerability of the human soul in quite this way. This is my favorite tenor aria, and he sings the hell out of it. The haunting stare from the portrait and the slightly broken translation only enhance the performance. Exceptionally beautiful voices make me cry: I once sobbed my way through an astonishing concert by Renee Fleming, Michael Maniaci's unexpectedly vibrant male soprano recently made me burst into tears, and this - oh, this - this Gigli! When I discovered and played it, I was reduced to rubble. The great singers are instruments that express human pain as nothing else can. Yes, joy - rapture - all these things too, but it's the pain we really need them to express, because we can't - can't even find a word for it, though if we try to escape it, we leave an arm or a leg behind.