Gina Cigna (b. 1900)
Gina Cigna self-evidently divided her audiences. The prissy and the precise were and are alarmed by such an all-in singer who delivers the goods and no nonsense about too many stylistic niceties. Then there's the quick vibrato, out of fashion today when it has been described, pejoratively (but not by me), as a quaver. What is indisputable is the elemental power of her singing. Her Leonora (
I would judge that her most formidable characteristics were to be heard in her prime—that is from about 1930 to 1937. By the time of her 1941 Aida and her 1942 Desdemona the voice had become an unreliable instrument, well-formed phrases alternating with others where the vibrato has loosened and strain has entered the voice. But then someone who had used her vocal instrument so unstintingly in the previous decade was bound to suffer the consequences. These later discs, the duets on the Legato issue, are more notable for the contributions of her partners. Elmo, whose career suffered because of the Second World War when she was in her prime, is a magnificently authoritative Amneris and Laura. Pertile, though 56 when he essayed Otello, is still memorable for the fire and pathos of his singing—and here Cigna definitely has her moments.
But for her at her considerable best, try the first Ballo excerpt, finely shaped, breathed and coloured, the rewarding extracts from
Where the two issues overlap, in ten items, there is almost nothing to choose in the transfers, though Preiser's editing is the cleaner. However, Legato include the aforementioned duets and a short, endearing message from the diva, who celebrated her ninetieth birthday in March, which will become a collector's piece. That disc also has a deeply felt account of ''La mamma morta'' that rivals Muzio's in feeling and accent.'