Gina Cigna (b. 1900)

Author: 
Alan Blyth

Gina Cigna (b. 1900)

  • Norma, ~, Casta diva
  • (Un) ballo in maschera, '(A) masked ball', ~, Ma dall'arido stelo divulsa
  • (Un) ballo in maschera, '(A) masked ball', ~, Morrò, ma prima in grazia
  • (La) forza del destino, '(The) force of destiny', ~, Me pellegrina ed orfana
  • (La) forza del destino, '(The) force of destiny', ~, Madre, pietosa Vergine
  • Faust, ~, O Dieu! que de bijoux!
  • Faust, ~, Ah! je ris (Jewel Song)
  • Faust, ~, Alerte! alerte!
  • Faust, ~, Anges purs
  • Mefistofele, Cavaliero illustre e saggio
  • (La) Wally, Nè mai dunque avrò pace
  • (La) Gioconda, ~, L'amo come il fulgor del creato!
  • Adriana Lecouvreur, ~, Io son sua per l'amore
  • Adriana Lecouvreur, ~, Io son l'umile ancella
  • Adriana Lecouvreur, Poveri fiori
  • (La) Fanciulla del West, '(The) Girl of the Golden, Laggiù nel Soledad

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 (Forza), Gioconda, Adriana, and Maddalena come across as flesh-and-blood heroines, desperate, often at the last gasp, seeking our sympathy. Even her Turandot, vocally far from ideal, is a woman with emotions, not a mere ice-cold, distant figure (the solo here is from Cigna's complete set). We have to become involved in such a woman's trials and tribulations. No wonder the soprano wowed the Metropolitan public if not the critics at her debut as Aida in 1937.
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 Faust, the majestic ''Suicidio!'', which itself finds a suitable contrast in the tender, ardent way Cigna phrases both Adriana's solos: nothing wild or too forceful there. Indeed, all these 1930-32 Columbias are worth more than one hearing. Dimitrova might be Cigna's counterpart today but I know it is the older singer I would prefer to hear.
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.'

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