Beniamino Gigli - Helge Rosvaenge

Belcanto: the Tenors of the 78 Era

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Program notes

Discover the series Belcanto: The Tenors of the 78 Era: 13 portraits of the most illustrious opera singers of the beginning of the 20th century. We present 2 episodes: Beniamino Gigli and Helge Rosvaenge.

In this first incredible documentary dedicated to Beniamino Gigli, Jan Schmidt-Garre assembled archive footage of the Italian tenor: scenes from his private life, rehearsals and performances. It is through this angle that we discover a tenor whose exceptional voice greatly moved audiences. As a child he sang in the choir of the church in his native village. His parents and friends urged him to learn how to sing, and Enrico Rosati became his teacher in Rome. After having won 1st prize in the Parma Singing Competition, he made his debut at Rovigo in La Gioconda. He encountered a huge success in Genoa, Palermo, Bologna and Naples. From the 1920s and for 12 years he was the principal tenor at the Metropolitan Opera. The unique beauty of his voice and his gift for communicating instinctively with the audience made him the most popular tenor after Caruso.

Helge Rosvaenge is the subject of the second documentary of this Belcanto series. This tenor of Danish origin obtained a degree at the Copenhagen Technical Academy then followed a career as a singer after having worked with different Danish and German teachers. He was almost self-taught and had taken few singing lessons which made him an exceptional performer. He was the main tenor of the Berlin Staatsoper from 1930 to 1944 and he regularly sang in Vienna and Munich. In the context of the Second World War his international career was limited to Austria, Germany and occupied Europe. This documentary is interspersed with archive footage, testimonials and detailed analyses of his singing technique by experts such as Jürgen Kesting (author of The Great Singers) and Stefan Zucker.

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