Gina Cigna 1900-2001

Gina Cigna, dont le prénom était Geneviève, était une soprano dramatique italienne mais d’origine française.

Elle est née le 6 mars 1900 à Paris d’un père général français d’origine italienne lui même descendant d’un officier italien de l’armée de Napoléon. Elle étudia le piano au Conservatoire de Paris avec Alfred Cortot. Une fois ses études terminées, elle entama alors une carrière de pianiste. En 1923, elle épousa le ténor Maurice Sens (dont elle eut un fils, Pierre Sens 1923-1982), qui, sentant son potentiel, lui conseilla d’étudier le chant. Elle suivit alors des leçons avec Emma Calvé et Lucette Korsoff à paris, puis avec Hariclea Darclée, Rosina Storchio et Giannina Russ en Italie. Elle était aussi peintre et céramiste. Elle avait 26 ans lorsque Emma Calvé lui organisa une audition avec le grand chef Arturo Toscanini à La Scala. Elle s’accompagna elle-même au piano dans des airs de Verdi et Rossini, et fut immédiatement engagée. Toscanini a su apprécier son timbre riche bien adapté aux grands rôles de Verdi, qu’il lui conseilla d’apprendre.

Elle débute à La Scala de Milan en 1927, sous le nom de Ginette Sens, dans le rôle de Freia (Das Rheingold) mais passa inaperçue. Elle se retira pour se perfectionner davantage et fit alors un deuxième début, toujours à La Scala en 1929, sous le nom de Gina Cigna, en Donna Anna, et ce fut un triomphe.

Gina Cigna dans Norma à gauche; dans Tannhäuser à droite
Gina Cigna

Elle s’imposa dès lors comme une soprano dramatique vedette de La Scala où elle chantera régulièrement jusqu’en 1945, dans des opéras tels que Il trovatore, Un ballo in maschera, La forza del destino, Aida, Andrea Chénier, Tosca. Un seul autre rôle de Wagner a suivi, Elisabeth (Tannhäuser), avant qu’elle chante Norma pour la première fois. Norma fut un rôle auquel elle est devenue particulièrement associée de même que La Gioconda et Turandot, ses rôles fétiches, qu’elle chanta sur toutes les grandes scènes, notamment l’Opéra de Paris, le Royal Opera House de Londres, le Metropolitan Opera de New York, le Lyric Opera de Chicago, le San Francisco Opera, etc.

Elle participa à des reprises d’œuvres du répertoire classique comme Alceste, mais aussi du belcanto comme Mosè in Egitto et La Straniera. Cigna a étudié le rôle-titre dans Tosca avec Hariclea Darclée, qui l’avait créée lors de la première mondiale. Dans les années 1930, les opéras de Bellini, en dehors de Norma, étaient largement oubliés, et c’était un choix aventureux pour Cigna et La Scala de faire revivre La Straniera, qu’elle chanta dans une “production de luxe” – selon sa propre expression- avec Gianna Pederzini et Francesco Merli. Elle a chanté les opéras de Puccini, Catalani, Mascagni et Respighi et a également été la première Kostelnicka de Jenufa de Janacek lors de sa première italienne en 1941 à La Fenice de Venise.

Cigna aimait particulièrement les opéras de Respighi: elle a chanté dans la première production de La Fiamma à la Scala en 1935, et à Rome dans son oratorio dramatique Maria Egiziaca (“la Marie égyptienne“).

Sa carrière internationale l’a amenée en Argentine, au Brésil, en Hongrie, aux États-Unis. Ses débuts au Met se firent dans Aida en 1937 et furent radiodiffusés en direct. Au Brésil, elle a chanté dans Lo Schiavo et Maria Tudor de Gomes, à Londres comme Elisabeth de Valois (Don Carlo) avec Beecham, mais c’est dans Turandot qu’elle fit peut-être la plus grande impression, à tel point qu’en 1981 elle reçut le prix Puccini comme “la meilleure interprète du siècle de Turandot”. Elle a prétendu l’avoir chanté 493 fois.

Gina Cigna dans Turandot

Son répertoire comprenait 50 rôles, de Poppea à Kostelnicka. Ses parties principales étaient Turandot, Norma, Gioconda et Violetta. Elle a également chanté un nombre prodigieux de récitals. Ses enregistrements incluent Norma, Trovatore, Turandot et Aïda. Elle a été la première à enregistrer le rôle-titre du Turandot de Puccini.

So époux, Maurice Sens, décéda le soir où elle devait chanter dans une reprise de Loreley de Catalani. Elle assura néanmoins la représentation. Son deuxième mari fut Mario Ferrari.

En 1947, alors qu’elle chantait Tosca à Vicence, elle fut victime d’un accident de voiture. Elle a rampé par la fenêtre de la voiture, et bien que souffrant de multiples ecchymoses, elle a tenu à paraître sur scène mais elle s’est effondrée peu après et il est apparu qu’elle avait subi une crise cardiaque. Elle n’a plus jamais chanté, mais souhaitant être “utile et vivante”, elle commença à enseigner. On lui connait comme élèves: Elena Mauti Nunziata, Celestina Casapietra, Maria Parazzini, Fiorenza Cossotto, Ghena Dimitrova, Celestina Casapietra, Luis Lima.

Elle est décédée le 26 juin à Milan. Elle avait 101 ans.

Tombe de Gina Cigna au Cimetière Maggiore di Musocco à Milan, parcelle Campo 12 Giardino 75

La voix de Cigna avait une qualité sombre avec une touche de vibrato rapide ostentatoire omniprésent, rarement entendu depuis son époque. Partout dans un large éventail, sa voix était piquante. Parfois, cependant, cela semblait sans support à la fin des phrases, et sa respiration semblait laborieuse. Dans ses enregistrements de 1930 à 1932, elle a utilisé la résonance thoracique avec parcimonie.

Son chant communiquait la compréhension de la structure musicale: notes harmoniques sans importance subordonnées, notes de tension harmonique accentuées, celles de relaxation harmonique sans accentuation. Elle a construit des crescendos note par note, propulsant les mélodies vers leurs points de plus grande dissonance. Parfois, cependant, son traitement de la dynamique était un peu trop insuffisant (peut-être à cause de son origine française).

Elle était une chanteuse avec plusieurs facettes. Dans Gioconda, sa voix était sombre comme celle d’un mezzo, mais dans Faust, elle était brillante. Dans le répertoire dramatique, elle pouvait ressembler à une femme mûre, mais dans Faust, elle paraissait une jeune fille.

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