Colin Bain & Barry R. Ashpole to Release New Biography of Legendary Tenor Beniamino Gigli

By Greg Waxberg

Fans of the tenor Beniamino Gigli and of opera history will be delighted to learn that “Gigli: The Master Tenor,” an English-language biography written by Colin Bain, has been published.

But the path to publication was not without some drama of its own.

General Editor Barry R. Ashpole, editor of the “ARSC Journal” (Association of Recorded Sound Collections) from 1993–2015, relates in the book’s Preface that he was researching Gigli for a paper to be presented at an ARSC conference in 1993. The paper’s topic: Gigli’s career under Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

While conducting his research, Ashpole found Bain’s name and wrote to him to request information to supplement the paper. Bain replied with a letter that described events in Gigli’s life he thought would be pertinent, and it turned out that the information he shared with Ashpole was meant to be the foundation of a chapter in a biography of Gigli he was considering writing.

After further correspondence, Ashpole promised to help him publish the book, but Bain died, leaving an extensively researched, but incomplete, manuscript—no footnotes on the source material. His widow shared the manuscript with Ashpole and accepted his pledge to help publish it. Then she passed away, so, fully aware of the ethical ramifications of publishing a book without sources, Ashpole proceeded to honor his commitment to both of them. He was “confident of the appreciation this contribution to opera history would garner.” His long-time associate Jessica Pegis is co-editor.

Per Ashpole, “Gigli: The Master Tenor” “is, by far, the most detailed, in-depth, and well-researched of all of the biographies and articles that have been published to date.”