Rome’s opera house is the site of memorials to two tenors: Beniamino Gigli and Nicola Ugo Stame.

In front of the opera house is an airy piazza. It was called Piazza Dell’ Opera until the late 1950s, when it was renamed Piazza Beniamino Gigli.

Beniamino Gigli was born in 1890 in the Marche region that borders the Adriatic coast, but he was a resident of Rome for many years.

After the death of Enrico Caruso in 1921, Gigli was regarded by many as Italy’s leading tenor. Sometimes called “Caruso Secondo”, he preferred “Gigli Primo”. Roles for which he became famous included Rudolfo in Puccini’s La Bohème and Andrea Chenier in Giordano’s opera of that name.  He had a lyric tenor voice, lighter than Caruso’s, but performed dramatic roles to acclaim.

By the end of World War II, Gigli was perceived as Mussolini’s preferred tenor and a favourite of the German high command. His popularity suffered but he returned to the stage and concert halls, continuing to sing until his death in Rome in 1957.

On the wall of the opera house in Via Torino is a plaque honouring Nicola Ugo Stame. He was born in Foggia in southern Italy on 8 January 1908. The family was poor and his mother brought him up alone but, in the 1930s, his talent took him to Rome where he studied and sang at the opera house.