Miscellaneous Lanza-related posts (2023 onwards)

437 views
Skip to first unread message

Derek McGovern

unread,
Feb 4, 2023, 1:27:25 AM2/4/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Please use this discussion thread for any general Lanza-related posts that do not warrant their own separate thread. 

This week, for example, saw the 102nd anniversary of Lanza's birth. Incredibly, one of his aunts is still alive---a feat possible because she is the same age as Mario would have been. 

Although things have been quiet on the Lanza front in recent months---and certainly this forum has been largely dormant for some time---several members and I have been working on a project that I'm looking forward to announcing here in early April. In the meantime, it would be nice to see more members posting. I would love to see a lively discussion here on Lanza's singing, or on a particular recording/film, etc.   

Derek 
   


 

Derek McGovern

unread,
Feb 4, 2023, 2:05:51 AM2/4/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Here's a curious tidbit I happened to come across today while looking through some Lanza newspaper cuttings that I'd long forgotten about.

In Washington DC's Evening Star in May 1956, Ed Sullivan reported that prior to making Serenade in 1955, that film's director, Anthony Mann, had approached Hollywood legend Bette Davis about playing opposite Mario in a Warner Bros. movie to be titled Golden Voice:      

Screenshot (1321).png
Screenshot (1322).png

Presumably, Davis, who was 13 years older than Lanza, would not have played his love interest, but the idea of the two of them on screen together is certainly an intriguing one.

And speaking of the film Lanza did make---Serenade---I also found these two cuttings regarding his often magnificent singing in that film.

The first is from a July 1955 Hedda Hopper column and quotes the well-known impresario Bill Miller. Interestingly, Hopper also claims that Mario's vocal coach, Giacomo Spadoni (misspelled as "Spidoni" here), was going to appear in Serenade.

Screenshot (1324).png

And here's an extraordinary endorsement reported in the Boston Daily Record in May 1956:

Screenshot (1323).png

 

Steff Walzinger

unread,
Feb 4, 2023, 5:06:58 AM2/4/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Derek,
I seem to remember that I posted about this newspaper snippet a few years ago -  unfortunately, I cannot find it anymore here - and I wondered back then if this was actually the quote with which Toscanini was credited. We have never found any evidence that Toscanini really said that Mario had the greatest voice of the century, have we? The only one who claimed this was Elsie Sword, née Kiss. I think Toscanini never met Mario in person, so I doubt that a conductor of his calibre would have made such a comment only based on listening to recordings. Just my opinion.  

Steff

Derek McGovern

unread,
Feb 4, 2023, 5:40:39 AM2/4/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Steff,

It would seem odd that someone could (accidentally?) attribute a quote from the Music Trades Association of California to Toscanini, but, yes, it's certainly curious that the phrasing is the same.  

15 years ago, I was in contact with conductor Herbert Grossman, who worked with Mario in 1948 and went on to become Toscanini's assistant. I posted this at the time, but it's worth reprising:

To the best of Grossman's knowledge, Mario and Toscanini never actually met. Toscanini definitely *heard* Lanza's singing, however, Grossman recalled: "especially through takes from The Great Caruso, and reputedly said that his was one of the most beautiful voices he'd ever heard. [...] As I recall, he heard some takes on disc (sans picture) which were brought to him in Riverdale, specifically for him to consider for possible casting purposes."

Now I presume these takes from The Great Caruso were acetates that Peter Herman Adler (who knew Toscanini) had sent him. This is intriguing, since it establishes that Toscanini was certainly interested in casting Lanza in an opera. As for the story (perpetuated by Bessette & co) that Mario supposedly backed out of singing the Verdi Requiem for Toscanini a few years earlier, this was certainly news to Grossman.


Armando Cesari

unread,
Feb 4, 2023, 7:57:42 PM2/4/23
to mario...@googlegroups.com
There is this, if it deed take place they might have met. 


Lanza Toscanini.JPG

--
To reply to this message, please go to: https://groups.google.com/g/mariolanza
---
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Mario Lanza, Tenor" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to mariolanza+...@googlegroups.com.
To view this discussion on the web visit https://groups.google.com/d/msgid/mariolanza/531a987e-599c-46a4-8c31-814f2f0ab140n%40googlegroups.com.

Derek McGovern

unread,
Apr 20, 2023, 11:39:30 AM4/20/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
I just learned yesterday that Peter Price, the child actor who played the young Enrico in The Great Caruso, died last month:


I've always thought he did an excellent job in his few scenes in the film, and he certainly went on to enjoy an interesting life, as the obituary in the above link reveals. 

Ann Blyth aside, there can't be many people involved in The Great Caruso (cast or crew) who are still with us almost 73 years later.   

Steff Walzinger

unread,
Apr 20, 2023, 11:56:25 AM4/20/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Derek,

Sherry D. Jackson, who played Musetta as a child, is still alive. She was born in 1942.

Steff

Steff Walzinger

unread,
Apr 20, 2023, 12:04:21 PM4/20/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
16820064520322559196310494980219.jpg

Steff Walzinger

unread,
Jun 23, 2023, 2:52:57 PM6/23/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor

Sony Classical has just announced a new album of Jonas Kaufmann being released on 15th September titled The Sound of Movies.“

Two of the tracks will be Mario Lanza hits: „The Loveliest Night of the Year“ from „The Great Caruso“ and the Serenade from „The Student Prince.“

There will also be a concert tour in 2024 at which Kaufmann will sing the songs from his album. Concert places will be Munich, Naples, Baden-Baden and Prague.

 

From kulturfreak.de (posted on 21st June 2023) (English translation by Steff):

„Für ein paar Stunden in diese Welt einzutauchen und alles um sich herum zu vergessen, ist unglaublich faszinierend – ähnlich wie im Theater oder in der Oper“, sagt Kaufmann. „Ich bin über viele Jahre viel gereist, oft allein für Wochen und Monate in fremde Städte am anderen Ende der Welt. Neben den Museen war es das Kino, das meine Fantasie beflügelte – für mich die beste Form von Unterhaltung, wenn ich allein bin.“

"Delving in this world for a few hours and forgetting everything around you is incredibly fascinating - similar to going to theatre or opera," says Kaufmann. "I have traveled a lot for many years, often being alone in foreign cities on the other side of the world for weeks and months. Aside from museums, it was cinema that inspired my imagination – to  me, the best form of entertainment when being alone."

„Jonas Kaufmann ließ es sich nicht nehmen, auch zwei Hits des amerikanischen Startenors Mario Lanza einzuspielen, nämlich „The Loveliest Night of the Year” aus dem Film The Great Caruso und „Serenade” von The Student Prince.

Jonas Kaufmann did not miss the opportunity to also record two hit songs of the American star tenor Mario Lanza, which are "The Loveliest Night of the Year" from the movie The Great Caruso and "Serenade" from The Student Prince.


Those who know me, are aware that I am no Kaufmann fan at all, and I am somewhat surprised that he has suddenly developed an interest in „Startenor“ Mario Lanza! So far he rather preferred to ignored him!

Anyway, let’s see if this vocal challenge will work out and how such an extremely baritonly timbred tenor will sound with songs that actually require a radiantly bright and thrilling voice.

 

Steff

 

artwork-440x440.jpg

Tony Partington

unread,
Jun 30, 2023, 7:48:17 PM6/30/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Steff,

Thanks for the heads up on this release. I, like you, am not necessarily a Kaufmann fan. I like some of the German lieder recordings he's done. There is a live performance of him singing R. Strauss' "Morgen." Oh my God it is lovely. 
I have read and heard comments that he essentially created the voice we hear now. I've listened to, and seen , an old performance clip and his voice is much lighter. Brighter. Not dark in timbre. I think if you listen though, you can hear the future of a darker, more chiaroscuro sort of sound.

But you know Steff, the same could be said of Lanza. Look at the change in his voice in just a very few years. The bright lyrico-spinto sound of Mario which was there (more or less) through - let's say - THE STUDENT PRINCE recordings was "voice 1" and SERENADE onward was "voice 2." I know this is an oversimplification really. But for the sake of argument we'll say this is essentially so.   It was a long time ago (1979), but I recall Maestro Callinicos telling me, when I asked about Mario after he was fired and then sued, etc. that there were, what some people called, the lost years. I also remember Costa saying that he felt good and proud really about the fact that he was a vital part of THE STUDENT PRINCE score. The only part of THE STUDENT PRINCE that was Mario. I think he had every right to feel proud of what he did with Mario. It is, arguably, his most famous album.  Sorry though! I got sidetracked.

As for Kaufmann, I'm still not a fan. And to be honest, I'm not a fan of ANYONE doing one of Mario's "iconic" songs. Especially singers not capable of singing properly.
 If I want a baritonal tenor voice then the late Giuseppe Giacomini will do quite nicely.
But I'll still be interested in hearing the recording. And who knows, there might be some recordings that are exquisite. Thanks again for your post.

Ciao!

Tony

Steff Walzinger

unread,
Jul 2, 2023, 8:04:53 AM7/2/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Tony,

The link to the you-tube video of Kaufmann singing "Morgen"  even more reinforces my "rejection" when it comes to this tenor.
If you want to hear the "real thing," then listen to Fritz Wunderlich's rendition (or try Piotr Beczala in similar "Lieder"):


Since you are a native English speaker, and I suppose you do not speak German, I am not sure if you might notice the difference between the two tenors when it comes to diction. Wunderlich was a master in clear pronunciation, Kaufmann, on the contrary, leaves a lot to be desired. Even I being a native German speaker have difficulties to understand the lyrics he sings! When it comes to "Lieder" the diction is an absolute must. 

Apart from that, I don't like his singing with kind of strangled voice. 

The third thing is that I don't like his attempt to use what I call "Tauberism," singing high notes in "sotto voce" with this whispering sound. This singing style was truly the art of Richard Tauber. Kaufmann, on the contrary, sounds always like losing his voice when he uses this technique, which uses quite often.

As for the darkness of his voice, yes, I am aware of metamorphosis and his former voice, when he still sounded like a tenor. Here's "Deep in My Heart, Dear" from Romberg's "The Student Prince" from 1997:


I understand he changed his technique completely (a doubtful endeavor - Rolando Villazon is another example).
Hearing his current voice  it is, in my opinion, not just a darkening, a normal process, that many tenors have experienced and gone through in the course of their careers (even the voice of the lyric tenor Piotr Beczala has darkened the past years), but rather a change towards another voice category ("Stimmfach"), namely that of a baritone. Even Mario Lanza, despite his voice getting darker and heavier, was still able to produce a lightness, and stay a tenor, which Kaufmann lacks in my opinion. 

To be honest, I've never understood the hype that has been made about Kaufmann. 

As for his "Sound of Movie" release, I noticed that opinions of people are divided. Not all appreciate his visit into this musical genre. 
On his Facebook Website he posted the other day: "What would the movies be without music? As a cinephile, I gave always loved going to the movie theater and listening to the music which heightens our experience of film. This inspired me to record some of my favorite pieces from the movies." As I mentioned in my previous post, I am more than surprised that now, that he's reaching his "senior years" as a tenor, he all of sudden has turned into a fan of "The Great Caruso" and "The Student Prince." There was never been any hint that he has paid attention to  Mario Lanza or appreciated his singing. Sorry to be so outspoken, but the fact that he now includes two of Mario Lanza signature songs simply reeks of "jumping on the bandwagon." 

Incidentally, here is a teaser from Sony Classics promoting the release, where you can hear him sing "Conquest of Paradise."


Gee! In Germany, we have a saying: "Schuster, bleib bei Deinen Leisten" (Cobbler, stick to our last!). If he murders "The Loveliest Night of the Year" and the Student Prince Serenade in a similar way, then help us God!

I have attached the tracklist of the CD. Note that "Loveliest Night" is the first track and the Serenade the last one!

Steff



Track List The Sound of Movies Jonas Kaufmann.jpg

Derek McGovern

unread,
Jul 5, 2023, 1:12:01 AM7/5/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Great post, Steff!

Anyone who might think your description of Kaufmann's manufactured and uneven voice as "strangled" is unfair should read the recent review by Giovanni Botta, music critic and professor of singing, of the tenor's singing of the role of Andrea Chenier at La Scala last month.  Among other things, Botta wrote that Kaufmann's voice was emitted from the back of his throat, his high notes were forced, his projection was poor, and his timbre dull and unfocused. The audience, he added, responded with "tepid enthuasism" to all of Kaufmann's singing of the arias.

I've said it before, but I honestly believe that if Kaufmann was homelier looking, he would not be the star that he is today, as his voice is demonstrably not a great one. His career has been a triumph essentially due to his good looks and charisma, acting ability, and clever marketing, but not everybody has been fooled into thinking that this is a voice for the ages. The frustrating thing, though, is that Kaufmann was producing a decent sound in his late 20s when he was singing with his natural (much more lyric) voice, as that late 1990s clip of "Deep in My Heart, Dear" you linked to in your post reveals, before he changed his vocal technique in his 30s to an uneven, often "woolly" manufactured sound.

Is Kaufmann "jumping on the bandwagon" by drawing so obviously from Lanza's legacy with his opening and closing numbers on this new CD? I'm sure he is! But I wouldn't mind nearly as much if he hadn't been so condescending about Lanza in a 2014 interview. On that occasion, he claimed that for correct singing of operetta (including, presumably, The Student Prince, as the interviewer specifically referred to Mario's MGM recordings of English songs, dismissing them as nausea-inducing with "artificial emotion" and "self-consciously shimmering MGM strings"), one needs more than just "some big Lanza moments." To sings these songs properly, he went on to say, one also needs "a softer approach. And everything in-between. So you need the Lied voice, the passionate but still soft and seductive one, you need the heroic one too. But most important, you have to take these songs for real."

This begs the question: Has Kaufmann actually listened to Lanza properly? If he had, he would discover that, for starters, the MGM Student Prince recordings are masterpieces of passion and poetry! And there are numerous other examples among Lanza's recordings of English songs. 

It's bad enough that snobs still routinely attack Lanza's operatic recordings, but to have someone like Kaufmann come along and damn with faint praise the former's handling of English repertoire as well is galling in the extreme!

Derek         
  

Peter Danish

unread,
Jul 5, 2023, 10:35:41 AM7/5/23
to mario...@googlegroups.com
Hi Derek!

To play devil's advocate for a sec....Kaufmann also did get some very nice reviews for his Chenier:

"the tenor's arias “Un dì all’azzuro spazio” and “Come un bel dì di maggio,” were virtuoso performances sans pareil."

"Kaufmann's steady legato and forceful technique were fine reminders that numerous earlier Chéniers also proved to be successful Wagner singers."
.
I'm not a particular fan of Kaufmann's singing. I've always felt he approaches every role and aria in the same way.  But that being said, I can only speak from my own experience and I have heard him in the house at the Met many times -  (Traviata (fine)  Faust (horribly miscast)  Carmen (wonderful)  Tosca (wonderful)  Werther (miscast)  Sigmund (meh...)  Parsifal (spectacular)  -  his vocal production from below the staff to the lower mid-range has a certain "froggy" sound to it.  Almost honking in tone and lacking in clarity.  There's no getting away from it - it's just the way he sounds in that range and it ain't pretty. 

But, when he ascends in the range, the voice opens nicely and has a tremendous heroic sound to it.  Not forced at all.  And as far as production, I've heard him from close up in the orchestra all the way up to the cheap seats and I can say conclusively his voice projects better than pretty much any other singer in the world today.  Considering how dark and covered the voice is, and lacking in squillo, that's saying something.  

Just my two cents!  
Peter



--
To reply to this message, please go to: https://groups.google.com/g/mariolanza
---
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Mario Lanza, Tenor" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to mariolanza+...@googlegroups.com.

Derek McGovern

unread,
Jul 5, 2023, 12:37:54 PM7/5/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Peter: Thanks for your reply.

Can you tell me the sources of those glowing reviews? "virtuoso performances sans pareil" sounds as though it came from someone rather partisan!

I certainly agree with you about Kaufmann's lack of squillo and honking, unfocused and froggy sound in his middle to lower-middle register. But even taking into account the heroic quality you hear in his upper register, his is a terribly uneven voice---and that's my biggest problem with it. 

Derek

Peter Danish

unread,
Jul 5, 2023, 12:44:59 PM7/5/23
to mario...@googlegroups.com
Claudio Poloni in Concertonet
and Roberto Festa on Rai Classica radio
--
To reply to this message, please go to: https://groups.google.com/g/mariolanza
---
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Mario Lanza, Tenor" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to mariolanza+...@googlegroups.com.

Steff Walzinger

unread,
Jul 5, 2023, 7:15:55 PM7/5/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Derek,
here is the link to the review. Both comments about the "Andrea Chénier" performances at La Scala Mila last May, were made in one and the same review, not in "reviews," as Peter Danish stated. 


The following review is more detailed and is more differentiated:


"El elenco, conformado de grandes nombres internacionales, fue encabezado en las primeras cinco funciones por Yusif Eyvazov en el rol epónimo -quien fuera igualmente protagonista en la versión de 2017-, mientras las últimas dos noches el papel del poeta fue encomendado a Jonas Kaufmann. El tenor alemán tiene el rol en repertorio desde hace al menos una década y eso es evidente tanto en la parte musical como en la parte escénica. Durante su aria «Un dì all’azzurro spazio» (y casi todo el primer cuadro) la voz de Kaufmann fue discreta y reservada, obteniendo aplausos más por compromiso que por convicción. Para el dueto del tercer cuadro con Maddalena, en la tan ansiada aria «Come un bel dì di maggio» del cuarto cuadro y sobre todo en la escena final, la suerte fue totalmente diversa: Kaufmann dio todo de si mismo, siendo ovacionado en esta ocasión con justa razón. De la voz del cantante germánico se pueden decir muchas cosas respecto a su técnica, su emisión, su color, etc; pero lo que es incuestionable es que es un cantante eficiente que cumple con creces cada vez que se alza el telón."

"The cast, made up of great international names, was led in the first five performances by Yusif Eyvazov in the eponymous role - who was also the protagonist in the 2017 version - while on the last two nights the role of the poet was entrusted to Jonas Kaufmann. The German tenor has had the role in repertoire for at least a decade and that is evident both musically and on stage. During his aria "Un dì all'azzurro spazio" (and almost the entire first scene) Kaufmann's voice was discreet and reserved, earning applause more out of commitment than conviction. For the duet of the third tableau with Maddalena, in the long-awaited aria "Come un bel dì di maggio" of the fourth tableau and especially in the final scene, the luck was totally different: Kaufmann gave all of himself, being applauded on this occasion with good reason. Many things can be said about the Germanic singer's voice regarding his technique, his emission, his color, etc.; but what is unquestionable is that he is an efficient singer who more than fulfills every time the curtain rises." (translated by deepl.com)

Steff


Derek McGovern

unread,
Jul 6, 2023, 2:50:33 AM7/6/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Many thanks for that, Steff.

I note that in the review posted at europeanconservative.com, the author refers to Kaufmann's "exquisite timbre." Considering how inconsistent Kaufmann's voice is in each of his vocal registers, that's quite an extraordinary statement!

Here is what Giovanni Botta wrote about the same performance:

Jonas Kaufmann nel ruolo eponimo . . . delude nella resa performativa prettamente canora in virtù di un modalità emissiva la cui architettura complessiva pare caratterizzata da una certa arretratezza dei suoni nel retrofaringe, enfasi emissiva forzata in zona acuta, passaggi di registro non a fuoco e un certo abuso del falsettone, e un generale ottundimento timbrico che ne pregiudica la proiezione della vibrazione nella sala del Piermarini (tutte le arie sono state salutate da tiepido entusiasmo).

Jonas Kaufmann in the eponymous role . . . disappoints in the purely vocal performance by virtue of an emissive mode whose overall architecture seems to be characterised by a certain backwardness of the sounds in the retropharynx, forced emissive emphasis in the high range, unfocused register passages and a certain abuse of falsetto, and a general dulling of timbre that undermines the projection of vibration in the [La Scala theatre] (all the arias were greeted with lukewarm enthusiasm).


Dr. Botta's musical credentials can be read here.

Derek

Steff Walzinger

unread,
Jul 6, 2023, 6:49:03 AM7/6/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor

Hi Derek,


You quoted Kaufmann with "one needs more than just 'some big Lanza moments' and "but most important, you have to take these songs for real." I have to say that this comment is really strong stuff and snobbish, as he implicitly states that Mario Lanza lacked the necessary skills and sensitivity to interpret songs such as the ones from "The Student Prince," whereas he has them in abundance!  Indeed, we have to wonder, if he ever listened attentively to Mario's recordings" If there's one tenor who is known for having lived the songs he sang, then it is Mario Lanza!  

 

Incidentally, I am member of a private FB group about opera singers.

The other day, when a recording of Mario was posted on that page, one member came up with this familiar silly remark that „Mario’s voice was a microphone voice“ (Why, oh why, am I just reminded of Christa Ludwig??!!!) and that he actually only made movies. Well, usually, I keep out of such discussions, but in this case I had to reply, telling him that he should check the facts before spreading false information, and I confronted him with the fact that Mario appeared in more than 150 concerts and recitals. Apparently, he was cured right after, as his post, along with my reply, was removed a little bit later.


Anyway, a few posts came in, some nice ones, but also some from the „ignoramus fraction“, which you can read hereafter: I only give the initials of the posters as the posts are from a private FB group.

 

JG: His voice was good as any famous opera singer…his interpretations, particularly his studio output, was not. I’m speaking of the arias, not the popular music where he excelled. Reminds me of a current opera soprano who is great in opera, but keep her away from popular music! Lanza’s vocal inflections are cringe-worthy in his arias…the exceptions being the live arias recorded with the trio and in concerts.

 

NR to JG he tugged and tussled with the line, over-inflected, and just couldn't let the music sing itself, as it were. My favorite recording is the stereo remake of The Student Prince. Glorious singing. 

 

LM to JG you got your head up you a!!! You know nothing about great singers or great singing. A real moron.


 

And here are the nice posts of two “defenders:”


CB: Same old endless nonsensical arguments about whether Lanza was worthy as a singer. Just so ridiculous, asinine---especially the prissy, precious micro-analysis of technique, etc. The only real test is whether a singer is moving or not, and few have ever sung as movingly as Lanza did. As many have pointed out here, countless great singers and musicians speak of him with awe, and that should end all the blah blah arguing. But to the obsessive, tight-assed operaphile, it never does.


T.S. I agree. All these knowledgeable "experts" who constantly pronounce Lanza as a fraud, as not an opera singer because he sang so few opera performances, those who sneer at his movie career and the choices he made in life...they neglect to mention that the real reason they continue to dismiss one of the greatest operatic talents of the last century is that they see an opportunity to promote themselves as greatly knowledgeable, highly experienced and faultless proclaimers of who is and who is not the real thing. It is all garbage. Lanza had a magnificent voice. He was fully capable of singing opera and chose to go another route instead. Of this there is abundant recorded proof. He was hugely successful. He was generous with his talent and he left a treasured recorded legacy. I wish the know-it-alls would leave him alone and just enjoy the music!

 

Steff


Peter Danish

unread,
Jul 6, 2023, 9:04:32 AM7/6/23
to mario...@googlegroups.com
Derek,  I had a funny conversation with my Italian agent last night about this.    She is the CEO of Opera CoPro.  She had me laughing.  She said "Italians hate any singer who's not Italian.  We're jealous that we have not produced a great tenor in half a century".  

PD

--
To reply to this message, please go to: https://groups.google.com/g/mariolanza
---
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Mario Lanza, Tenor" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to mariolanza+...@googlegroups.com.

Peter Danish

unread,
Jul 6, 2023, 11:56:28 AM7/6/23
to mario...@googlegroups.com
Hey Stef -

Don't be mean. This used to be a nice group.  Playing "gotcha!" is just childish.  I forwarded what I heard on the radio.  The review from Roberto Festa was absolutely live on the radio as it happened.  I was listening personally.  His review was long, detailed and in Italian so I could not post it. I related his comments about various reviews. He also does not love Kaufmann - but respects him enormously.   And the comments I shared from my Italian literary agent were also live and in person.  She was the harpist for the Gewandhaus Orchestra and now has run an artistic consulting company ( with over 30 major opera companies as clients) in Naples for years.  She says very plainly that German singers almost never get good reviews at La Scala - a trend for decades - not always for legitimate reasons.   I've heard Kaufmann in the house nearly a dozen times at the Met, Covent Garden and in Vienna as well as in recital at Carnegie Hall (doing a simply marvelous Die schöne Müllerin - how do you think LAnza would have fared in that realm?)   I have heard him sing in English, Italian, French and German.  And although - as I stated - I am not a huge fan of the sound of his voice, he is an extraordinary sound in the house.  If you recall - when he hit the scene in the mid -2000s most critics predicted a very short run for him because of his "odd" / "unhealthy" / "forced" manner of production.    But the plain fact is, he has been able to use his so-called forced projection for over 20 years now and the last time I heard him in the house was last year in Vienna and he still sounded fantastic.  His diminuendi were stunning and when he went full volume he could know you back in your chair.  I cannot name another tenor on planet earth currently that can do that - can you?  He is in his 50s now and still going strong - a full 15 years older than Lanza was at this time of death. We have no way of knowing what Lamza might have sounded like if he had lived into his 50s, we can only speculate. 

Voices will always be a matter of preference.  Vocal coaches and doctors et al have made careers complaining about "forced sounding" "unnatural production" "poor technique" yada yada yada.   As Franco Corelli once told me:  "Peter, if you like the sound - it is good. Period.  People who tell you their opinion is right and yours is wrong are not worth arguing with."

Just my two cents...
--
To reply to this message, please go to: https://groups.google.com/g/mariolanza
---
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Mario Lanza, Tenor" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to mariolanza+...@googlegroups.com.

Derek McGovern

unread,
Jul 6, 2023, 9:16:25 PM7/6/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Peter: I have to jump in here and make a couple of observations.

First of all,  I feel it's hardly fair to question how Lanza would have fared singing something so obviously unsuited to his temperament and interests as Die schöne Müllerin just to exalt Kaufmann---and implicitly put the other singer down. Still, I'd like to discover a tenor as versatile and compelling as Lanza in so many musical genres (lieder aside). 

As for the Italians' apparent lack of enthusiasm for Kaufmann, perhaps that has something to do with the unevenness of his voice. After all, not everyone judges the worth of a singer on the basis of whether s/he can knock you back into your seat with sheer volume----as was, say, Mario del Monaco's stock in trade---or disarm you with unexpected diminuendi.   

But it's not just the Italians who have been criticizing Kaufmann's vocal production. Here is music critic Barry Millington, an unabashed Kaufmann admirer, writing in London's Evening Standard last month about the tenor's opening-night performance as Werther: 

The singer, alas, has had vocal problems for some years now, and they have clearly not gone away. By the end of the second act many were wondering aloud whether they would ever again hear the German tenor as he was in his prime. In those first two acts he managed little more than the half-voice croon that has become familiar in recent years.    

As for Corelli's view that if you like a singer's sound, then it automatically follows that it must be good---and that you should never bother arguing with someone who takes a different view---talk about from putting an end to any musical discussion!  But for the life of me, I just can't imagine Corelli saying nothing in response to someone lauding, say, Paul Potts and Russell Watson as possessors of great voices.

Derek 

Peter Danish

unread,
Jul 6, 2023, 11:27:29 PM7/6/23
to mario...@googlegroups.com
Thanks for your always well considered words, Derek!

Someday I'd love to share with you some of my notes from conversations with old singers about Lanza (Corelli. Jerome Hines, Licia Albanese. Gabriella Tucci, Giulietta Simionato, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Marta Eggerth) I regularly used the subject of Lanza as a springboard in an interview because it NEVER failed to elicit passionate debate.  I could fill several volumes with Licia Albanese's comments alone!  

I'll end all comments from this end with one from Jerome Hines:  "the old microphones only picked up about 60% of what today's mics do, so its complete folly to compare voices based on recordings decades apart."

Best,
-pd
--
To reply to this message, please go to: https://groups.google.com/g/mariolanza
---
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Mario Lanza, Tenor" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to mariolanza+...@googlegroups.com.

Steff Walzinger

unread,
Jul 7, 2023, 7:24:36 AM7/7/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor

Hi Derek.

I agree, Kaufmann’s Latin Lover looks (somewhere he was called „the „hottest tenor in the world“) certainly ad to the hype about this tenor. As Stephen Moss wrote in an article 2015 – for „The Guardian“: „When I see him at La Scala in one of those invariably unfulfilling concerts – Puccini arias interspersed with orchestral interludes – I wonder about all the adulation. Is the lady in the third row who is becoming borderline hysterical hailing the great artist or lusting after one of opera’s rare sex symbols?

Well, as with every tenor, some like him, some not.

On 3d May 2023 Kaufmann gave a concert at the Isarphilharmonie München, „Verdi und Verismo“ (part of a little concert tour throughout Germany).

May I quote one observation that Andreas Pernpeintner made in his review the following day:

https://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/konzert-jonas-kaufmann-tenor-opernarien-muenchen-1.5838765

"Die instrumentalen Darbietungen geben Kaufmann zudem wichtige Erholungsmomente: Als der Abend fortschreitet, wird sein verstecktes Räuspern häufiger - und die weiteren Tourneestationen folgen ja erst noch. Diese stets mitschwingende Fragilität ist für den Konzertabend durchaus prägend. In einigen Augenblicken ist tatsächlich schwer zu entscheiden, ob Kaufmanns charakteristische Singweise, manche leisen Töne mit mattem Timbre tief im Rachenraum zu platzieren, noch Ausdrucksgestaltung oder bereits geschicktes Rettungsunterfangen ist."

"The instrumental performances also give Kaufmann important moments of relaxation: As the evening progresses, his hidden throat-clearing becomes more frequent - and the other tour stops are yet to come. This always resonating fragility is quite formative for the concert evening. At some moments it is indeed difficult to decide whether Kaufmann's characteristic singing style of placing some quiet notes with a dull timbre deep in the throat is still expressive shaping or already a clever rescue effort."

And here are some interesting comments from a review by Dirk Schauß about the „Verdi and Versimo“ concert, which took place at the „Alte Oper“ Frankfurt on 21.05.2023, headed with „Mezza passione mit Jonas Kaufmann“ (mezza passione with J.K):

 https://onlinemerker.com/frankfurt-alte-oper-mezza-passione-mit-jonas-kaufmann/

"Die Stimme eines Sängers ist vielen Belastungen ausgesetzt und bleibt äußerst verletzlich. Auch der nun in der Alten Oper gastierende Tenor Jonas Kaufmann weiß davon, so manches Lied zu singen und zeigte sich an diesem Abend in manchen Beiträgen nicht frei von Anstrengung. Im Mittelpunkt des Frankfurter Konzertes standen Auszüge aus italienischen Opern von Giuseppe Verdi und Komponisten aus der Epoche des Verismo. Dazwischen immer wieder kurze Intermezzi fürs Orchester. Es war schon sehr seltsam, dass der derzeit bekannteste Tenor der Welt sein gesamtes Konzertprogramm aus den Noten sang und das, obwohl es sich größtenteils um gesungene Bühnenpartien handelte. Das wirkte unsicher und wenig professionell bei sehr teuren Kartenpreisen, zumal es Jonas Kaufmann erfolgreich daran hinderte, emotional tiefer in den gesungenen Kontext einzusteigen."

"A singer's voice is exposed to many strains and remains extremely vulnerable. Tenor Jonas Kaufmann, who is now a guest at the Alte Oper, also knows about this, singing many a song, and on this evening he did not show himself to be free of strain in some contributions. The Frankfurt concert focused on excerpts from Italian operas by Giuseppe Verdi and composers from the verismo era. In between there were always short intermezzi for the orchestra. It was very strange that the currently most famous tenor in the world sang his entire concert program from sheet music, even though most of it actually belongs to his repertoire. This seemed insecure and not very professional considering the very expensive ticket prices, especially since it successfully prevented Jonas Kaufmann from going deeper emotionally into the sung context."

"Das finale hohe B [‚Celeste Aida] immerhin als Pianissimo-Note versucht, blieb ein Falsett-Ton, was vom Publikum dann auch nur mit lauem Applaus bedacht wurde."

"The final high B, at least attempted as a pianissimo note, remained a falsetto note, which was then only met with lukewarm applause from the audience."

"Kaufmann sang dann „Oh! fede negar potessi … Quando le sere al placido“, die große Arie des Rodolfo, sehr beherrscht im Rezitativ und auch diese Arie fast durchweg im Mezza Voce Klang. Den affektiven Ausbrüchen ging Kaufmann aus dem Weg, somit gab es auch hier kein stimmliches Aufblühen. Die Phrasen wirkten hie und da etwas akademisch gesungen, da Kaufmann kein Portamento oder sich empfundene Rubati erlaubte."

"Kaufmann then sang "Oh! fede negar potessi ... Quando le sere al placido", the great aria of Rodolfo, very controlled in the recitative and also this aria almost throughout in mezza voce sound. Kaufmann avoided the affective outbursts, so there was no vocal flourish here either. The phrases here and there seemed somewhat academically sung, as Kaufmann allowed no portamento or felt rubati."

"Danach war der Monolog des Otello „Dio mi potevi“ zu erleben. Diese Partie hat Kaufmann inzwischen mehrfach auf der Bühne gesungen und für CD eingespielt. Und auch hier irritierte sein häufiger Blick in die Noten. Die verzweifelte Einleitung, die Otello im Ausnahmezustand zeigt, plätscherte einförmig dahin, Otellos verzweifelte Worte klangen allzu beiläufig. Immerhin gelangen ihm die beiden hohen Bs gut in der Vollstimme, was dem Publikum gefiel."

"This was followed by Otello's monologue "Dio mi potevi". Kaufmann has meanwhile sung this part several times on stage and recorded it for CD. And here, too, his frequent glances at the notes were irritating. The desperate introduction, which shows Otello in a state of emergency, rippled along monotonously, Otello's despairing words sounded all too casual. At least he managed the two high Bs well in the full voice, which pleased the audience."

"Insgesamt war der Konzertabend in der Alten Oper Frankfurt ein eher ambivalentes Erlebnis. Jonas Kaufmann und die italienische Oper wirkten in manchen Teilen etwas a-synchron. Kaufmann kultiviert deutlich seine Kontrolle und Selbstbeherrschung, die ihn zuweilen etwas steif und vorhersehbar ob seiner Wirkung zeigte. Anstelle, die Stimme voll tönend strömen zu lassen, suchte er an diesem Abend zu oft in seltsam gesäuselt klingenden Piano Färbungen Zuflucht. Dies gab seinem Vortrag einen Hauch von dozierter Künstlichkeit. Spontaneität und Risikobereitschaft blieben weithin ausgespart. Freie Emotionalität und Tenorgesang mit intensivem Schmelz zeigte sich allzu selten, erst in den Zugaben wirkte er lockerer und gelöster."

"Overall, the concert evening in the Alte Oper Frankfurt was a rather ambivalent experience. Jonas Kaufmann and the Italian opera seemed somewhat a-synchronous in some parts. Kaufmann clearly cultivated his control and self-possession, which at times showed him to be somewhat stiff and predictable as to his effect. Instead of letting the voice flow fully tonally, he too often sought refuge in oddly purred-sounding piano colorations this evening. This gave his performance a touch of pontificated artificiality. Spontaneity and risk-taking were largely left out. Free emotionality and tenor singing with an intense melting were all too rare; only in the encores did he seem looser and more relaxed."

Getting back to the starting point of this discussion, the soon-to-be release of „The Sound of Movies,“ it will be interesting to see if in the course of the promotional machinery for the album Mario Lanza will get some mention from the mouth of Jonas Kaufmann. So far, there’s only silence.

Incidentally, there was a review by Anne Ozioro of the Kaufmann album, „Das Lied von der Erde,“ released in 2017, and there was a brief mention of Lanza:

https://operatoday.com/2017/04/jonas_kaufmann_mahler_das_lied_von_der_erde/

"Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde ist ungewöhnlich intensiv, denn der Betroffene will auf keinen Fall sterben. Die Hörner rufen, das Orchester schwebt, aber Kaufmanns Trotz klingt mit einer Wildheit, die die meisten Tenöre nicht wagen würden. Wunderlich könnte dieses Lied nicht so ausreizen, wie Kaufmann es tut. Schreier hingegen verlieh ihm einen ähnlichen Mut und stellte in seiner Aufnahme mit Kurt Sanderling den Mezzo und das Orchester in den Schatten. Dieser heroische, empörte Trotz ist von entscheidender Bedeutung, denn dem Protagonisten droht nichts weniger als die Vernichtung. Vor zwanzig Jahren, als Kaufmann das Lied mit Alice Coote in Edinburgh sang, hasste ich die Art und Weise, wie er dieses Lied sang, als sei es ein Trinklied. Jetzt hat Kaufmann sein wahres Maß gefunden, spuckt die Worte furchtlos aus, geht kompromisslos Risiken ein. Keine Spur von Mario Lanza!"

"This 'Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde' is unusually intense, since the person involved emphatically does not want to die. The horns call, the orchestra soars, but Kaufmann’s defiance rings with a ferocity most tenors might not dare risk. Wunderlich couldn’t test this song to the limits the way Kaufmann does. Schreier, on the other hand, infused it with similar courage, outshining the mezzo and orchestra in his recording with Kurt Sanderling. This heroic, outraged defiance is of the essence, for the protagonist is facing nothing less than annihilation. Twenty years ago, when Kaufmann sang Das Lied with Alice Coote in Edinburgh, I hated the way he did this song, as if it was a drinking song. Now Kaufmann has its true measure, spitting out the words fearlessly, taking risks without compromise. No trace whatsoever of Mario Lanza! 

Steff

Derek McGovern

unread,
Jul 8, 2023, 12:38:31 PM7/8/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Peter wrote:

Someday I'd love to share with you some of my notes from conversations with old singers about Lanza (Corelli. Jerome Hines, Licia Albanese. Gabriella Tucci, Giulietta Simionato, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Marta Eggerth) I regularly used the subject of Lanza as a springboard in an interview because it NEVER failed to elicit passionate debate.  I could fill several volumes with Licia Albanese's comments alone!  

HI Peter: I'd love to know what those singers you interviewed had to say about Lanza. Feel free to share---and hopefully sooner rather than "someday"!

Derek

Derek McGovern

unread,
Jul 8, 2023, 12:51:27 PM7/8/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Steff:

Thanks for going to all that trouble. 

Kaufmann has certainly been receiving some critical reviews of late. But I was surprised to read that he was using sheet music in one of his very high-priced concerts! 

As for that "No trace whatsoever of Mario Lanza!" comment in the review of Das Lied von der Erde,  I presume it was intended as a putdown of Lanza. But ironically, the way she describes Kaufmann's apparently heroic singing on that recording actually makes him sound Lanzarian!   

By the way, there are no high Bs in the Otello Monologue, so one of the reviewers was over-excited there. The climactic note is a B-flat. 

Derek 

Message has been deleted

Armando Cesari

unread,
Jul 13, 2023, 8:09:46 PM7/13/23
to mario...@googlegroups.com
Hi Derek,

I just read your exchanges with Peter Danish. It would be fascinating to hear what Corelli, Hines, et al. thought of Lanza.
Did Peter give you an indication of when this is likely to happen? 
I do hope it's not, "Someday when the winter is over....."

Cheers,
Armando



--
To reply to this message, please go to: https://groups.google.com/g/mariolanza
---
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Mario Lanza, Tenor" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to mariolanza+...@googlegroups.com.

Derek McGovern

unread,
Jul 14, 2023, 5:14:15 AM7/14/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Ciao Armando: No, sadly, Peter hasn't given any indication yet when he might be able to share the thoughts of Corelli,  Eggarth, and co on Lanza. But I'm certainly hoping that it will happen soon. After all, none of us is getting any younger----and the singers in question are certainly past caring about their private opinions being known!

Derek

Steff Walzinger

unread,
Jul 14, 2023, 6:54:04 AM7/14/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor

Hello to All,

Just recently I spotted these four beautiful watercolor sketches drawn for „The Great Caruso“ by the costume designer Gile Steele. They show costumes with fabric samples for Richard Hageman in the role of conductor Carlo Santi (Scenes: Rehearsal of „Aida“ at Covent Garden and Christmas party at the Met) and for Mario Lanza.

The one costume sketch (Mario wearing a hat) is for the barber shop scene. The other one, however, is the more interesting one. It shows the costume for a scene that never made it to the final film. It is the costume for Mario as „Andrea Chénier,“  which I understand was to be part of the opera montage scene. I wonder, if this costume was ever tailored and if so, if there was a costume test with Mario. The soundtrack recording for the Improvviso, „Un di all’azzurro spazio“ was made on 18 August 1950 at the MGM-Studios in Culver City. 

Oh, how I wish this aria would have been part of the film, as it is – apart from Puccini's „Ch’ella mi creda“ my favourite aria.

Steff

Costume sketches by Gele Steele, The Great Caruso, Lanza and Hageman.jpg

Derek McGovern

unread,
Jul 14, 2023, 7:18:28 AM7/14/23
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
What a terrific find, Steff! The Andrea Chénier costume is a particularly important discovery, given that we know that Mario recorded the Improvviso (or at least part of it) for The Great Caruso. I would say the existence of this costume design now makes it more probable than not that the Chénier scene was filmed.

Great work---and I agree that it would truly enhanced the film if the Chénier aria had been included. After all, there is no bad version of the aria by Lanza, and I'm sure that with Peter Herman Adler at the helm, the Great Caruso rendition would have been well sung too.   

Derek

Armando Cesari

unread,
Jul 21, 2023, 11:49:38 PM7/21/23
to mario...@googlegroups.com

Derek,

I see there’s been no reply from Peter Danish regarding making known the notes pertaining to his discussions about Lanza with various singers.  

I’m wondering why the silence and why the mystery. Of course, a possible answer is that it’s all a load of bulls..t!

Someday indeed!


On Fri, 14 Jul 2023 at 19:14, Derek McGovern <derek.m...@gmail.com> wrote:
Ciao Armando: No, sadly, Peter hasn't given any indication yet when he might be able to share the thoughts of Corelli,  Eggarth, and co on Lanza. But I'm certainly hoping that it will happen soon. After all, none of us is getting any younger----and the singers in question are certainly past caring about their private opinions being known!

Derek

--
To reply to this message, please go to: https://groups.google.com/g/mariolanza
---
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Mario Lanza, Tenor" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to mariolanza+...@googlegroups.com.

Peter Danish

unread,
Jul 22, 2023, 12:43:28 AM7/22/23
to mario...@googlegroups.com
Classy reply Armando.   Precisely why I am circumspect about sharing anything with you.  No mystery whatsoever.  Simply my agent does not want me making my interview notes "too public" as the manuscript which the stories are a part of is in negotiation with a publisher presently. This is specifically why I told Derek clearly that I'd consider sharing them with him privately.  

And frankly your mean spirited reply is symptomatic of several contributors on this thread and why I choose to only contribute periodically.  As I've said to Derek before, this used to be a very nice and respectful group.  Sadly, mean spirited comments seem to have become the norm, and I have no patience for that garbage.  

Derek, youve always been a thoughtful gentleman and I will keep you posted on developments.  But this comment from Armando kind of seals it for me about posting to the group at large.  

Best,
Peter
> To view this discussion on the web visit https://groups.google.com/d/msgid/mariolanza/CAHwwtPBAzEFvA4GjaMCH%2BGd%2BVYGutP5PNFZjhFROu76pN0wGKg%40mail.gmail.com.
>

--