Niun Mi Tema

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Derek McGovern

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Nov 5, 2008, 10:17:20 PM11/5/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Many of us here regard Lanza's recording of the Otello Monologue as
one of his greatest achievements -- and rightly so! -- but I would
also rate his Niun Mi Tema from the same opera as another of his
finest operatic accomplishments.

In fact, this rendition is the perfect antidote for countering the oft-
heard nonsense that Lanza always overdid the histrionics on his
operatic recordings. (David Denton, for example, writing in Records &
Recordings in 1973, claimed that the "affectations" on Lanza's 1958
version of Vesti la Giubba "result in almost making a caricature of
this famous aria".) By any standards, Mario is quite restrained here
-- perhaps *too* restrained for some tastes -- but, as Armando points
out in his book, by avoiding the usual scenery-chewing antics of, say,
a Del Monaco, Lanza's sombre, controlled rendition is all the more
moving. I especially love the sensitivity of his "E tu. . .come sei
pallida! e stanca, e muta, e bella" and from "Pria
d'ucciderti. . .sposa. . .ti baciai" (after he stabs himself) to the
end. Not to mention his sighs, on which he skillfully resists any
temptation to ham things up. That final, incomplete "bacio" ("kiss")
is devastating -- and a masterstroke to boot, since completing the
word (as some tenors do) is much less effective -- as is the poignant
quality in his voice on the difficult "morendo".

It helps, of course, that Lanza is in very fine vocal fettle indeed
here. His voice slightly darker and rounder than it is on the
Monologue recording of three years earlier, he sounds exactly right as
Otello. Back in 2004 tenor Joseph Calleja had this to say about
Lanza's Niun Mi Tema: "Very recently, thanks to one of the patrons of
Grandi-Tenori.com, actually, I heard his last Otello scene which was
recorded just a couple months before he died. [It was actually
recorded *13* months before he died.] And I was really impressed, the
colour of the voice, the shading ... it was one of the glorious tenor
sounds and there lies also the fact that it was thanks to him that I
first was attracted to opera."

Bravo, Joseph.

Incidentally, what a shame that no CD has yet featured both the
Monologue and the Death Scene on the same disc! These two recordings
cry out to be placed side by side on an operatic compilation, for they
offer compelling evidence of Lanza's great love and understanding of
this role. The only occasion to date (as far as I know) when the two
recordings did appear on the same disc was on an old RCA Italia LP
called, I think, Arie Italiane.

Purely as a reproduction of Lanza's voice, this is the best I've ever
heard his Niun Mi Tema:

http://www.4shared.com/account/file/67631415/150f26c6/Niun_Mi_Tema__VHS_.html

But for a stereo version that reveals much more orchestral detail
(and, in particular, emphasizes the haunting cor anglais that that
genius Verdi provided for here), as well as pushing Lanza more
appropriately back from "Pria d'ucciderti" onwards, this is very good:

http://www.4shared.com/account/file/67629323/2adac7ea/Niun_Mi_Tema__RCA_.html
(It's just a pity that the slight over-brightness of the sound here
makes Lanza's voice a little gritty or sandy.)

And here is the text, accompanied by the English translation:


Niun mi tema
S'anco armato mi vede. Ecco la fine
Del mio camin. . .Oh! Gloria! Otello fu.
E tu. . .come sei pallida! e stanca, e muta, e bella,
Pia creatura nata sotto maligna stella.
Fredda come la casta tua vita, e in cielo assorta.
Desdemona! Desdemona! . . . Ah ... morta! ... morta! ... morta! ...
Ho un'arma ancor!

Pria d'ucciderti. . .sposa. . .ti baciai.
Or morendo. . .nell'ombra. . . ov'io mi giacio. . .
Un bacio. . .un bacio ancora. . . un altro bacio. . .

Let no one fear me
Even seeing me armed. This is the end
Of my road . . . Oh! Glory!
Othello is dead.
And you . . . how pale you are! and
weary, and silent, and beautiful,
Sainted creature born under a malign
star.
Cold as your chaste life, and borne up to heaven.
Desdemona! Desdemona! . . . Ah . . .
dead! ... dead! ... dead! ...
I still have a weapon!

(stabs himself)

Before killing you . . . wife . . . I kissed you.
Now, dying . . . in the darkness ... where I lie . . .
A kiss ... a kiss again ... another kiss ...
(He dies.)

Michele

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Nov 5, 2008, 11:20:55 PM11/5/08
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Hell Derek,
I hope I've got this right this time. All I want to say is that
Mario's recording of this aria is really one of his best. I've got
del Monaco doing Niun Mi Tema and there is no comparison with Lanza.
You are right he sings it superbly.
Just one other thing do you know why the Trio from Cosi has never been
on a C.D. I have also got the L.P. from when the film was released
and instead of including the Trio they put all these orchestral bits
and pieces on to fill up the time available on the record. You have to
watch the film to hear him sing it.
Regards, Michele
> http://www.4shared.com/account/file/67631415/150f26c6/Niun_Mi_Tema__V...
>
> But for a stereo version that reveals much more orchestral detail
> (and, in particular, emphasizes the haunting cor anglais that that
> genius Verdi provided for here), as well as pushing Lanza more
> appropriately back from "Pria d'ucciderti" onwards, this is very good:
>
> http://www.4shared.com/account/file/67629323/2adac7ea/Niun_Mi_Tema__R...

Derek McGovern

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Nov 6, 2008, 12:49:13 AM11/6/08
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Hi Michele: I have no idea why the Cosi' Fan Tutte Trio (E Voi Ridete)
wasn't included on the soundtrack album, especially since RCA added
several tedious non-Lanza tracks to the LP, as you pointed out.
Bizarre!

Actually, I've been planning to start a thread on the For the First
Time soundtrack -- and will do so soon. I'll also include a link to
the Cosi' Trio (same recording as in the movie, but with a different
balance between orchestra & singers).

Cheers
Derek

Jan Hodges

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Nov 6, 2008, 3:00:26 AM11/6/08
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Oh Derek, Yes, yes, yes !  I like to view this aria on film rather than just listen  to it and it always moves me to tears.
I don't speak Italian but I could work out what this line meant before I read your translation
  "E TU. . .come sei pallida! E stanca, e muta, e bella". This line and the way he caresses the word "bella"  just tears at my heart
The despairing "Desdemona. Desdemona,..... And the cry 'Ah" ...morta......morta.....morta..are excellently done The way he brings the volume down from the 'Ah" to the final "morta 'is just so moving. Poor  Otello his jealousy has destroyed two lives
I agree the final..Un bacio...un bacio ancora.....etc is devastating. Mario really IS Otello. I think I may have mentioned before I saw a TV presentation of this opera with Jon Vickers. After seeing and hearing Mario ,Vickers interpretation left me cold.
Jan
 
 
faint_grain.jpg

Sam

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Nov 6, 2008, 3:10:01 AM11/6/08
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As great as the recording is, wasn't there some talk about the actual
scene being clumsily filmed? The angles and composition of the picture
detracts somehat from Mario's great performance. Perhaps someone
remembers this being said and the specifics. Perhaps one of our
members here said it!

On Nov 6, 3:00 am, "Jan Hodges" <jmhod...@netspace.net.au> wrote:
> Oh Derek, Yes, yes, yes !  I like to view this aria on film rather than just
> listen  to it and it always moves me to tears.
> I don't speak Italian but I could work out what this line meant before I
> read your translation
>   "E TU. . .come sei pallida! E stanca, e muta, e bella". This line and the
> way he caresses the word "bella"  just tears at my heart
> The despairing "Desdemona. Desdemona,..... And the cry 'Ah" ...morta.....
> morta.....morta..are excellently done The way he brings the volume down from
> the 'Ah" to the final "morta 'is just so moving. Poor  Otello his jealousy
> has destroyed two lives
> I agree the final..Un bacio...un bacio ancora.....etc is devastating. Mario
> really IS Otello. I think I may have mentioned before I saw a TV
> presentation of this opera with Jon Vickers. After seeing and hearing Mario
> Vickers interpretation left me cold.
> Jan
>
>  faint_grain.jpg
> 1KViewDownload

Derek McGovern

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Nov 6, 2008, 2:07:35 PM11/6/08
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Sam: I've criticised the staging of the Otello Death Scene in the past
(though not on this forum, I think). One of the problems with it is
that Cassio, Emilia et al simply stand rooted on the stage, never
really moving -- even when Mario stabs himself. It's all very static,
and it's a shame that Cassio doesn't get to sing his line ("Ah,
ferma!...Oh, stop!"), nor do the onlookers sing in unison
"Sciagurato!". I wonder why these lines were cut?

The camera angles are awkward as well. I think it would have been
better if the entire scene had been filmed from the audience's
perspective (though with close-ups and medium shots as well, of
course), rather than cutting from the audience's viewpoint to a
reverse perspective after the stabbing. (The Otello Monologue scene in
Serenade worked brilliantly in this respect, and I love the fact that
the camera is an active participant: panning, tilting, etc. It makes
for a fluid piece of cinema.)

On the plus side, Lanza's lip-synching is excellent, and, just as
importantly, his acting is entirely believable. His final moments are
actually quite moving, with Mario avoiding any trace of the ham. (Del
Monaco, who I believe used the same set for his Otello film, should
have taken note! Incidentally, *his* Otello cuts his own throat -- a
rather problematic act for one who has to go on to sing :-)) The only
slightly false note is when Lanza puts his arm out to break his fall
-- something that the director should have corrected.

I like the fact that this scene was filmed on the very same stage (the
Rome Opera House) where it was also recorded. I went to the Rome Opera
a number of times in the late 1980s, and, needless to say, I thought
of all the operatic scenes from For the First Time while I was there.

Muriel

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Nov 6, 2008, 7:30:59 PM11/6/08
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Mario’s portrayal of Otello in his 1955 “Monologue” is priceless to
me. And so, it rightly follows that he add Otello’s death scene, “Niun
Mi Tema”, to finalize his ownership of this operatic role. What a
moving and marvelous performance, both physically and aurally it is.
As Derek stated, he is in “fine vocal fettle”.

All throughout the piece he maintains a smooth and appealing vibrato.
(Note especially: “Oh! Gloria!”…. “Pia creatura”…” in cielo assorta”,
and “un bacio ancora”, “Ah!”, “morendo”, for examples.) That attribute
alone enhances my reactions of sympathy and sadness as I hear his
narration of desolation, and horror at what he has done. I’m feeling
his pain as he sings, “And you…how pale you are! and weary, and
silent, and beautiful…” As he slightly pauses between each
descriptive word, I am overwhelmed along with him. His grief is
palpable: “Desdemona! Desdemona!…Ah! ….morta!…morta!…morta!

Then, after he stabs himself , his tone becomes reconciled to his
fate, and he becomes almost docile as he sings, “…..Before killing
you….wife…I kissed you.” I love hearing the recurrence of the “bacio”
theme from Act One’s “Gia nella notte”, as he repeats, “A kiss…a kiss
again…another kiss”. This is powerful stuff! Now, I’m sniffling
mightily as I find I’m taking in his last breath along with him.
Brilliant is the ending as he “dies” before finishing the last
“bacio”. And I hear his sigh – oh my!

I don’t know how to describe this, but listen to the strings as they
“flutter” beginning with “Pria d’ucciderti” and continue on. This is
most effective in creating anticipation of the tragic finale.
Actually, the orchestra at times is quite minimalistic, allowing Mario
to sing unaccompanied, or by only a single instrument. Of course, they
come together dramatically for “Ho un’arma ancor!” – a big bang, as it
should be.

Mario is never over the top, in my opinion. I’ve heard this twice in
the opera house (once by Domingo) and I must say that Mario draws more
emotion from me than the others. He exudes the perfect temperament,
the perfect voice and the perfect mannerisms. He’s my “Otello” of all
time!!
> > > 1KViewDownload- Hide quoted text -
>
> - Show quoted text -

Armando

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Nov 7, 2008, 12:16:37 AM11/7/08
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There are some great things in Lanza’s singing of Niun mi tema. As
Derek and others pointed out, the final sigh is indeed masterly as is
everything he does from “Pria d’uccideri …” to the end.

I do, however, have a problem with the tempo, which I find simply too
fast. A slower tempo would have enabled him to use broader phrasing,
particularly on “E tu…. come sei pallida e stanca e muta, e bella,
pria creatura nata sotto maligna stella ” which is marked adagio in
the score.

Having said this, I find his overall interpretation far superior to
the spasmodic phrasing and the ridiculous posturing and grimacing of
the much- heralded Del Monaco.

Speaking of tempi, someone pointed out, and a few raved over a 1945
version of Bjorling’s Che Gelida Manina which can be found on You
Tube. Here it’s a case of the tempo being far too slow. Bjorling is,
as usual, technically impeccable, but for me, possibly due to his less
than perfect Italian rather than his concept of the role, he just
doesn’t bring the passion and romance, which are the essence of
Rodolfo, to life. The aria is half a tone down, by the way- he sings
a high B not a C. The ending is very beautifully sung.

Tonytenor

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Nov 7, 2008, 6:50:41 PM11/7/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Hello All,

Great posts! I will confess that OTELLO is my favorite opera and I
have alway felt that, had Mario lived and really knuckled down,
devoting a large portion of his time to opera exclusively, he could
well have been one of the greatest Otellos of all time. It is
interesting to note that Mario has never been, to my knowledge,
classified as a purely dramatic tenor. To my mind (and ear) he began
as a lyric tenor with spinto overtones. At the age of 38 Mario's
voice had darkened considerably yet he still had that magnificent
top. I think Mario's interpretation of the role of Otello would have
been an essentially lyrical one. By that I mean, more along the lines
of Domingo's approach to the role as opposed to say Jon Vickers or
Ramon Vinay. The natural burnished quality Mario's voice had at the
time his death would have served the role of Otello perfectly as it
would have projected the necessary masculinity but without having to
affect any more "dramatic" quality to his voice. As for carrying
power I don't think there's any question there. I do think though
that he would have had to train almost like a prize figher to build up
the stamina needed to sustain the very difficult role. Armando, I
quite agree with you about the tempi in "Niun mi tema." Too fast! I
wonder if the producers felt that it needed to move along for time
sake? Lastly, a number of folks have noted Mario's last note and
dying sigh. I agree, it's wonderful! I hear that dramatic reserve or
introspection in his "Vesti la giubba" from FTFT. - Tony

Armando

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Nov 7, 2008, 8:33:55 PM11/7/08
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Hi Tony,

You make some very good points in your latest post. Mario could really
have been an outstanding Otello had he made a concerted effort to
change his lifestyle in order to be able to sustain what some call the
2nd act alone as demanding as any full opera.
I agree that the approach would probably have been along the lines of
Domingo, (who really is a lyric tenor) but with a freer and much
better top. Lanza’s voice at that stage 1958/59) would have been that
of a true spinto. It would most likely have progressed into a dramatic
one around the ages of 45/50/.

Regarding the tempi in Niun Mi Tema, I doubt whether the producers or
the director had anything to do with it. In fact, the concept of how
he would act the part was entirely Mario’s idea. He told the director,
Mate’, exactly how he was going to interpret and sing the death scene.
I find it really astounding that left to his own devices, without the
benefit of a director like Visconti or Zeffirelli, let alone a
conductor of the calibre of a Serafin or a De Sabata, Lanza could
come up with an overall impressive performance such as the Otello
Finale.

The man had musicality and temperament pouring out of every fibre of
his body!


The staging, by the way, was the standard one used by the Rome Opera
in the 50s, which had the other characters standing perfectly still.
As Derek mentioned, it is the same staging used for a Del Monaco
filmed sequence, where, he not only cuts his throat, but has enough
energy left to roll down the steps. Utterly ridiculous!

Tonytenor

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Nov 8, 2008, 5:05:00 AM11/8/08
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Hello All,

I thought some on the forum might find this recording interesting. It
is the late Paul Robeson in recital at Carnegie Hall on May 9, 1958.
It is the final monologue of Othello and his introduction to the piece
is, I think, worth hearing. In all events, it gives one a bit of an
insight as to how Robeson interpreted the role.
http://www.4shared.com/file/70248059/2268e8a9/Paul_Robeson_-_OTHELLO_Monologue__4-9-1958_.html
> > > a high B not a C. The ending is very beautifully sung.- Hide quoted text -

Tonytenor

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Nov 8, 2008, 6:44:29 AM11/8/08
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Yet two more recordings which might be of interest to some. It is the
Italian tenor Giovanni Zenatello (1876-1949) who, according to some
records, sang Otello over 500 times. Quite a feat indeed, if true.
These recordings date from 1930 and are chock full of Italiante vocal
histrionics. Still, it is interesting to hear a singer from the
"Golden Age" in what was apparently one of his great successes. Note
especially the end of "Niun mi tema." I wonder if Mario heard this
recording?
http://www.4shared.com/file/70256147/b6c05b/Giovanni_Zenatello_-_Dio_mi_potevi__OTELLO__1930.html
http://www.4shared.com/file/70256200/f8f82ea5/Giovanni_Zenatello_-_Niun_mi_tema__OTELLO__1930.html


On Nov 8, 4:05 am, Tonytenor <tonyparting...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hello All,
>
> I thought some on the forum might find this recording interesting.  It
> is the late Paul Robeson in recital at Carnegie Hall on May 9, 1958.
> It is the final monologue of Othello and his introduction to the piece
> is, I think, worth hearing.  In all events, it gives one a bit of an
> insight as to how Robeson interpreted the role.http://www.4shared.com/file/70248059/2268e8a9/Paul_Robeson_-_OTHELLO_...
> > - Show quoted text -- Hide quoted text -
Message has been deleted

Vince Di Placido

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Nov 8, 2008, 9:38:45 AM11/8/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
"Niun Mi Tema" is a fantastic piece of acting & singing from Mario,
with some beautiful touches, he had developed into such a compelling,
intelligent singer & interpreter by 1958/59.
> http://www.4shared.com/account/file/67631415/150f26c6/Niun_Mi_Tema__V...
>
> But for a stereo version that reveals much more orchestral detail
> (and, in particular, emphasizes the haunting cor anglais that that
> genius Verdi provided for here), as well as pushing Lanza more
> appropriately back from "Pria d'ucciderti" onwards, this is very good:
>
> http://www.4shared.com/account/file/67629323/2adac7ea/Niun_Mi_Tema__R...

Derek McGovern

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Nov 8, 2008, 9:41:42 PM11/8/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
On Nov 8, 2:33 pm, Armando <cesar...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Regarding the tempi in Niun Mi Tema, I doubt whether the producers or
> the director had anything to do with it. In fact, the concept of how
> he would act the part was entirely Mario’s idea. He told the director,
> Mate’, exactly how he was going to interpret and sing the death scene.
> I find it really astounding that left to his own devices, without the
> benefit of a director like Visconti or Zeffirelli, let alone a
> conductor of the calibre of a Serafin or a De Sabata, Lanza could
> come up with an overall impressive performance such as the Otello
> Finale.

>The man had musicality and temperament pouring out of every fibre of
his body!

Ciao Armando: I'm very glad you pointed out the above, as I feel that
Lanza is seldom given credit for what he achieved virtually without
guidance. In fact, I find it extraordinary that he recorded all of the
operatic material for his final film within days of leaving the
Walchensee Sanitorium, where he'd spent the last two or three months.

Mario's choice of operatic material for that film was fascinating too,
and arias such as Niun Mi Tema should certainly dispel any thought
that the man was coasting at this point in his career. Quite the
reverse, in fact. After all, he could have stuck exclusively to the
tried and true material that he'd sung in the past (and with his
health in serious decline, who would have blamed him for taking an
easier route?). But instead he turned to operas as diverse and
challenging as Otello, Aida, and Così Fan Tutte, in each case
recording things he'd never sung before -- and in the presence of the
Rome Opera orchestra, soloists, and chorus no less! I also see these
choices as very revealing in terms of the man's seriousness of
purpose. He was clearly wanting to prove, not only to the public but
also to *himself*, that he was still an operatic contender, and at the
same time (I suspect), he wanted to make amends for the disappointing
musical content of his previous film.

When I listen to something as deeply moving and musical as Lanza's
interpretation of the Otello Death Scene, I'm struck yet again by the
absurdity of comments by the likes of conductor Boris Goldovsky
regarding the man's supposed lack of musicality.

Armando

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Nov 9, 2008, 1:29:14 AM11/9/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Derek: Regarding Goldovsky, bear in mind that there are two types of
musicians, those like Goldovsky for whom musical theory is the be all
and end all, and others like Peter Herman Adler, for example, who
place far greater importance on natural gifts that no amount of
theoretical expertise can give you.

One can possess great musicianship but lack interpretive gifts and the
result will be a singer as boring as Nellie Melba or Joan Sutherland.

Goldovsky’s antipathy for Lanza was due to his (Lanza’s) lack of
musicianship but certainly not musicality as Mario had that in
abundance.

Derek McGovern

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Nov 10, 2008, 4:02:29 PM11/10/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
On Nov 9, 7:29 pm, Armando <cesar...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Goldovsky’s antipathy for Lanza was due to his (Lanza’s) lack of
> musicianship but certainly not musicality as Mario had that in
> abundance.

Ciao Armando: Thanks for the above. Actually, I was always under the
impression that Goldovsky's sneering comments were as much about
Lanza's musicality as they were about his musicianship (or lack
thereof). Plus, of course, the fact that he intensely disliked Lanza
as a person. After all, if Mario's chief "sin" was merely that he was
unable to read music (and was therefore unable to learn a role as
quickly as a singer who *could* read music might do), then Goldovsky
would scarcely have been able to damn him for that deficiency alone.
For as William Warfield once mentioned in an interview, even many
leading singers at the Met in the mid-20th century were unable to read
music. (It's apparently a different story today.)

Michele

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Nov 11, 2008, 7:19:32 AM11/11/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Hi Armando,
How right you are about Melba and sadly Joan Sutherland. I can't stand
Melba's voice and when I was starting out singing
I used to do a lot of singing at some of the big homes around Sydney
and being a Coloratura used to sing things that Melba sang, not
because I liked her but because Galli-Curci did them better every
time. Things like "Lo Hear the Gentle
Lark" and "The Wren", but little old ladies would come up to me after
I'd sung and tell me I was just like Melba. It nearly
drove me to sing Contralto!!!!!

Lou

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Nov 11, 2008, 11:32:07 AM11/11/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
It's amazing how a mere three weeks away from the computer can make
one feel like such a stranger around here. So many new threads, new
posters even! Not that I’m complaining. :-)

Yes, I agree that the Monologue and the Death Scene belong together on
a CD. In fact, if it were all up to me, I’d also add Gio ti giocondi.
And the lyrical Gia nella notte densa, if only young Lanza’s voice
were a little darker and heavier (and Desdemona’s grandmother were
replaced by Desdemona herself). In these four recordings, Lanza puts
us through the wringer as he musically and dramatically traces
Otello’s rapid descent from adoring husband, through tormented cuckold
(or so he thought), avenging murderer, and finally to despairing
suicide. The next best thing to Lanza’s singing of the full opera!

There’s no doubt in my mind that Lanza would have been a great Otello.
I wouldn’t go so far, however, as to say that his would have been the
definitive Otello. In my opinion, there is no such animal. The
conflicted Moor’s psychological make-up is so complex as to make the
role open to a variety of interpretations, each as valid as the
other. Who knows what metamorphoses Lanza’s Otello would have
undergone as Lanza gained new insights into the character with each
performance?

Derek wrote that some people may find Mario’s Niun mi tema too
restrained for their taste. I wonder how they will react to Jon
Vickers’ 1973 version. No macho singing here. Vickers’ Otello is a
broken man, heartbreakingly vulnerable in his anguish over the horror
he had done and the enormity of his loss. The entire passage from “E
tu…come sei pallida!” to “Desdemona! Desdemona!” as well as his “Pria
d'ucciderti” until the unfinished plaintive plea for a third “bacio”
is sung in mezza voce to shattering effect. A most unusual delivery
for Vickers and to me a most affecting one.

Tonytenor

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Nov 12, 2008, 10:57:14 AM11/12/08
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Hi Lou,

Great observation about the complexities of the character of Otello.
You mention Jon Vickers. He is one of the tenors I enjoy most and, as
you point out, his interpretation is very introspective yet quite
moving. His Canio is also inwardly focused - no Italiante
histrionics. This works quite well with I PAGLIACCI because when he
does explode at the end with "No, pagliacco non son..." it is almost
frightening. I guess I have a special place in my heart for Vickers
as he sang Otello at the Met and that was the first opera I attended
at the great house. It was 1977, but remember it quite clearly. His
performance was searing in its intensity and I remember especially
during the second act, when Iago is sowing his seeds of doubt about
Desdemona's fidelity, Vickers strode over to Cornell MacNeil (who was
singing Iago that night) and lifted him off his feet as he delivered
the famous line, "Take care when you call my wife a whore." Heavy
stuff indeed.

It would be interesting to get Vickers' take on Mario's "Dio mi
potevi" and "Niun mi tema." While I think Mario's is a much more
extrovertedly emotional interpretation it certainly is not on the
level of DelMonaco who, I believe it was Armando that pointe it out,
was over the top. Even killing himself by cutting his own throat.
Interestingly though, Lawrence Olivier, in his film of OTHELLO,
commits suicide by stabbing himself in the throat.

As you point out though Lou, it is indeed a complex character in a
most complex opera. One last thought. It is interesting to note that
Iago's credo in act two was all Verdi and Boito. While Verdi was
fully committed to staying true to Shakespeare, he felt there needed
to be a momentary glimpse of the evil that is Iago. There is no
moment like that in the play. Interesting.

Ciao,

Tony
> > music. (It's apparently a different story today.)- Hide quoted text -

Armando

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Nov 12, 2008, 4:43:52 PM11/12/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Hi Derek: Yes, Goldovsky’s disliked Lanza both as a singer and as a
person, but judging from his autobiography, I get the impression that
the musical aspect played the predominant part. In the book, Goldovsky
wrote “ Lanza, to begin with, could not read a line of music. Even
worse, he had never had any solfege instructions and his ear was
totally untrained.” Apart from the fact that had Goldovski bothered
to be less rash in his asssement of Lanza he might have discovered, as
conductor John Green pointed out to me, that “Mario had a sensational
ear,” to me this represents a man totally obsessed with theory.
This, plus the fact that Lanza became a mega star a few years later
obviously bothered Goldovsky.

Someone should have reminded him that innumerable singers from Caruso
to Pinza and Warren, right down to Pavarotti and Freni, managed to
have successful careers without being able to sight read.

As the great Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache once stated “ There
are those that make music and those that merely play notes!”

Armando

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Nov 12, 2008, 4:51:16 PM11/12/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Hi Michele: Little old ladies can do a lot of harm!
Melba had a great technique, and what her supporters refer to as that
‘creamy, beautiful, even sound,’ but as singer she was deadly boring!

Armando

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Nov 12, 2008, 4:55:26 PM11/12/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Hi Lou and Tony: There is no question that from an interpretatively
point of view, Vickers was a great Otello.

His Met 1978 performance of Niun Mi Tema on You Tube is ample proof of
this.
However, at the risk of repeating myself, I again have to point out
the importance of the tempi. Notice how, because of the slow tempo,
Vickers is able to shape and colour each phrase to great effect. Of
course, he is also a convincing actor.

Compare this with Mc Cracken’s Niun Mi Tema, also on You Tube, and the
difference is staggering, not so much in the voices as neither Vickers
nor Mc Cracken possessed voices of great quality, but in the overall
interpretation. Regardless of McCraken’s ability in the part (and I
happen to think that Vickers was vastly superior) the much faster
tempo does nothing at all to help Mc Cracken achieve anywhere near the
pathos of Vickers.

And here, again, is where, regardless of a singer’s individual
ability, the conductor is of vital importance. That and, of course,
performing a role repeatedly on the stage.

Derek McGovern

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Nov 15, 2008, 2:29:06 AM11/15/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Some great posts of late on this thread!

Tony: I certainly admire Jon Vickers's interpretive abilities, and
there's no doubt that he was a fine artist. He could also produce some
startling sounds! I remember watching a televised performance of
Samson et Delilah (from Covent Garden, I think) in which he was quite
thrilling at the end of the duet in the "Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix"
scene. A cerebral fellow, he was very interesting in an interview that
I saw of him from the 1990s in which he said, among other things, that
he found performing "worthwhile" even if he managed to reach merely a
handful of people in the audience.

As a sound, though, his voice wasn't particularly attractive. Still, I
prefer his vocal quality to that of Del Monaco, and as an interpreter
of Otello, he left Mario Del M in the shade in my book!

Yes, it would be interesting to know what Vickers thinks of Lanza's
Otello recordings. Just one thing, though: I don't regard Mario's Niun
Mi Tema as an "extrovertedly emotional interpretation". I find his
version more restrained than that of most tenors, Vickers included. I
also wouldn't describe his Otello Monologue as particularly
extroverted. Where a lot of other tenors -- even Domingo -- can't
resist a touch of the ham on "d'angoscie", for example, Lanza avoids
unnecessary histrionics here.

Yes, good point about Iago's Credo not even being in the original
play, Othello. Apparently, Verdi was so fascinated by the character of
Iago that at one point he even considered calling his opera Iago
instead of Otello!

Interestingly enough, George Bernard Shaw -- who certainly knew his
music! -- considered Verdi's opera a superior work to Shakespeare's
Othello.

Cheers
Derek

Babajaga

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Nov 15, 2008, 5:32:52 PM11/15/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
I think I will never be able to listen to Otello again because the
only convincing Otello part was sung by Mario. Although I heard many
versions. There is one singers who was almost as good as Mario: a
Hungarian tenor named Janos Batky.
Message has been deleted
Message has been deleted

Derek McGovern

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Nov 15, 2008, 7:05:26 PM11/15/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Hi Erika (and welcome to this forum): With all due respect, I think
you need to step back and regard Mario Lanza from a much less one-eyed
(uncritical) perspective. To say that only he sang Otello convincingly
is an extreme statement, and, frankly, impossible to defend. Although
I believe that Lanza possessed all the attributes of a potentially
great Otello, one simply can't dismiss all others who have not only
recorded extracts from this opera, but who, unlike Lanza, have
actually performed the role on the stage. There is a huge difference
between recording, say, the Otello Monologue in a studio (where
retakes are possible) and singing the complete role in the opera
house. I happen to regard Lanza's recording of the Monologue as the
best I've ever heard of this aria, but there's no way I could say with
certainty that he would have duplicated this feat on the stage.

I refer you to Lou's excellent post above and, in particular, this
paragraph:
Message has been deleted

Lou

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Nov 16, 2008, 11:08:41 PM11/16/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Hi Armando: Many thanks for pointing out the tempi's vital importance
to the quality of a singer's performance. I find this and other
authoritative tips of yours, especially when accompanied by
illustrative examples like the Vickers and McCracken video clips, very
helpful in my musical self-education. Right now, conducting is one
area I'm not too familiar with. The only time I become aware of the
conductor is when he allows the orchestra to drown out the singer's
voice.

In an earlier post on this thread, you mentioned the much too slow
tempo of Bjorling's 1945 rendition of Che gelida manina. You also
noted that the aria is down by half a tone. Was the transposition done
to compensate for the slowing down of the tempo, or is it independent
of the latter? Isn't it harder to sustain a high note when the tempo
is very slow because the singer has to hold it longer than when the
tempo is faster?
> > > - Show quoted text -- Hide quoted text -

Lou

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Nov 16, 2008, 11:26:28 PM11/16/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Hi Derek and Tony: Jon Vickers has a distinctive voice, but like
Derek, I don't particularly find it attractive. I’m very much
impressed, though, by the intelligence and depth of his
characterizations. He once said that Otello’s jealousy had initially
been difficult for him to assume because he himself had not a jealous
bone in his body. (Curiously, Shakespeare’s Othello, shortly before he
stabs himself in the last scene, also speaks of himself as “one not
easily jealous.”) Obviously, Vickers was able to resolve this
difficulty, but he always said that no performance of the role was
ever the same for him because he could never encompass this "ever-
changing flawed hero" in one evening. The Otello that you saw at the
Met in 1977, Tony, must have been the same one whose ferocious
intensity scared the Desdemona, Renata Scotto, who feared that Vickers
would really strangle her on stage. Yet, in another performance, the
vulnerability of Vickers’uniquely tragic Moor brought tears to Teresa
Stratas’ eyes as she recalled seeing “this great man disintegrate into
small pieces of torn flesh and soul.” (And to think that that paragon
of humility, MDM, called him a comprimario!)

Otello being one of my favorite operas, I have several versions to
admire on video/DVD, but to me, Lanza’s Dio! mi potevi is still the
version to beat, both vocally (that goes without saying!) and
interpretively (IMO, the operatic equivalent of a Marlon Brando
monologue). And you’re right, Derek, in that even Domingo can’t resist
a touch of the ham in his “d’angoscie”. In fact, after his 1976
Otello (one of my favorites), it seems to have grown more hammy with
each succeeding version.

Boito’s addition of Iago’s Credo in the Otello libretto was a
masterstroke. I can’t imagine the opera without it. “Motiveless
malignity” is how the 19th century poet and critic Samuel Taylor
Coleridge described Shakespeare’s Iago, but in Otello, Iago is
motiveless no longer. Boito, aided by Verdi’s music, lets him bare his
twisted Mephistophelean soul in the blasphemous Credo and give voice
to his chilling motivation: “Sono scellerato perché son uomo.” (I am
evil because I am a man.) And he need not fear hell or any other
religious punishment, for once he is dead, “La morte è il nulla”,
Death is nothingness. The fact that Iago’s “Credo” (which begins with
“Credo in un Dio crudel”) parodies the Catholic Creed (which begins
with “Credo in unum Deum”) must have had enormous shock value to opera
goers in 19th century Catholic Italy. No wonder Boito/Verdi had
Desdemona sing the expanded Ave Maria (which, like the Credo, is not
in Othello) although she has just finished the lengthy Willow Song.

Yes, Derek, it’s interesting that George Bernard Shaw considered
Otello superior to Othello. Now I know he was not just being naughty
when he wrote that “instead of Otello being an Italian opera in the
style of Shakespeare, Othello is a play written by Shakespeare in the
style of Italian opera.” Incidentally, isn’t the metamorphosis of
Othello as interesting as the metamorphosis of Pygmalion?
> > > - Show quoted text -- Hide quoted text -

Derek McGovern

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Nov 17, 2008, 2:11:16 PM11/17/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Terrific post, Lou. Poor Renata Scotto fearing for her safety in Act
IV! I imagine that Lanza would have had a similar effect on his
Desdemonas if the intensity of his interpretation in the Act III duet
(especially the recording with Boh) is anything to go by. As the
mother of Steve Bell (of Parlour of Opera Lovers fame) once said,
listening through tears to the Lanza/Albanese version, "No hope left
(for poor Desdemona)."

You'll be amused to know that the Bernard Shaw quote in your post is
in my Pygmalion thesis! It's in a section on musical adaptation. I
also mention that Shaw felt that Verdi's Falstaff was an improvement
on Shakespeare's play.
> ...
>
> read more »

Armando

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Nov 21, 2008, 7:17:20 PM11/21/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Hi Lou: I’ve just come across your post to me of November 17, which I
inexplicably missed.

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of the conductor. A conductor
is vital in getting the best possible performance from both orchestra
and singers. Provided, of course, that he is a great conductor and not
a mere waver of the baton.

You were asking about the slow tempo in Bjorling’s 1945 Che gelida
manina in relation to the transposition of the aria. The two are quite
independent. The high C is difficult to negotiate and it’s quite
common for tenors to transpose the aria down by half a tone in a live
performance. It’s akin to an acrobat using a safety net and not
risking breaking his neck if he falls.

Arias at a slower tempo are more difficult to sing because of the
longer phrases and consequent breath control needed to sustain them.
The length of the high notes, however, is optional and they can be
held for whatever length the singer feels comfortable or capable of
sustaining. All this, naturally, as well as tempi, rubato etc, is (or
should be) discussed between singer and conductor during rehearsals.
Message has been deleted

Lou

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Nov 21, 2008, 10:24:03 PM11/21/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Thanks a lot, Armando, for your reply, which I find very enlightening,
as usual. I'm quite surprised that Bjorling, of all people, probably
needed to transpose the aria down because of the high C. So he was
human, after all. :-)
Message has been deleted

Derek McGovern

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Jul 31, 2011, 2:17:03 AM7/31/11
to mario...@googlegroups.com
I've just been re-reading Clyde T. McCants's candid and very well-researched America Opera Singers and Their Recordings (2004) -- note the title, by the way!! -- and was struck again by how well he sums up Lanza's recording of Niun Mi Tema:

"[The voice] is somewhat darker than earlier in his career, but still appealing in color with good spin and strong, steady high tones. . . . The voice is beautiful and the interpretation is sustained, moving and completely without extraneous emotional outbursts." (p.132)

For those who haven't encountered the incisive Mr. McCants, he also writes (and I'd love to see these comments emblazoned across SonyBMG's Head Office):  

"One wonders . . . how much of the negative critical response to Lanza is based on the failure of the RCA company over the years to promote him as a serious artist and their hard commercial push for his recordings in the 
'popular' mart." 

And: 

"Even if the artistry fails from time to time, the voice is clearly the real thing, and perhaps it is time for a serious re-evaluation of his operatic recordings. There is more of value there than his detractors have yet heard -- or been willing to hear."
 

But getting back to Niun Mi Tema, I'm more convinced than ever that it ranks alongside Lanza's best operatic recordings. Whether one prefers this reproduction of his rendition, with the voice breathtakingly captured at the expense of the orchestra -- "Lanza unplugged," one friend jokingly described it -- or pushed further back and slightly sandy-sounding, as in this stereo mix, for my money, it's one of his most affecting and intelligent pieces of singing. 

Cheers
Derek      

Derek McGovern

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Jul 31, 2011, 2:20:23 AM7/31/11
to mario...@googlegroups.com
Whoops! Make that American Opera Singers and Their Recordings. It's so humid here today that my keyboard characters are sticking!
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