Ah, Moon of My Delight

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Derek McGovern

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Sep 30, 2010, 9:13:15 PM9/30/10
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Here's a recording that we don't discuss very often, and yet it's
probably one of the most atypical Lanza performances: Ah, Moon of My
Delight -- sung live on the Celanese Great Moments in Music radio show
in December 1945:

http://www.4shared.com/audio/djrIn4V9/Ah_Moon_of_My_Delight.html

This piece is from Liza Lehmann's song cycle In a Persian Garden,
written in 1896.

What are your thoughts on our 24-year-old stripling's performance? I
know that it *almost* made the final cut for the CD of live and home
recordings that accompanied Armando's book (Mario Lanza: An American
Tragedy).

Ah, moon of my delight that knows no wane,
The moon of Heav'n is rising once again:
How oft hereafter rising shall she look
Through this same garden after me - in vain!

And when thyself with shining foot shall pass
Among the guests star-scatter'd on the grass,
And in thy joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made one - turn down an empty glass!

Ah, moon of my delight that knows no wane,
The moon of Heav'n is rising once again:
How oft hereafter rising shall she look
Through this same garden after me - in vain!

Shawn

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Sep 30, 2010, 10:09:55 PM9/30/10
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi all,

Thanks DM for reminding me of this recording which I like a good deal.

I think it is a very mature and enjoyable performance. He sounds a wee
bit nervous and tenuous to me (as you might expect) and a couple of
the transitions to the lovely mezza voce (or is it falsetto?) seemed a
little (uncharacteristically) rough. But the great high notes and
unsurpassed timbre are of course all there and he sings with nice
restraint and generally good legato as well. Seems to me like a
deceptively difficult piece to sing.

Incidentally the announcers flowery introduction gives me a good
chuckle every time. ;-]

Derek McGovern

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Oct 1, 2010, 2:38:12 AM10/1/10
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Shawn: Nice to hear from you!

I agree that in many respects it's an impressive piece of singing,
especially from such a young performer with so little formal training
under his belt (at this stage). And it was a live performance to boot!
The overall effect is something quite dreamy and ethereal.

The music here strikes me as difficult to sing. Tricky passages to my
ears include "hereafter rising" and "Among the guests star-scatter'd
on the grass." Then there's the very difficult transition to mezza
voce (I'm sure it's not falsetto) on the final "garden" and "in vain."
Even staying on pitch with this song would not be easy!

My only real criticism of Mario's vocal production here are the
unsupported moments -- e.g. the first "once again" and "hereafter
rising" and the first and penultimate "same [garden]" -- where he
produces some rather thin tone. But he would soon sort that problem
out when he started working with Rosati the following year.

I particularly like the middle section! Full rich tone, and very
confident delivery.

Cheers
Derek

Vince Di Placido

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Oct 1, 2010, 9:11:51 PM10/1/10
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Oh! This would be murder to sing, I remember picking up the sheet
music years ago & I have never pulled it out, I just didn't have the
nerve!!!
I think this is a fantastic performance & piece of singing from Mario,
considering his age, the live aspect & the trickiness of the material.
I was stunned when I first heard this when I was a teenager, it was
such a different Mario to what I had heard before. I am very impressed
with this performance! Mario is fully commited, such passion &
enthusiasm from the young Lanza :-)
Derek, I love how you put a song back in our focus that we might not
have listened to for a while...

Lou

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Oct 2, 2010, 2:07:49 PM10/2/10
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
When I first heard this recording (courtesy of Derek) some five years
ago, I was completely blown away. The heady combination of Omar
Khayyam’s evocative poetry, exotic melody, and Lanza’s golden tenor
fluidly navigating the tortuous vocal line with its arching runs in
unexpected places compelled my total attention. The high soft singing
(it was the first time I heard Lanza sing mezza voce) and the
mesmerizing vocal ornamentation were unlike anything I had heard
before in my limited exposure to the Lanza canon. To this day, the
novelty has not worn off for me.

Incidentally, I came across a 1916 studio rendition by Hubert
Eisdell, the operatic tenor handpicked by composer Liza Lehmann to
record the song. She also supervised the recording, so it's safe to
presume that the the song was sung as she meant it to be. To my ears,
young Lanza yields to the older, more experienced tenor only in the
seamlessness of the transition to mezza voce. I also listened to Jan
Peerce's version (I understand Lanza was subbing for him in the
Celanese radio show). Singing full-voiced all throughout, he may have
all the notes but certainly none of the poetry and delicacy that
inform Lanza's performance.


On Oct 2, 9:11 am, Vince Di Placido <vincent.diplac...@gmail.com>
wrote:
Message has been deleted

Armando

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Oct 4, 2010, 10:40:00 PM10/4/10
to Mario Lanza, Tenor


This is indeed a pretty difficult composition to sing. The fact that
the 24 year old Lanza almost succeeds in pulling it off is not only
remarkable but further proof of his immense innate musicality.

There are minor faults, but these rest primarily with the conducting
of Georges Sebastian. The tempo is on the slow side, particularly on
the second ‘Through this same garden,’ (at the start) which is marked
diminuendo and must be sung piano and in one breath. And it’s here, on
the two quavers that follow the triplet, that due to the dragging
tempo Lanza is slightly off on the word same. That he managed to sing
the phrase (at that tempo) without actually cracking is in itself
something of a miracle.

Overall, although not musically perfect, this is an impressive piece
of singing and that’s why, as Derek pointed out, it almost made it on
the CD that accompanies my book.

Lou

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Oct 4, 2010, 11:13:40 PM10/4/10
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Armando: Many thanks for pointing out the "minor faults" in Lanza's
singing. I always feel immense satisfaction when, after reading your
comments, I listen again to a recording and find that I "get" what
you are talking about. May I know what the deciding factor was in your
decision not to include this recording on the CD that accompanies your
book? Just curious.

Best,
Lou

Armando

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Oct 5, 2010, 12:19:12 AM10/5/10
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Lou:The exclusion was based entirely on the performance strictly
from a musical point of view. Again, I must emphasise that it’s the
conductor who was responsible for the final outcome given his
imprecise reading of the score. If you listen to the John McCormack
recording or even the Richard Crooks (both are on You Tube) you’ll
hear the difference, particularly in the varied tempi. The Lanza
version conducted by Sebastian hardly varies and although beautifully
ethereal is not really true to the score.

Of course, as far as vocal beauty is concerned Lanza is miles ahead of
both McCormack and Crooks, but I just felt that although it’s a
tremendous accomplishment from a relative novice, it would not stand
up to scrutiny if compared with the more experienced renditions of the
above named who also have the advantage of better conducting.

Lou

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Oct 5, 2010, 6:48:00 PM10/5/10
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Armando: Many thanks for your explanation and for directing me to
the McCormack and Crooks versions. After listening to these two, I can
appreciate your decision. I daresay that had Lanza been singing with
their advantages, i.e., better conducting, longer rehearsal time, and
recording studio instead of live broadcast conditions, not even the
legendary McCormack could have touched him.

Armando

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Oct 5, 2010, 10:02:27 PM10/5/10
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Quite right, Lou. In 1911, when he recorded Ah Moon of My Delight, Mc
Cormack had been singing professionally since 1902. In 1905 he went to
Italy where he studied with Sabatini for just under one year. He
resumed his career in 1906 singing the title role in L’Amico Fritz, in
Savona, under the name of Giovanni Fogli.

Light lyric voice, great style but stiff and unconvincing as an actor
he soon abandoned opera in favour of the concert stage.

The fact that Lanza’s recording as a 24 year-old neophyte almost
rivals Mc Cormack’s, speaks volumes for Lanza’s immense gifts, which
if properly channelled would have left not only Mc Cormack but just
about every other tenor in the shade.
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