Lanza's recordings of the Improvviso from Andrea Chenier: which is your favourite & why?

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Derek McGovern

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Oct 2, 2013, 11:39:25 PM10/2/13
to
Having just added a new page to this site (Assorted arias sung by
Lanza & their translations), I thought I'd start a new operatic thread
- this time on one of the arias most closely associated with Lanza: Un
Di' all'Azzurro Spazio, better known as the Improvviso from Andrea
Chenier.

As many of you know, Lanza was invited to sing the role of the poet
Chenier at both the San Francisco Opera & La Scala in 1950. Tragically
(in terms of the vital self-esteem boost that performing this role
would have given him), he declined both invitations. But as his
various recordings of both the Improvviso & Come un Bel Di' di Maggio
reveal, what an ideal Chenier he would have been!

Mario recorded the Improvviso on no fewer than five occasions between
1944 and 1952:

-a private recording for Maria Margelli (1944)
-a Hollywood Bowl concert rendition (1947)
-an RCA commercial recording (1950)
-a 1952 home recording
-a 1952 radio performance for his Coca-Cola Radio Show

There is also a partial, unused take for The Great Caruso that has yet
to emerge.

I think it would be very interesting to discuss which version we each
admire, and why. To help you along, you can hear the 1952 home
recording (complete with warm-up banter) here:

http://www.mariolanzatenor.com/audio-concert-performances--private-recordings.html#improvviso

And here are the words (minus the recitative, which Lanza only sings
in three of the versions above in any event) for easy reference :-) :

Un dì all'azzurro spazio
guardai profondo,
e ai prati colmi di viole
pioveva l'oro il sole
e folgorava d'oro il mondo;
parea la terra un immane tesor,
e a lei serviva di scrigno, il firmamento.
Su dalla terra a la mia fronte
veniva una carezza viva, un bacio.
Gridai, vinto d'amor:
'T'amo, tu che mi baci,
divinamente bella, o patria mia!'

E volli pien d'amore pregar.
Varcai d'una chiesa la soglia;
là un prete ne le nicchie
dei santi e de la Vergine,
accumulava doni,
e al sordo orecchio
un tremulo vegliardo
invano chiedeva pane
e invan stendea la mano!

Varcai degli abituri l'uscio.
Un uom vi calunniava bestemmiando
il suolo che l'erario a pena sazia,
e contro a Dio scagliava
e contro agli uomini
le lagrime dei figli!
In cotanta miseria
la patrizia prole che fa?

(to Maddalena)

Sol l'occhio vostro esprime
umanamente qui un guardo di pietà,
ond'io guardato ho a voi
sì come a un angelo.
E dissi: 'Ecco la bellezza della vita.'
Ma poi, a le vostre parole,
un novello dolor m'ha colto in pieno petto.
O giovinetta bella,
d'un poeta non disprezzate il detto.
Udite! Non conoscete amor.
Amor, divino dono, non lo schernir.
Del mondo anima e vita è l'amor!


I'll give you my thoughts a little later...

lamuriella

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Oct 20, 2007, 5:03:39 PM10/20/07
to Mario Lanza, tenor
Hi Derek: What a perfect aria by Mario to begin the discussions! It is
tragic that he never performed this on the operatic stage. My favorite
recording is the 1950 commercial one. Then I'd have to say next the
home rehearsal, the Hollywood Bowl and finally, the CC one.

I hear Mario's wonderful vibrato all throughout the 1950 recording.
Here are some of my favorite phrases/parts: "T'amo, tu che mi baci,
divinamente bella, o patria mia!", "e la lei serviva di scrigno, il
firmamento.", "E dissi: Ecco la bellezza della vita!", and "Non
conoscete amor, AMOR, divino dono, no lo schernir, del mondo anima e
vita 'e l'Amor!"

Of course, here is the most beautiful "O gio-vi-net-ta bel...laaa"
I've ever heard. This is worth the price of admission. Oh, what the
opera audience missed by never having heard this "live"! I'd have
fallen faint into the aisle.

The Hollywood Bowl recording has been selected for inclusion on a CD
of the fourteen best tenors arias. It is, by no means a shabby choice.
In fact all of these recordings can stand on their own merit.

Ciao for now... Muriel

On Oct 19, 5:34 pm, Derek McGovern <derek.mcgov...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Having just added a new page to this site (Assorted arias sung by
> Lanza & their translations), I thought I'd start a new operatic thread
> - this time on one of the arias most closely associated with Lanza: Un
> Di' all'Azzurro Spazio, better known as the Improvviso from Andrea
> Chenier.
>

> As most of you know, Lanza was invited to sing the role of the poet


> Chenier at both the San Francisco Opera & La Scala in 1950. Tragically
> (in terms of the vital self-esteem boost that performing this role
> would have given him), he declined both invitations. But as his
> various recordings of both the Improvviso & Come un Bel Di' di Maggio
> reveal, what an ideal Chenier he would have been!
>
> Mario recorded the Improvviso on no fewer than five occasions between
> 1944 and 1952:
>
> -a private recording for Maria Margelli (1944)
> -a Hollywood Bowl concert rendition (1947)
> -an RCA commercial recording (1950)
> -a 1952 home recording
> -a 1952 radio performance for his Coca-Cola Radio Show
>
> There is also a partial, unused take for The Great Caruso that has yet
> to emerge.
>
> I think it would be very interesting to discuss which version we each
> admire, and why. To help you along, you can hear the 1952 home

> recording (complete with warm-up banter) in our Files section, and the
> other four versions here:
>
> http://mariolanza.4shared.com/

Derek McGovern

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Oct 20, 2007, 7:50:32 PM10/20/07
to mario...@googlegroups.com
Hi Muriella: We really are spoilt for choice with this one, aren't
we?! Most of the time, I would go with your choice (the 1950 one), but
every now & then I prefer the 1952 home recording, which I find
superior vocally. The high notes are cleaner, and everything's a
little more focused, with his voice resonating perfectly throughout.
(There are a couple of places where he's sharp & also slightly
thin-toned on the commercial take.) Mario's in amazing vocal form
here. The only thing that's missing is the light and shade that he
uses on the commercial take.

But to me, the commercial take definitely has the best ending (even
though Mario's wobbling a little on the last note - probably from the
sheer emotion of it all), and I heartily agree that his handling of "O
giovinetta bella" (& onwards!) is exquisite. Miraculous, even! I
wonder why he never thought to sing "bella" with such unexpected (but
appropriate) tenderness on any of his other versions? (On the Coke
take, he actually makes quite an ugly sound on the word.)

Interpretatively, it's hard to choose between the 1952 home recording
and the commercial take. As far as I'm concerned, Mario *is* Chenier
here.

The Coke Show version has its moments too, but I find it a little
hammy at times, particularly in the middle section - the denunciation
- where Mario overdoes the histrionics in "bestemmiando", etc. But
this was the first Lanza Improvviso I ever heard, and as such I've
always had a soft spot for it. Although he definitely is too rough in
places (as well as doing a very odd thing on "m'ha colto in pieno
petto" - where he sounds almost as if he's speaking in a regional
Northern English accent; Vince may know what I mean!), he's in very
good voice here. In fact, I prefer his "t'amo, tu che mi baci" here to
that of the commercial take! He's like a laser on "t'amo". Definitely
one of the better Coke operatic offerings (though not quite in the
class of, say, Testa Adorata).

I'd love to discuss the other two, but now I have to head off to my
office to work on my thesis :-( But before I go, I'll leave you with
something that's always puzzled me: why does Mario sing "t'amo" (I
love you) instead of "Amor" (Love) at the climactic moment on both the
Hollywood Bowl version & the 1952 home recording? Now I realise that
"T'amo" is easier to sing because of the consonant, and that possibly
he was concerned about muffing the note in an important public concert
like the Hollywood Bowl one, but why do it at home as well? It makes
me wonder whether it was actually a memory lapse on Mario's part, not
a deliberate choice. Food for thought...

Vince Di Placido

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Oct 20, 2007, 9:50:07 PM10/20/07
to Mario Lanza, tenor
This is a great topic. The Improvviso! Mario introduced this beautiful
piece to me through his 1947 Hollywood Bowl performance when I was in
my early teens, (for some reason the commercial take wasn't in our
record collection, kinda strange we seemed to have everything else.) &
I have been in love with it & the opera Andrea Chenier ever since! In
fact I think this aria & che gelida manina are the two arias I have
searched out with other tenors more than all the others, actually it
became a slight obsession in my teenage years. I will post about this
again, it's almost 3am here in the Emerald Isle & I'm a little dopey.
Derek, as is often the case I agree with your points, as much as I
love the RCA Improvviso Mario has a couple of dodgy moments but
overall it is very impressive & one of Mario's great moments in the
recording studio.
By the way I just have to point out how much I love the line "Su dalla

terra a la mia fronte
veniva una carezza viva" what a beautiful melody line, this really
grabbed me right from the first time I heard this piece & as was
pointed out before Mario's delivery of it's 2nd appearance in the aria
as "O giovinetta bella, d'un poeta non disprezzate il detto." is
especially bewitching.
Derek, I understand your soft spot for the first version you heard, in
your case the Coke version, because I really love my first contact
with Andrea Chenier through the Hollywood Bowl performance & I go back
to it often. I find Mario's performance at only 26 years of age &
under the pressure of a career changing appearance very impressive &
he produces a compelling & dramatic rendition.
Before I fall asleep, I'd love to know why Mario never recorded Si,
fui soldato, he would have excelled in this passionate outpouring.
It's puzzling considering his obvious love of Andrea Chenier.

On Oct 21, 12:50 am, "Derek McGovern" <derek.mcgov...@gmail.com>
wrote:

> > > I'll give you my thoughts a little later...- Hide quoted text -
>
> - Show quoted text -

Armando

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Oct 20, 2007, 9:57:08 PM10/20/07
to Mario Lanza, tenor
For me it's toss up between the 1952 home recording and the 1947 live.
Vocally and musically both are outstanding with the 1952 more intense
in it's dramatic impact. This would have been the perfect voice for
Chenier. Although less dramatic the 47 is beautifully sung. I prefer
the commercial version to the coke simply because it's better sung
both musically and technique wise.

Derek, I believe that the substitution of amor with t'amo was a
combination of habit and momentary lapse. Anyone who can attack a B
natural the way Lanza does in the Arlesiana aria wouldn't have the
slightest problem doing the same on the B flat on the word amor.

Derek McGovern

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Oct 20, 2007, 11:50:07 PM10/20/07
to mario...@googlegroups.com
That's a very good point, Armando - especially since Lanza was even vocally secure enough to make the Arlesiana aria (Lamento di Federico) - complete with interpolated high B - his *opening* number in so many of his concerts. No easy warm-up pieces for him!

Derek McGovern

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Oct 21, 2007, 2:17:27 PM10/21/07
to Mario Lanza, tenor
Hi Vince: I'm a great fan of Andrea Chenier as well, and like you I
wish that Lanza had recorded more than just two arias from the opera.
Yes, Si Fui Soldato would have been wonderful! And then the two duets
with Maddalena...and that solo moment in Act II...:-)

The *only* problem - if you can call it that - with this opera from
the point of view of the tenor is that Chenier isn't actually the most
interesting role. Chenier's *music* is wonderful, but (as Domingo
points out in his 1983 autobiography) his character remains with his
noble head in the clouds thoroughout the opera. The baritone role is
more interesting, as Gerard gets to change (and grow). And Nemico
della Patria: what a great aria! (Maddalena's aria isn't half bad
either :-))

But Lanza would have been stunning as Chenier - both dramatically &
vocally - and you can understand on the strength of his 1950
Improvviso & Come un Bel Di' di Maggio why both Merola and De Sabata
were so keen to secure him for the role. I also think he would have
made the poet more interesting as a character than he's usually
depicted!


On Oct 21, 2:50 pm, Vince Di Placido <vincent.diplac...@gmail.com>
wrote:

> > - Show quoted text -- Hide quoted text -

Derek McGovern

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Jan 19, 2008, 4:13:16 PM1/19/08
to mario...@googlegroups.com
Armando and I blasted a number of tenors' versions of the Improvviso
through his amazing stereo system last night. These included
renditions by Di Stefano, Pavarotti, Carreras, and Corelli, then
finally Lanza's 1950 and 1947 versions. There's no doubt about it:
Lanza's 1950 rendition wins the prize here - at least amongst *this*
vocal competition - for the most complete and convincing rendition of
the aria. While you could argue that his vocal placement is better on
the live 1947 version (especially noticeable on the tricky
"firmamento"), he's more involved on the studio recording. He *is*
Chenier here. The poetic expression he puts into into his phrasing,
the excitement of "non conoscete amor/Amor!" with its glorious B-flat
(and his approach to the note), the drama, the constant use of light
and shade...I could go on and on.

After Lanza's version, I liked Carreras's 1979 studio recording the
most, followed by Di Stefano's 1958 studio rendition. Giuseppe's voice
is a bit dry here, as you'd expect from this stage of his career, but
he was good vocally where it counted and very good indeed in his
interpretation. I found Corelli's version monotonous and tiring (he
just blasts his way through the thing with no variation whatsoever),
and Pavarotti, while possessing the more beautiful voice, was pretty
dull in his approach.

Vince Di Placido

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Jan 20, 2008, 3:34:34 PM1/20/08
to Mario Lanza, tenor
I think Di Stefano's 1958 recording is just beautiful,& Giuseppe's
wonderful vowels. I love the acoustics & the orchestra playing, this
is the recording I usually go to after Mario. I will have to try find
Carreras' 1979 performance, Derek, I know your standards are high so
it must be worth our attention.
What do you all think of Gigli's performance of Chenier? (I always
think of his ridiculously long held high notes in the Improvviso.)
I know Gigli loved the opera & is definitely committed & passionate in
the recordings I have heard (maybe too much so!?) I always got the
feeling that Mario listened to Gigli quite a bit, now I know we know
about their common bond with Enrico Rosati & also Mario's use of
Gigli's Madama Butterfly recording in preparation for his New Orleans
performances, but I always thought it went further than this & Mario
got quite a bit from Gigli's recordings, have any of the rest of you
heard this or am I completely off the mark!?

Derek McGovern

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Jan 20, 2008, 5:02:53 PM1/20/08
to Mario Lanza, tenor
Hi Vince: I haven't listened to Gigli's Improvviso for years, and I
think it was from the complete (1942?) recording. But I'll ask Armando
to dig it out for me while I'm here & will let you know my thoughts on
it.

I actually feel that Mario was more influenced by Pertile than Gigli.
I was struck by this when we were listening to his O Paradiso the
other day. In general, I find Pertile more modern in his approach than
Gigli - and you certainly don't get all the sobs & aspiration that
Gigli loves to do!



On Jan 21, 7:34 am, Vince Di Placido <vincent.diplac...@gmail.com>
wrote:
> > dull in his approach.- Hide quoted text -

Vince Di Placido

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Jan 20, 2008, 5:33:29 PM1/20/08
to Mario Lanza, tenor
Hi, Derek! Granted, Mario doesn't sob like Gigli, who was the sob
master, but there are moments when I have listened to Gigli & thought
they had touches in common.
> > - Show quoted text -- Hide quoted text -

Vince Di Placido

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Jan 20, 2008, 6:05:59 PM1/20/08
to Mario Lanza, tenor
Oh! & Yes there are touches of Pertile (I think Corelli got a lot from
Pertile.)
I want to stress here that I think that Mario was a true original & I
am only talking of that habit we all have when we hear or see
something we like/touches us, we then incorporate that somehow into
our work or life. I must go back & listen to some Gigli, I am talking
from memory & maybe when I do go back now to gigli, I'll hear it
differently.
> > - Show quoted text -- Hide quoted text -

Derek McGovern

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Jan 23, 2008, 6:42:48 AM1/23/08
to Mario Lanza, tenor
Hi Vince: Since my last post a few days back, I've listened to quite a
number of other renditions of the Improvviso with Armando and Carmel.
Last night, for instance, we played two of Gigli's recordings, two of
Del Monaco, and single renditions by Domingo, Martinelli, and Lauri-
Volpi.

Here are a few thoughts on the above:

GIGLI: We played both his 1922 acoustic recording and his 1941
rendition from the complete recording. Talk about sobbing! It was too
much to bear on the much-celebrated 1941 version: I think we counted
five sobs in the first two lines alone! He tones this aspect down a
bit for the superior 1922 take, and this version also features a
better (smoother) line, but it was by no means a perfect rendition
either vocally or stylistically. I don't feel that Lanza incorporated
anything of Gigli's approach in his various renditions. Incidentally,
Gigli was one of the few tenors we listened to who took a breath
between "non conoscete amor/Amor, divino dono"); he did this on both
his renditions.

DEL MONACO: Of the two versions, we all preferred his earlier 1949
take. Not that there was anything outstanding about it: frankly, the
man rants his way through the aria! He doesn't know how to phrase, his
passaggio notes are poor (eg, on "firmamento"), and the overall impact
of both his renditions is one of extreme monotony. His top notes (ie,
the two B-flats: "T'amo" on "T'Amo, tu che mi baci" and "Amor") are
good, but there's more to singing than just an easy top. In terms of
style and phrasing, Lanza is Fischer-Dieskau next to this guy.

DOMINGO was pretty good vocally, and even better interpretively. (I
think this version - a studio rendition - was from 1973.) Maybe it
helped that we played him straight after Del Monaco, but this is still
a much more committed and sensitive performer than Signor Del M. I
liked Domingo's rendition the most after that of Carreras (1979) and
Di Stefano (1958).

MARTINELLI's rendition made me appreciate even more Lanza's wickedly
accurate impersonation of him. The voice is a good one, but he spoils
his rendition by being far too hammy and heavy-handed.

LAURI-VOLPI: Simply the wrong voice (much too light) for this aria. He
lacks fire and strength when it's needed.

So there you have it! Lanza's 1950 rendition may contain one or two
vocal flaws - particularly up until "firmamento" - and both his 1947
and 1952 home rehearsal feature stronger endings, but it still remains
the best rendition I've yet heard of this incredibly taxing aria. I've
tried to be as open-minded as possible when listening to the other
recordings, but I honestly feel that this magnificent rendition - from
a mere 29-year-old who'd never sung the role of Chenier on stage -
makes a mockery of Derek Mannering's assertion that none of Lanza's
operatic recordings are in the so-called front rank. Here, Mario
combines beauty of voice with poetry, power, phrasing, and
interpretive genius. The critic Delcie Howard was right when she
hailed this recording in 1967 as "a well-nigh model account" of the
aria. It's the definitive version of the Improvviso in my book.


On Jan 21, 12:05 pm, Vince Di Placido <vincent.diplac...@gmail.com>
wrote:

Derek McGovern

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Apr 17, 2008, 2:44:13 AM4/17/08
to Mario Lanza, tenor
Earlier in this thread, Vince mentioned how much he'd like to hear
José Carreras' 1979 studio version of the Improvviso from Andrea
Chénier. I've now found a link for this recording:

http://www.4shared.com/file/44380312/62487fc7/Un_di_allazzuro_spazio.html

Let me know what you think of this rendition, Vince (and anyone else
who's interested)! As I wrote earlier in this thread, this is the
next-best performance I've heard overall of the Improvviso after
Lanza's magnificent 1950 version.

Derek McGovern

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Apr 17, 2008, 6:24:06 PM4/17/08
to Mario Lanza, tenor
The following post is from Gary, and was sent to my private e-mail
address by mistake. (Gary: I think you clicked on "reply to author"
instead of simply "reply"; not to worry, though!)

From GARY:

Derek, I think you chose a terrific topic here.

Actually I was going to post on this aria myself, since your mention
of this when you welcomed me a few days ago.

This aria has become one of my top favourites of any of the operatic
masterpieces.

I believe my first time hearing it was with Corelli or del Monaco. It
was through yourself that I first heard Mario sing the home
rendition...and this was several years ago..well sir this rendition
just tore at my heart. Hearing Mario and Callinicos having fun,and
Mario's joking..his infectious laughter..it just inspired me and still
does every time I play it..

Mario's voice was strong and fearless, and clear as he sang his heart
out. He would certainly have made a wonderful Chenier.

So imo, Mario sings this aria the best.. I have Di Stefano which I
love as well..DiStefano has and likely will always be my favourite
tenor after Mario. I enjoy Del Monaco as well, Corelli, and
Carreras..I would likely place Corelli in my 3rd choice, then
Carreras, and I also admire
Richard Tucker singing this great aria.

I am a fan of Del Monaco as I love his strength in his singing..in
particular with this aria. I am not a long time opera fan, and fairly
new to many of the great tenors and arias but imo. this aria is a
standout, and one where it is fascinating to listen to all the great
voices and then pick a favourite.

Here is a youtube clip from 1957 with Tucker..terrific..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOJg2I_25Jk

Cheers to all,
Gary

From DEREK:

Hi Gary. I wholeheartedly agree that Lanza's 1952 home rendition of
the Improvviso is a magnificent piece of singing. While vocally, the
home recording is superior to the 1950 studio version, in my opinion
(the voice is fuller & pure spinto; it's also better supported & more
even throughout), I just love Lanza's phrasing & incredible attention
to detail on the 1950 take. From "Ecco la bellezza della vita" to the
end, he's simply incomparable here.

I'm at work now (it's Friday morning here in NZ), but will check
Tucker's rendition when I return home.

Cheers
Derek

Vince Di Placido

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Apr 17, 2008, 6:54:50 PM4/17/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Hi, Derek! Thank you so much for the Carreras Improvviso, it was
fantastic, definitely up there with Mario's performance. José had a
wonderful voice in his prime. The interpretation was excellent.

On Apr 17, 7:44 am, "Derek McGovern" <derek.mcgov...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Earlier in this thread, Vince mentioned how much he'd like to hear
> José Carreras' 1979 studio version of the Improvviso from Andrea
> Chénier. I've now found a link for this recording:
>
> http://www.4shared.com/file/44380312/62487fc7/Un_di_allazzuro_spazio....

gary from N.S.

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Apr 17, 2008, 7:41:28 PM4/17/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Derek.. thanks for re-routing my post..I am a "slow" study at
times :):)
> On 4/17/08, Derek McGovern <derek.mcgov...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > Earlier in this thread, Vince mentioned how much he'd like to hear
> > José Carreras' 1979 studio version of the Improvviso from Andrea
> > Chénier. I've now found a link for this recording:
>
> >http://www.4shared.com/file/44380312/62487fc7/Un_di_allazzuro_spazio....
Message has been deleted

Derek McGovern

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Apr 17, 2008, 11:39:42 PM4/17/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
No problem, Gary!

Hi Vince: Glad you enjoyed Carreras' rendition. I'll say this, though:
as wonderful as he sounds here, when I played Lanza's Hollywood Bowl
version straight after José's recording in my car this morning, I was
immediately struck by how much more secure and appropriately *spinto*
the 26-year-old Mario's voice was for this role. Although I prefer
Carreras' interpretation to that of Lanza on his Hollywood Bowl
version (though Mario's Bowl performance is certainly nothing to be
sneezed at!), José is so obviously pushing his beautiful lyric voice
to its limit here that it makes me a little uncomfortable at times.
(You can already hear the first hints of vocal wear & tear in places.)
Oh, how I wish he'd waited another ten years before tackling such a
demanding spinto role!

Having said that, Carreras is great as Chenier six years later in his
videotaped 1985 La Scala performance, as I think I've mentioned
before. Yes, the B-flats in the Improvviso are a struggle, but his
middle register is ravishing, he looks and convincingly acts the part
of the poet, and his "denunciation" scene in Act III is thrilling. He
also does an excellent job of the fiendishly difficult Come un Bel Di'
di Maggio -- the best rendition I've heard, in fact.

Armando

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Apr 18, 2008, 2:33:34 AM4/18/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Ciao Derek: Carreras performance of the Improvviso is certainly
impassioned and beautifully phrased, very much a la Di Stefano. But,
like Pippo, the voice just isn’t right for the part. He is simply
pushing it to the limit, is already too open on the words poema and
amor at the start, and there’s just not enough ring in it.

Tucker, on the other hand, has sufficient heft and ring but there’s a
guttural quality about his voice that I’ve never liked and his
performance is way over the top.

Derek McGovern

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Apr 18, 2008, 3:47:02 AM4/18/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Hi Gary & Armando: I've just listened to Tucker's rendition of the
Improvviso, and here a few thoughts:

Armando: I agree that Tucker's over the top here -- especially in the
declamatory middle section & a little later on the very choppily
delivered "Ecco la bellezza della vita!", on which he sounds almost as
though he's having an attack of the hiccups! But it's good to hear a
true spinto tenor singing this -- with plenty of ring in his voice, as
you pointed out.

What I would like to have heard on this rendition is more light and
shade -- in short, more poetry. (Tucker's Chénier sounds more like a
Verdian warrior than a poet to my ears.) One of the wonderful things
about Lanza's 1950 version is the contrast between the anger and
tenderness that we hear ("O giovinetta bella..."). With Tucker, I
found his opening phrases quite beautiful, but then he quickly became
fairly unrelenting in the volume department. There's no doubt, though,
that this is an exciting performance, and one could never accuse
Tucker of not giving his all. I also prefer him to Del Monaco!

Thanks for the link, Gary. It'll be interesting to know what others
think of this rendition.

Cheers
Derek

gary from N.S.

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Apr 20, 2008, 3:49:16 PM4/20/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Hi Derek,
I thank you for giving a listen to the Tucker version, and your points
as well as Armando's are valid indeed.
I believe Tucker always gave his all (as you said, Derek),and he was
certainly a "yeoman" like performer for all his time spent at the Met.
Cheers
Gary

Derek McGovern

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Apr 20, 2008, 5:25:03 PM4/20/08
to mario...@googlegroups.com
Hi Gary: I think "yeoman-like" is a good description of Tucker. While
I do find a lot of his operatic singing quite hammy -- and his timbre,
to my ears, isn't particularly beautiful -- he was always a gutsy
performer. Actually, it'd be interesting to know what Lanza thought of
Tucker's singing as Cavaradossi in Tosca at Covent Garden in 1958.

Two Tucker recordings that I do happen to like are of songs: I Have
Been In Love Before (the Lehár number otherwise known as Girls Were
Made to Love & Kiss) and the rousing I'm in Love With Vienna. He
recorded these for an album around 1958.

Lou

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Apr 27, 2008, 2:37:08 AM4/27/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum

Hi Derek: Sorry for weighing in late, but the link Gary had provided
was removed “due to violation of terms of use” before I could listen
to it. Fortunately I was able to find another link after a few days.

This is the first time I've listened to a Tucker recording. I mean no
disrespect to the tenor and his myriad admirers (Lanza included
apparently and, of course, Gary), but I can’t say his Improvviso is
exactly a great introduction to the man’s voice and artistry. (The
fact that your assessment and Armando’s seem for the most part to jibe
with mine has given me the confidence to put in my two cents worth.)
To be sure, Tucker’s powerful, ringing high notes are thrilling, but
listening to a long aria sung forte with hardly any letup can get a
bit tiresome. Like you and Armando, I find Tucker’s delivery over the
top, but since this was from a live performance (unlike the Lanza and
Carreras versions), I suppose he got carried away by the excitement of
his adoring audience. To my ears, his startling “Ecco la bellezza
della vita!” sounds as if he is singing atop a bucking horse. And in
“Udite!” onwards, he is practically hectoring the daughter of the
house, hardly what I would expect from an elegant, sensitive poet.
Lanza’s and Carreras’ gentle reproach intensifying to passionate
indignation is more to my taste. I’m sure there’s more to the iconic
American tenor’s singing than can be gleaned from this recording, but
for now, I think I’ll pass.

As for Carreras’ 1979 rendition, I agree with your observation in a
private email that compared to Lanza’s 1950 version (my top favorite),
there’s not quite enough light and shade in it. Is this perhaps
because he is too busy concentrating on infusing a dramatic intensity
into his essentially lyric voice, which conventional wisdom says isn’t
right for Chenier? If so, is such intensity really called for, i.e.,
is Chenier necessarily a spinto role? If we are to believe an excerpt
from Martinelli’s biography, the composer, Giordano, himself was
flexible in this regard. Recalling that in 1922 the performance of
Andrea Chenier at the Met was split between himself and his close
friend, Gigli, Martinelli, a spinto, is quoted as saying: “I first
heard Gigli and I left the theatre thoroughly downcast. 'Martinelli',
I said to myself, 'How will you ever get the nerve to stand on that
stage and sing Andrea Chenier after that glorious flood of sound
you've just heard from Gigli.?' I voiced these doubts to Giordano who
put his arms around my shoulder and said, 'Look , Giovanni, Gigli's
voice is the most beautiful lyric tenor in the world today. If you
tried to sing the same way, I'd say no. But you are gifted with a far
more heroic voice. Chenier can be a dreamy poet, but he can also be a
heroic figure. Make him that, and you will succeed.” I suspect that
Giordano would have approved of Carreras’using his beautiful unforced
lyric tenor for a “dreamy poet” interpretation of Chenier, and so the
latter need not have strived so hard to overlay his voice with a
spinto quality.

Derek McGovern

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Apr 27, 2008, 3:33:48 PM4/27/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Very interesting, Lou!

In his autobiography, Gigli actually makes the comment that of all the
60 roles in his repertory, Chénier was the one he loved singing the
most. But unlike purely lyric tenors such as Di Stefano, Gigli had
spinto qualities in his voice. He had a sufficient amount of vocal
heft that would have allowed him to sing the role much more
successfully than, say, someone like Pavarotti, who probably would
have been drowned out during the more heavily orchestrated moments,
such as the Act IV duet. How well Gigli sang it on stage, though, I
don't really know. Yes, Chénier is a poet, and he has some
appropriately lyrical moments (especially at the beginning of his Act
IV aria), but his music is often quite dramatic, requiring genuine
squillo in the voice (which I don't feel Gigli had in abundance), as
well as vocal strength, to make the maximum impact. So basically, the
role requires a singer who can alternate between the dramatic and the
poetic with ease; in other words, a Lanza!
> > Derek- Hide quoted text -

Derek McGovern

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Apr 27, 2008, 3:44:23 PM4/27/08
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PS Lou: Tucker certainly admired Lanza's voice, but I'm not so sure
that it was the other way round! Bjoerling and Di Stefano, in
particular, were the contemporaries that he responded to. It's more
likely that Lanza admired Tucker for having made a successful career
for himself on the operatic stage.

gary from N.S.

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Oct 3, 2013, 4:16:46 AM10/3/13
to
Hello Lou 

Thanks for your comments on Tucker..I enjoy most  of Tucker's work,and
I guess its all subjective isn't it. 

As I said to Derek I find Tucker a "yeoman" in his trade,and he gave
many years to his craft. 

I am not saying he is in my top 10 list, but he was a credit to the
world of tenors imo. 

I love the Improvviso aria.and I get excited when I come across
another rendition..as was the case with Tucker. 

Lanza, Corelli, Carreras, Pippo, and Gigli are but a few of my top faves.
with this piece. 

Cheers
Gary

Lou

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Apr 29, 2008, 5:23:50 AM4/29/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
I agree, Gary, it's all subjective. I'm sure I have favorite singers
and renditions that will leave you cold. As they say, horses for
courses. I also share your opinion that Tucker was a credit to the
world of opera tenors. He wasn't labelled the American Caruso (before
Lanza) for nothing,

Best,
Lou

On Apr 28, 10:50 pm, "gary from N.S." <gmaid...@ns.sympatico.ca>
wrote:
> Hello Lou
> Thanks for your comments on Tucker..I enjoy most  of Tucker's work,and
> I guess its all subjective isn't it.
> As I said to Derek I find Tucker a "yeoman" in his trade,and he gave
> many years to his craft.
> I am not saying he is in my top 10 list, but he was a credit to the
> world of tenors imo.
> I love the Improvviso aria.and I get excited when I come across
> another rendition..as was the case with Tucker.
> Labza,Corelli,Carreras,Pippo, and Gigli are but a few of my top faves.
> with this piece.
> Cheers
> Gary
>
> > > Derek- Hide quoted text -

Lou

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Apr 29, 2008, 11:59:52 AM4/29/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
My mistake, Derek. I assumed that Lanza admired Tucker's singing
simply because he took pains to meet the man when the latter made his
debut at Covent Garden as Cavaradossi in Tosca. However, a closer
reading of the relevant passage in Armando's book makes it clear that
Lanza admired Tucker primarily for having made a successful operatic
career for himself, as you pointed out. I can imagine Mario engaging
in a bit of wistful what-might-have-been thinking while visiting with
the Met's most successful American tenor.

Derek McGovern

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Apr 29, 2008, 6:57:50 PM4/29/08
to mario...@googlegroups.com
No need to apologize, Lou. But what wouldn't I give to have been a fly
on the wall when the Lanzas and the Tuckers got together at Mario's
Dorchester suite that evening in 1958!

I've always wondered if Tucker actually heard Lanza sing in person. (I
presume he wasn't at Mario's Albert Hall two days later because he was
still performing in Tosca.) Given that he was a great Lanza admirer,
it's hard to imagine that he wouldn't have asked Mario to sing
*something* that evening.

Whatever Lanza actually thought of Tucker's performance as
Cavaradossi, I assume he would have preferred him to Del Monaco, whom,
of course, he couldn't stand! But again, it would be interesting to
know if he ever heard Del Monaco in person. After all, we know that
Lanza did attend performances of opera in Italy; in fact, he was at
Caracalla to see a production of Aida just three weeks before his
death.

I also wonder if Mario heard Corelli in person. Thanks to Armando's
interview with Lanza's agent Sam Steinman, we know that he at least
preferred him to Del Monaco, though I suppose that's hardly
surprising!

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Derek McGovern

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Oct 2, 2013, 11:47:13 PM10/2/13
to mario...@googlegroups.com
And here's another great thread that is definitely worth reviving. If you haven't already done so, feel free to tell us your preferred Lanza version of the unforgettable Improvviso (Un dì all'azzurro spazio)!

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