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
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:
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
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,
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?
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...
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
> 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:
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
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...
On Oct 21, 12:50 am, "Derek McGovern" <derek.mcgov...@gmail.com>
> > > I'll give you my thoughts a little later...- Hide quoted text -
> - Show quoted text -
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.
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
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
On Oct 21, 2:50 pm, Vince Di Placido <vincent.diplac...@gmail.com>
> > - Show quoted text -- Hide quoted text -
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.
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, 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
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..
Cheers to all,
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.
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.
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
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