Lanza attacked in new book on Tanglewood

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Derek McGovern

Oct 5, 2008, 5:14:34 PM10/5/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
One could be forgiven for thinking that Amadeus Press has something
against poor old Mario. First, it published Roland Bessette's bio
Mario Lanza: Tenor in Exile, and now it's just released Tanglewood: A
Group Memoir, by Peggy Daniel -- a book that seems to take its lead
from Bessette and his uncritical reporting of conductor Boris
Goldovsky's absurd attacks on Lanza's musicianship:

"Lanza reported to Tanglewood's Boris Goldovsky to prepare for
rehearsals, but after a few moments, it became crystal clear that
Lanza could neither read a line of music nor had he any solfège
instructions. His ear was totally untrained. His voice, nevertheless,
was phenomenal and later, in Hollywood, his promoters were able to
splice together bits of arias to make him sound like a great opera

Ms. Daniel also comes up with this nonsense about Lanza booking
himself into a hotel room next to that of Koussevitzky:

"Hearing that Serge Koussevitzky was performing at the Academy of
Music in Philadelphia, Lanza found out where the Maestro was staying,
persuaded the hotel's room clerk to give him the room next to the
conductor's and once installed, gave full throat to bel canto tunes
and snatches from operatic arias. Intrigued by the sound issuing from
his neighbor's room, the conductor introduced himself and invited
Cocozza-Lanza to come to Tanglewood, mumbling 'Caruso redivivus!' to

It's interesting that Ms. Daniel makes no attempt to explain how a man
whose recordings of arias were supposedly spliced together to sound
"like a great opera star" was able to learn the role of Fenton in The
Merry Wives of Windsor in just six weeks -- and receive rave reviews
for his efforts. Grrr! This kind of thing makes my blood boil!

Here's a link to more on Daniel's so-called "astonishingly beautiful
tribute to the magic of Tanglewood":

Jan Hodges

Oct 5, 2008, 6:37:01 PM10/5/08
Hi everyone,
    I have been silent for a while due to circumstances but that post of Derek's about Peggy Daniel's book brought me back to my computer keyboard.
What utter tripe! [I could use another word but as I am a "lady" I will not -:)]
I wonder how they managed to splice together arias for his  live performances?
I can just imagine it.. half way through a performance of Madam Butterfly Mario stops and says "Excuse me folks I just have to get Costa to play the next few bars from a recording as I just can't get it right"
If the truth be known Mario  had such a good ear that solfeggio was irrelevant.
Believe it or not there are musicians that use their ears instead of their eyes.
You know Derek you ought to write a review of that book..when you have time that is
Regards  Jan



Oct 5, 2008, 7:30:22 PM10/5/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Ciao Derek: I assume that the Peggy Daniel, whose credentials on
Google come up as Sales Rep at EMI Music Marketing –Greater Nashville,
and the Peggy Daniel responsible for the Tanglewood book are one and
the same.

If so, there is nothing wrong, of course, in being a Rep for EMI in
Greater Nashville, but that does not necessarily mean that one has the
qualifications to discuss musical matters competently.

Reading Ms. Daniel utterings it’s clear that all she has done is both
repeat past absurdities, “splice together bits of arias” etc, and
invent new ones “booking a room next to Koussevitzky.”

Now, if Ms Daniel had any notion of singers or singing, she would know
that being able to read music does not guarantee one would become a
great singer.

In his autobiography the English bass, David Franklin, tells the
following anecdote,

“Many years ago a very great Italian baritone came to Glyndebourne to
sing Figaro. When he began rehearsals, he was surprised and worried
because the running order there included a page of recitative which
had always been cut in his performances in Italy. He was a fine singer
and a brilliant actor, but notes on paper meant absolutely nothing to
him. It was a week before he had memorised the missing page, and
before every performance of Figaro, to reassure himself, he went with
a pianist to a rehearsal room, just before he went on, and ran through
the page two or three times to make sure he still had it right. He was
a superb Falstaff- and every note of that great part he had learned by
ear……In the way he handled the music, in the grace and subtlety which
he brought to the shaping of a phrase, he was the most musical of
singers. But he was not, academically, a musician.”

There are countless testimonies of Lanza’s musicality but it will
suffice to quote the great conductor Peter Herman Adler who said about
Lanza, “I think this boy has the greatest inherent, instinctive
musicality I have ever seen.”

As for the splicing together of bits and pieces of arias, Ms Daniel
has obviously not bothered to listen to the three Hollywood Bowl
concerts, or the one in Toronto, for example, or she wouldn’t be
repeating such utter nonsense.

Derek McGovern

Oct 6, 2008, 5:28:55 AM10/6/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
Excellent points made by Jan and Armando.

I've just been having a look through Ms. Daniel's book at
(there's a "search inside" function available there), and I see that
all of the comments about Mario are reproduced from a firsthand
account by Goldovsky himself. Presumably, Daniel interviewed him for
the book -- after all, he only died seven years ago -- unless, that
is, she's simply taken the material straight from his 1979 memoir My
Road to Opera (which I've never read).

But whatever the source, Goldovsky's comments are vindictive in the
extreme about Lanza as a person, eg, "Most of the teachers and
students of the opera department developed a hearty dislike for this
fat, uncouth individual, who behaved like a vulgar lecher...", and
equally nasty about Lanza the singer, describing him as "a bogus star,
which glittered for some years like a supernova before going out
forever". He also states:

"Today his name is not even recorded in most operatic textbooks or
encyclopedias, and this is as it should be, for someone who cannot
perform a role on stage [???!!!] has no right to be considered an
opera singer."

Years later, when Lanza returned to Tanglewood (presumably the same
occasion when he visited his friend and fellow tenor David Poleri
there), Goldovsky insists that he refused to meet him, saying that "he
was not the sort of singer or person I even want to shake hands with."


If only Ms. Daniel had widened her sources to include such people as
Herbert Grossman, who found Lanza a delight to work with just six
years later, or mezzo-soprano Rosalind Elias -- who was apparently one
of Goldovsky's proteges -- she would have discovered a very different
man and artist. In fact, far from encountering negative comments about
Lanza at Tanglewood when she went there later in the 1940s, Elias
recalled on the 1982 American Caruso documentary that everyone "raved"
about his voice and that, "We were all kind of in awe of him."

Here's the link to Daniel's book at Amazon:

And Jan: don't worry; I'll do more than write a review of the book --
I'll try to track down Ms. Daniel herself!

Derek McGovern

Oct 6, 2008, 5:48:17 AM10/6/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
PS: I forgot to mention above that Goldovsky grudgingly acknowledges
that Mario "scored a great hit with the [Tanglewood] audience when he
sang the serenade in the second act", but, of course, only after he
and his cohorts had "somehow managed to pound the words and music into
Lanza's head".


Oct 6, 2008, 7:08:30 AM10/6/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
I have Goldovsky’s book My Road to Opera, Derek. Daniel is quoting
directly from it just as Bessette did.


Oct 6, 2008, 11:29:48 AM10/6/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
It seems that Daniel's book is presented as a collection of first-
person accounts from "Tanglewood luminaries." Thus, even if she didn't
agree with everything her sources said, she probably didn't see any
justification to inject, by way of editorializing, contrary opinions
or accounts from non-"Tanglewood luminaries."
> > Lanza's head".- Hide quoted text -
> - Show quoted text -


Oct 6, 2008, 10:45:43 PM10/6/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum
On what planet does this Ms Daniels reside? Has she never heard Mario
sing herself? Obviously, she blindly accepted the small-minded
opinions of a grouchy old man. Perhaps Mario made the mistake of not
following Goldovsky's regimented instructions to the letter and,
therefore,was written off as a musical nonentity until the end of
time! Sounds like sour grapes to me. Surely he had to admire Mario's
singing of Fenton, and, after reading the good reviews, felt he could
not back down publicly. Mario was highly creative even from the
beginning, and creative people simply cannot be boxed in, but know how
to get from "A" to "Z" innately.

Her treatment of Mario is not only sad, but absurd. I have no idea how
old she is, but she must have some inkling of Mario's immense
popularity during his career. I agree with Armando that she cannot
have listened to any of Mario's live concerts and still assert that
his music was pieced together. Nor can she have read any of his
critics writings on those concerts. Claudia Cassidy is one of my
favorites and I believe she was a tough reviewer in her day. This,
from Armando's book: "Lanza sings for the indisputable reason that he
was born to sing. He has a superbly natural tenor which he uses by
instinct, and though a multitude of fine points evade him, he
possesses the things almost impossible to learn. He knows the accent
that makes a lyric line reach its audience, and he knows why opera is
music drama." (1947)

Another of my favorite reviews came from Dr. Kurt Klukist, of the Kiel
Concert in 1958. "(Lanza) can really sing. The material belonging to
this wonderfully melodious tenor is a natural gift....It is difficult
to know what to admire most. The faultless breathing technique, the
elastic precision of his wording, the light 'piano'. The constantly
disciplined 'forte'. The well-synchronized join between
registers.....etc.." (Again, from Armando's book.)

So you see, these people recognized the gift from within that Mario
possessed. They both state that quite clearly.

Derek, I hope you give this book a thorough review, telling the author
she's full of hot air and should think for herself....!!

Have I blown off enough steam for tonight???



Oct 8, 2008, 10:04:10 PM10/8/08
to The Mario Lanza Forum

All I can say is thank heaven for Armando's book. Peggy Daniel's
reference to the splicing together of pieces of arias is beyond
bizarre. This is sick! One can only hope that most readers will
recognize this sort of writing for what it is......trash!

David (still
alive and unbelievably busy these days)
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