Miscellaneous Lanza-related News/Comments

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Derek McGovern

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Mar 31, 2013, 6:21:40 AM3/31/13
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This will be our new thread for any miscellaneous Lanza-related news or comments. This will include news about other singers, actors, etc who worked with Lanza. 

Steff

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Apr 8, 2013, 9:45:41 AM4/8/13
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The Spanish News have just announced that Sarita Montiel, one of Mario's leading ladies, has passed away today, April 8, at the age of 85 years in Madrid
 
Steff

Derek McGovern

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Apr 8, 2013, 10:09:39 AM4/8/13
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Oh, I'm very sorry to hear that, Steff. Sarita Montiel has always been my favourite Lanza leading lady, and somehow I'd expected her to go on for many years yet. She was perfectly cast in Serenade, and certainly the most vibrant of all the actresses with whom Lanza worked. 
 
RIP, Sarita.  

Derek McGovern

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Apr 8, 2013, 12:51:12 PM4/8/13
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This photo of Lanza and Montiel together was new to me:


Steff

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Apr 8, 2013, 2:20:55 PM4/8/13
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For those who want to read more about Sarita Montiel, please visit the following website:
 
 
"Serenade" is featured with great pictures in the : "The Hollywood Years 1954-1957" - section:
 
 
Steff

Vincent Di Placido

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Apr 8, 2013, 2:43:27 PM4/8/13
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That Photograph of Mario & Sara is fantastic! Best "Serenade" publicity shot I've seen, so vibrant & full of life. Montiel was an incredibly beautiful woman & her performance in Serenade is full of warmth & personality, I loved watching her.

Steff

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Apr 8, 2013, 2:51:05 PM4/8/13
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Armando

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Apr 8, 2013, 6:52:11 PM4/8/13
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Sarita was both a stunning looking woman (although she aged badly) and a good actress. There was great chemistry between her and Lanza in Serenade.

R.I.P.


 

leeann

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Apr 8, 2013, 10:26:50 PM4/8/13
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Such as lovely photo of  a lovely woman!

In her recent autobiography, Rita Moreno (Toast of New Orleans) speaks of ethnic typecasting in Hollywood. It's interesting to read that Sarita Montiel  turned down a Hollywood contract in the 1950s, fearful, too, of exactly that. 

The attached is a pleasant interview with Hedda Hopper in 1956 in which she says of Lanza, "I worked five months with him; he was good and kind and he is for me a wonderful person." And there is an allusion to a secret American romance, which of course, we now know to be director Anthony Mann.  Lee Ann

 
pdf.pdf

Steff

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Apr 9, 2013, 11:33:46 AM4/9/13
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I know, this is very trivial, but I just find it amazing on which places Mario's name pops up:
 
The personalized Mario Lanza 7-pieces pitcher set
 
"It is reputed that the fabled crooner swilled a gallon of water during each performance to soothe his vocal cords and, in his honor, we name our most popular pitcher set."
 
This offer comes from an online crystal shop from Indian Trail, North Carolina.
 
Steff
 

 

leeann

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Apr 9, 2013, 5:55:31 PM4/9/13
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If you have a Google Alert set for Mario Lanza, you may have noticed an announcement a few days ago about a theater production at George Mason University. The play, Passagio, is set in 1959, in  fictional town in Italy, and features Mario Lanza--not as a character in the production, but as a metaphor  to explore some universal  themes and ideas.

George Mason is my institutional affiliation as a historian and where I am (very, very, very slowly) completing my doctoral dissertation. Even so, I'm embarrassed to say I missed the performances because I didn't know about them, and I really wish I hadn't. On the other hand, I appreciate that  the playwright, Michael Patrick Smith,  is on George Mason's faculty and kindly answered some questions about his work via email--and also took the time to visit our main site.

Smith's interests and academic work include taking a look at how theater lets us explore ways in which culture and ethnicity influence how we respond to conflict. In Passagio, Enrico Caruso and Mario Lanza are a backdrop for this exploration--vehicles for his characters. Michael Smith talked a little in the email about how he landed on Caruso and Lanza--and he had some nice things to say about the website:

I enjoyed browsing through the Mario Lanza
website.  I particularly liked listening to the private recordings, a
number of which I'd never heard before.

I chose Caruso and Lanza for my play because I'm a fan of both and
thought it would be fun to weave together a story that involved the two
of them.  An opera-loving mayor who sang for Caruso as a boy, has always
dreamed of following in his hero's footsteps, but never had the nerve to
see if he had the talent to succeed.  One day in the piazza, a man from
a local town pastes up a movie poster for "The Great Caruso."  The mayor
sees the poster and is surprised.

FRANCO:  Nobody could play Caruso!

PASQUALE:  They say this Lanza is the American Caruso.

FRANCO:  An American?  Impossible!

Apparently, someone else has dared to live out the mayor's dream. When
it's revealed that a rival town is getting a movie star for their
festival to steal away the tourists, the mayor brags that he will get
Mario Lanza to sing.  If he can't become the next Caruso himself, maybe
he can get the American Caruso to save the town.  But things don't work
out the way he planned them.

Neither Caruso nor Lanza is an actual character in the play, but the two
of them stand for the unfulfilled dreams of the mayor and, it turns out,
of most of the town people.  That's the idea, anyway.

Thank you again for the link to the website.

Best,
Michael


Smith's work seems to me a multi-layered illustration of Lanza's legacy speaking to his impact on individuals--how it is that his voice and his incredible interpretive gifts put us in touch with something very personal within ourselves, and and something bigger, beyond ourselves. 

It's interesting. too,  that a play without music seems to represent a meaning of Lanza--likely far better than a conventionally conceived biopic and definitely better  than the way-too-many sensationalist biographies have done. Lee Ann



Steff

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Apr 11, 2013, 4:59:12 PM4/11/13
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Joseph Calleja's complete tribute concert to Mario Lanza, which took place in Prague (Smetana Hall, Prague Municipal House) on 24 January 2013, can now be  watched on you-tube.
 
Prague was one of the venues of Calleja's European "Be My Love" concert tour.
 
 
 
 
Steff
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Vincent Di Placido

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Jul 25, 2013, 3:18:18 PM7/25/13
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Derek McGovern

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Jul 26, 2013, 2:04:37 AM7/26/13
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Hi Vince

I wasn't going to comment on this new Mannering compilation until after its release, but since you've brought it up, here's my take on it.

What a wasted opportunity! Mannering had the enviable task of selecting material for two CDs, and yet what does he do? On Disc 1, ten of the fifteen tracks are repeated from his Ultimate Collection (repackaged as disc 1 of The Essential Mario Lanza only a few years back, and still readily available), plus he repeats the English version of "Arrivederci Roma" from his previous compilation (??!).  Meanwhile on Disc 2, which is entirely made up of Coke selections, he repeats a good third of the material from his earlier releases, throws in the hideously arranged "Make Believe," the poorly sung "Among My Souvenirs," lesser versions of "For You Alone," '"A Vucchella" and "I Love Thee," and adds a couple of spoken introductions as if to justify the whole enterprise. In fact, barely a third of the tracks on Disc 2 could be described as excellent. And apart from the uneven and overwrought "What Is This Thing Called Love?", which I know has its admirers (yourself included!), the only real carrot that Mannering dangles here is the beautiful "My Romance."

Even assuming that Mannering was asked to follow a specific brief here---i.e. one disc of material related to Lanza's Hollywood films and another of love songs---this set could have been so much better. Disc 1, for example, could have included outstanding material that Mannering has never selected for any of his discs: the RCA "Mamma Mia, Che Vo' Sape?" (featured in two of Lanza's films), the 1955 "Torna a Surriento" (ditto), the sublime 1955 version of "Amor Ti Vieta" (only available on an obscure BMG UK disc) from the Serenade soundtrack, and so on. The absence of something like "Amor Ti Vieta" is all the more keenly felt when a recording as poor as the RCA "Libiamo" has been included here. (Bizarrely, in his promo for what he describes as a new "Lana" set, Mannering seems to justify its selection on the basis that its co-performer, Elaine Malbin, has been nice about Lanza over the years. But so what? It doesn't make up for the fact that this is one of Mario's poorest operatic renditions for RCA, with his singing graceless and his voice lacking its usual brilliance.)

And why on earth has Mannering included the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria" for the fourth time?! (Five times, in fact, if we include Original Album Classics.) That's bordering on obsession, and it's not even one of Lanza's great recordings. 

As for Disc 2, well, the mouth waters when one considers what love song gems could have also been included here. For starters, the inexplicably rare 1951 "Some Day"---which Mannering has never included on any of his CDs (despite his fondness for rehashing many of the same recordings on multiple compilations; 22% of all the material he's released, in fact) was surely a no-brainer. After all, it's one of the top five Coke radio recordings, and given that an astonishing 96 of the 137 unique recordings that Mannering has issued on his eight compilations have been from those same shows, one would think that its origin alone would have ensured its inclusion.

Mannering could also have included the magnificent "Passione," which would not have been out of place despite his tired argument that Lanza's later recordings should never sit alongside earlier ones, the 1956 "Yours Is My Heart Alone" (another inexplicably rare recording on CD), "You Do Something to Me," "If" (only released once in 1993 on a now mercifully deleted compilation), and many other beautiful recordings of love songs. In fact, given that this set was a co-release with TCM, which holds the screening rights to Lanza's films, Mannering should have moved heaven and earth to persuade Sony to include the MGM version of "All the Things You Are," which surely ranks as one of the greatest Lanza recordings---and yet remains one of the least well known.

I'll say it again: what a wasted opportunity. While I have little doubt that the set will be a decent seller---how could it not be, when it's going to be promoted on TV in an "aggressive" marketing campaign?---I can't imagine it appealing to many music lovers under the age of 60. Who on earth would be excited by such snoozefests as "The Best Things in Life Are Free" or the classic "Make Believe," butchered in a hideous arrangement and performed in a throwaway fashion, etc? In any event, as many of us know from personal experience, what younger people actually want to hear of Lanza's legacy---and what truly impresses them---is the best of his operatic and Italian/Neapolitan recordings. Many of the English songs, and not just because of the frequently bad arrangements (especially on the Coke Shows) or intrusive Jeff Alexander Choir (on the non-Coke material), sound terribly dated to younger listeners. But as long as Mannering is controlling the content of Lanza CD compilations, that potential audience will continue to be ignored.

Lanza was not Frank Sinatra, despite the fact that he could sing a brilliant "Begin the Beguine" when he wanted to; he was an operatic singer. To continually be marketing him in the Sinatra mold simply because he recorded (with varying success) some of the standards of the American Songbook during a mere 11-month period of his life is to do him an injustice.       

I have much more to say on Mannering's handling of Lanza's recorded legacy, but I'll save that for an upcoming essay.

Cheers
Derek

Vincent Di Placido

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Jul 28, 2013, 6:27:11 PM7/28/13
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Sorry Derek, I didn't realise we were back up & running, otherwise I would have said more about the new CDs...
I agree with you almost completely, you only have to read Derek Mannering's comments on his choices & see words like, paint-stripper & lung power. He seems to choose material that is sometimes rough as old boots just because he gets thrills & high notes.
Before i get to my real problem choices why do we have the 3 Million sellers yet again, I understand it's a TCM movie tie-in & maybe I'm being stupid here but this space could have been taken up with much more important material, We have had these songs released to a ridiculous point now & Mario is so much more than these million sellers & I never understood the fascination with Loveliest night, it's awful, Mario could have released anything at that point of his career & got a hit, such a shame it was this piece of nonsense.
Now... The Brindisi is a joke of a choice, awful performance from Mario, a waste of a track choice, end of story! I don't care how adorable & loyal Elaine Malbin has been, it shows Mario in a bad light & this is Mario's album not a tribute to guests of honour at Lanza get-togethers.
Day in, day out is messy, I was listening to this the other day actually as I was putting together a playlist & wanted to her was it as bad as I remembered & it was, it should never have been chosen for a one off broadcast let alone a cd 60 odd years later.
I'll never love you, bad song, bad choice!
For you alone is just a dated, ordinary song that Mario never seemed comfortable with & we know it was only recorded because of the Caruso connection.
Derek, I agree with your alternates, you have great taste & yes beautiful performances like Someday & Amor ti Vieta for example would have rounded out this collection & gave it a bit of class & polish but it seems unless Mario is stripping paint we can't have these included.
Now I am happy with They didn't believe me, Serenade, Che Gelida Manina, E Lucevan le stele etc these are perfect & are going to make some of the other choices sound even rougher & odd than they are, we have yet to have a rounded, classy collection of Mario, granted he was rough at times but I don't want to be reminded of that over jut 2 CDs worth of choices, there is enough good stuff to choose from.
I like What is this thing called love, no apologies, Mario sings it well & I like the song & arrangement. & disc 2 has some other good performances that I don't have a problem with but there are others on disc 2 that could have been replaced with more impressive songs & performance, we are stuck with Derek Mannering's fascination with the pre 1953 Lanza voice, which is an awful shame when he recorded some of his greatest recordings after this. It seems to me that the Derek Mannering CDs never show Mario to be the truly Great artist he was right up until 1959 & yes the exclusion of the great tracks from 1958's "Mario!" album over the years drives me insane!!!

Armando

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Jul 28, 2013, 10:24:25 PM7/28/13
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Mannering is boasting on Rense’s forum that “The folks at Sony and TCM are delighted with the finished product.” If this is so, it’s an alarming state of affairs since it proves, that like Mannering, they know absolutely nothing about singing!


Derek McGovern

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Jul 28, 2013, 11:01:44 PM7/28/13
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Many thanks for your comments, Vince. You've got me all fired up again!

As you say, the fact that there are some wonderful recordings on this set---Serenade, Che Gelida Manina, If I Loved You, etc---only makes the substandard stuff stick out all the more painfully. It was the same story on Mannering's Definitive Collection back in 2004: awful (Coke) versions of Loveliest Night of the Year, O Sole Mio, Torna a Surriento, etc, sitting alongside great renditions of things like Without a Song and M'Appari'. The end result is that newcomers to Mario who hear these CDs are confused by the erratic nature of his singing, and come away wondering what sort of artist he was.

Considering how rarely Lanza CDs come along, there is simply no excuse for not making any compilation consistently excellent. But if the very person entrusted with choosing the selections can't tell the difference between great singing and poor singing, then what hope do we have of ever getting such a collection?!  

Mannering constantly states that he makes no apologies for his CDs---in fact, he even recently described his last compilation, the frustratingly uneven Serenade: A Mario Lanza Songbook, as "great"---and has declared that his priority lies in getting as much previously unreleased material onto CD as possible. Yet that hasn't stopped him from recycling 22% of the material he has released, with many of the same titles appearing on successive CDs. For instance, we've had "Because" on five CDs now (six if we include Original Album Classics) and even the mediocre "Valencia" on three of his eight compilations. Whether the new-to-CD material is good or bad appears to be irrelevant; as long as the recording features the "dazzling" young Lanza voice of 1949-52, it qualifies for release. 

Just think: of the 137 recordings that Mannering has chosen for his compilations over a period of nineteen (!) years, only fourteen have been from the 1953-59 period!! And even then, a good half of those post-1952 recordings have not represented the best of Lanza's later years, with the Mario! and Caruso Favorites albums only represented by their least impressive moments---Funiculi' Funicula' and Santa Lucia, respectively---and the great operatic material from For the First Time entirely neglected. And Otello recordings from Serenade aside, Mannering has ignored the best of the operatic material from that soundtrack album as well (along with Torna a Surriento). Even Cavalcade of Show Tunes, an album that Mannering professes to love, has been curiously overlooked, with just the Donkey Serenade and Only a Rose chosen for compilations in 1994 and 2001, respectively. Instead we've had the Italian version of Arrivederci Roma included on two compilations (plus Original Album Classics), irrespective of its inclusion on many other non-Mannering compilations, and the "pop" side of Lanza favoured from the later years (Love in a Home, Come Prima, etc) over the more serious artist. 

In short, no one unfamiliar with Lanza's entire recorded legacy would ever guess from the Mannering compilations that Mario Lanza actually grew as an artist from 1949 to 1959. The erratic singer of the Flower Song on a 1952 Coke Show (a recording chosen by Mannering for his Opera Arias and Duets CD)  is about as far removed from the artist who recorded the Otello Death Scene in 1958 as can be imagined, and the same goes for much of the Italian/Neapolitan song repertoire, especially when comparing Mannering's favoured years of 1951-52 with 1955-59. Even as an interpreter of English songs, there are many examples of Lanza giving better performances in the latter part of his career (think of the superior 1956-59 versions of Donkey Serenade, Yours Is My Heart Alone, I Love Thee, One Alone, etc). Then there's the smoldering sensuality of Love Me Tonight, a quality one seldom hears in "Coke Show" Lanza. (I'm sure most listeners would prefer that recording to something as bland as The Best Things in Life Are Free, a rendition that, with this new CD set, has now appeared on two Mannering compilations.)

By the way, I see that Mannering claims he was "taken to the woolshed" by a few fans---he always likes to convey the impression that his compilations have only "a few" critics---when he chose a lesser version of My Romance for his 1998 compilation, When Day Is Done. He was not. Perigo mildly chided him at the time for passing over the much-superior version, while giving him high marks for most of the remaining tracks, and I wasn't even on the internet in 1998. It was only later, in 2001, when---astonishingly---Mannering not only recycled the mediocre rendition (along with three other tracks from that same album of just three years earlier!!), but even emphasized it by naming the CD after that very track. That's why I criticized him---after all, one CD was surely enough indulgence for a recording so unremarkable!!---and again when he did the same thing by recycling the poorly sung Coke version of One Alone.  

As for the current CD set, I honestly can't imagine what audience will be delighted by it. Lanza aficionados, who already own the great majority of its 30 tracks on numerous CDs, will grudgingly shell out for it on the basis of it featuring the beautiful version of My Romance and possibly one or two other tracks---and, if they're like me, feel ripped off in the process---while musically literate non-aficionados, who simply want to hear consistently great singing, will be irritated by its inconsistency (not to mention the banality of some of the material). They're also likely to become fatigued from hearing an entire album of Coke arrangements, which, let's face it, get very wearying after a few successive tracks!

Cheers
Derek               



              



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Derek McGovern

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Jul 29, 2013, 12:24:25 AM7/29/13
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Vince wrote:

 I never understood the fascination with Loveliest night, it's awful, Mario could have released anything at that point of his career & got a hit, such a shame it was this piece of nonsense.

I feel exactly the same way, and I was aghast just now to read that of all the recordings that could be included on a future Lanza compilation, Mannering has singled out the 1957 version of this song, apparently to please Bill Ronayne and Fred "Day." All I can say to that is: how about pleasing a larger number of people by not making dull recordings of an ever duller song a priority for your next CD?! If this is any indication of the kind of lightweight material Mannering has "earmarked" for his next "dazzling" Lanza compilation, I can only assume his other priorities include the not-yet-released Coke versions of "Tina-Lina" and "Boom Biddy Boom." Jesus wept!     

An outstanding operatic compilation should be Mannering's immediate priority, not yet another compilation of love songs. While I realize that there are Lanza admirers who don't care for opera, surely even the most dedicated fan of the kind of English-language ditties that Mannering favours for his compilations would be sated by now?       

Cheers
Derek

Derek McGovern

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Jul 29, 2013, 10:05:24 PM7/29/13
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In the spirit of helpfulness, here are my suggestions for a single CD of operatic recordings:

  1/ Che Gelida Manina (RCA, 1949) 
  2/ Addio alla Madre (RCA, 1950) 
  3/ Improvviso (RCA, 1950) 
  4/ M'Appari' (RCA, 1950) 
  5/ Questa o Quella (RCA, 1950) 
  6/ Parmi Veder le Lagrime (RCA, 1950)
  7/ Recondita Armonia (RCA, 1950) 
  8/ E Lucevan le Stelle (RCA, 1950) 
  9/ O Tu Che in Seno agli Angeli (RCA, 1950) 
 10/ Cielo e Mar (Coke, 1952)
11/ Come un Bel Di' di Maggio (Coke, 1952)
12/ Di Rigori Armato (Serenade, 1955) 
13/ Amor Ti Vieta (Serenade, 1955) 
14/ Lamento di Federico (Serenade, 1955) 
15/ O Paradiso (Serenade, 1955)
16/ Dio! Mi Potevi Scagliar (Otello Monologue) (Serenade, 1955) 
17/ Niun Mi Tema (Otello Death Scene) (For the First Time, 1958) 
18/ Vesti la Giubba (For the First Time, 1958) 

Possible bonus tracks (if SonyBMG can locate them): 

19/ E Voi Ridete (Trio from Cosi' Fan Tutte) (For the First Time
1958)  
20/ Qual Occhio al Mondo (from Tosca) (Serenade, 1955) 
21/ Vesti la Giubba (RCA, 1950---unreleased third take) 

* = Could be deleted if space is an issue and/or to make room for bonus track(s)

This compilation would repeat three recordings from Mannering's 1999 Opera Arias and Duets--M'Appari', the Otello Monologue and the Improvviso---but that shouldn't be an issue (especially considering the amount of recycling that has taken place on other Lanza CDs!). Besides, these three outstanding recordings simply have to be on the same collection---for once!!---as other great Lanza operatic renditions.

Any thoughts?  


Barnabas Nemeth

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Aug 3, 2013, 1:12:39 PM8/3/13
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That's a great compilation. Beyond this I would contemplate Leoncavallo: La Boheme' ... Musette... and something  from the 1947 Holliwood Bowl Concert.
Barnabas 

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Derek McGovern

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Jul 30, 2013, 12:22:58 AM7/30/13
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Hi Barnabas: I'd be very happy for "Testa Adorata" from Leoncavallo's La Boheme to be on the CD as well---along with the Coke version of "Come un Bel Di' di Maggio"---but there probably wouldn't be enough space on the CD. The other reason I didn't suggest "Testa" is that it was featured on Opera Arias and Duets, and I was trying to keep duplications from that CD to a minimum. The Coke version of "Come un Bel di' di Maggio," on the other hand, wasn't on that CD, and I actually prefer it to the RCA version (overall).     

Unfortunately, nothing from the Hollywood Bowl concerts can be included on a Sony/BMG CD.

Cheers
Derek  

Derek McGovern

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Jul 30, 2013, 12:37:34 AM7/30/13
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One further thought on an operatic compilation: in the unlikely event of Sony agreeing to a two-CD set, I would suggest the following selections: 

  1/ Che Gelida Manina (RCA, 1949)
  2/ Celeste Aida (RCA, 1949)
  3/ Addio alla Madre (RCA, 1950)
  4/ Improvviso (RCA, 1950)
  5/ M'Appari' (RCA, 1950)
  6/ Questa o Quella (RCA, 1950)
  7/ Parmi Veder le Lagrime (RCA, 1950)
  8/ Recondita Armonia (RCA, 1950)
  9/ E Lucevan le Stelle (RCA, 1950)
10/ O Tu Che in Seno agli Angeli (RCA, 1950)
11/ Vesti la Giubba (unreleased third take, RCA 1950)
12/ Cielo e Mar (Coke, 1952)
13/ Un Tal Gioco (Coke, 1952)
14/ Testa Adorata (Coke, 1952)
15/ Come un Bel Di' di Maggio (Coke, 1952)
16/ Di Rigori Armato (Serenade, 1955)
17/ Amor Ti Vieta (Serenade, 1955)
18/ Lamento di Federico (Serenade, 1955)
19/ Dio Ti Giocondi (Serenade, 1955) (with Licia Albanese)
20/ Dio! Mi Potevi Scagliar (Otello Monologue) (Serenade, 1955)
21/ O Paradiso (Serenade, 1955)
22/ Niun Mi Tema (Otello Death Scene) (For the First Time, 1958)
23/ Gloria all'Egitto (Aida Grand March Scene) (For the First Time,
1958)
24/ Vesti la Giubba (For the First Time, 1958)

Possible bonus tracks (if SonyBMG can locate them):

25/ E Voi Ridete (Trio from Cosi' Fan Tutte) (For the First Time,
1958)
26/ Qual Occhio al Mondo (from Tosca) (Serenade, 1955)
27/ Dio Ti Giocondi (with Gloria Boh) (Serenade, 1955) -- a real long
shot!
28/ Nessun Dorma (unreleased alternate take) (Serenade, 1955) -- not
great, but better than the one released
    

Derek McGovern

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Jul 30, 2013, 12:48:11 AM7/30/13
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In case anyone's wondering why I haven't included the RCA "La Donna 'e Mobile" on either list, it's because a) I feel the recording has been reissued more than enough times---it's on Mannering's latest disc for a start---and that b) it's an overblown piece of singing. The Coke Italian version, which was featured on Opera Arias and Duets, is actually better, I feel, stylistically speaking---even if Mario's in more impressive voice on the RCA recording. 
 

Michele

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Aug 1, 2013, 10:38:00 PM8/1/13
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Hello Derek,
Have just read your C.D. compilation, If only some one would do it for you. By the way you probably  know this but the Cosi Trio has never been
on a C.D. I think because of the fact the Mario was singing with Rome Opera House Principles, one has to watch the movie to hear it.

Michele 

On Sunday, 31 March 2013 18:21:40 UTC+8, Derek McGovern wrote:
This will be our new thread for any miscellaneous Lanza-related news or comments. This will include news about other singers, actors, etc who worked with Lanza. 

Derek McGovern

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Aug 2, 2013, 3:59:07 AM8/2/13
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Hi Michele: Yes, I'm aware that the Cosi' Fan Tutte Trio has never been released by RCA or BMG. It's odd (and frustrating) that it hasn't, especially since the Aida scene from the same film was released. One would assume that if RCA were able to release that recording, which featured at least one prominent singer from the Rome Opera (the baritone Guelfi), then they'd also hold the rights to the Cosi' Trio. Even more frustrating is the fact that, despite the best efforts of several Lanza admirers, we still don't know the names of the baritone and bass in the Trio---or even if they're the same people whom we see with Mario in the actual film. (I presume they are.) All we can say with reasonable certainty is that they're both singers associated with the Rome Opera.

By the way, I love the Cosi' scene in the film---and it's pretty obvious that all three men were enjoying themselves here! (Click on the image below to enlarge it.)

Cheers
Derek       


Derek McGovern

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Aug 2, 2013, 4:01:00 AM8/2/13
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This pic's even better:

Derek McGovern

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Aug 2, 2013, 4:02:20 AM8/2/13
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And here's a widescreen capture of the whole stage:


Lover of Grand Voices

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Aug 2, 2013, 2:14:29 PM8/2/13
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I enjoyed Leann's post about the George Mason play. I'm also involved in education. I explain to my students that Lanza represents "passion." I show them a series of clips and explain the background of each. I also give them copies of my book, "A Kid from Philadelphia, Mario Lanza, the Voice of the Poets." The result is amazing. They fall in love with the voice, the performer and most of all can perceive, feel and understand what "passion" is all about. They can sense that Lanza loved what he did and dedicated himself completely to his art. This is a rare quality. It has costs for those who give but means so much for those of us who receive.

Daniella

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Aug 3, 2013, 7:04:04 PM8/3/13
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Hi,

I discovered Mario Lanza only a few months ago, but I immediately was in awe of his voice.  Since then, I've learned so much on your website and discussions this forum about which of his albums/compilations to buy (or avoid), and that's been tremendously helpful, many thanks!

Having listened to most of the highlights of Lanza's career, I have to say undoubtedly he had the greatest voice ever.  No other tenor has or had the combination of roundness, timbre, and range that he did, or his passionate interpretations and phrasing.  I wonder though, is it possible that Lanza could have benefited from continued vocal training?  From the 1949 RCA recordings, Midnight Kiss recordings, down to his Hollywood Bowl recordings, I feel his singing was effortless.  But after 1950, it seemed to me that he started to put more pressure on his high notes (almost as if he were singing more from the chest voice), resulting in louder notes that usually were still excellent but occasionally resulted strain or fast/uneven vibrato.  I don't know if this was because Hollywood demanded him to sing loud, flamboyant high notes, or if he became more distant from his vocal training after he entered the Hollywood black hole, or none of the above?  It was his occasional inconsistency on high notes which he often sings perfectly but other times sound strained, that makes me think he could have benefited from continued vocal training to improve his consistency.  As opposed to someone like Pavarotti who was more consistent throughout his very long career, and from whom I rarely if ever heard strained high notes.  (However, I personally still prefer Lanza's voice to Pavarotti's, which sounds thin in comparison.)  I'm a firm believer in the need for even the best to have continued feedback and supervision on their skills, which is why, for example, even world champion figure skaters still retain coaches to make sure they don't start developing bad habits and so forth.  Lanza at his best was the best, but I feel that perhaps continued vocal training, or even just periodic supervision/feedback from a great voice teacher, would have helped improve his consistency.  Is this possible? 

Thanks a bunch

Armando

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Sep 21, 2013, 6:50:20 AM9/21/13
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Hi Daniella,

I’ m sure our esteemed host won’t mind if I step in and try to answer what I think are some interesting and intelligent questions.

Particularly pertinent is your questioning of whether Lanza became more distant from his vocal training after he entered the “Hollywood black hole.”

The answer to that is that he did not become more distant from his vocal training, and by that I mean the technique he had acquired primarily from his studies with the great teacher Enrico Rosati, but stylistically between 1950 and 1952 he certainly regressed simply because he was not working in a proper environment with top coaches and musicians.  

The career of an operatic singer is a complex one-it has to be nurtured and guided on a daily basis and the operatic repertoire in particular requires special study.

Every detail of the music has to be carefully gone over with the singer, initially by the coach/ repetiteur, and subsequently with the conductor/accompanist, regardless of whether the singer knows the music or not. Matters such as phrasing, tempi, whether to sing forte, pianissimo etc. have to be carefully studied, discussed and worked out, and in the case of a non- native singer performing in a specific language, be it Italian, French, German or whatever, a language coach is also present.

These are the working conditions of just about every opera singer performing in an opera house. They were not the conditions Lanza was working under in Hollywood- in fact, far from them!

The work he did with top musicians between 1950/52 was limited to the preparation for The Great Caruso on which he worked with the conductor Peter Herman Adler. Operatically speaking, given the limited time, most of the singing, though not all, is pretty good. On matters of pronunciation, however, it’s another story. For whatever reason, since Lanza was required to utter only a couple of phrases in Italian, a language coach was engaged for the Italian dialogue, but not for the far more important operatic scores.

Consequently, there are quite a few mispronounced words which, except in the case of musical experts would not be picked up in non -Italian speaking countries, but which stand out if you happen to speak Italian. What’s more, they could easily have been corrected if someone simply pointed out the various mispronunciations to Lanza. Along with Bjorling and a few others, this is partly what Lanza is criticised for in Italy.

So, mispronunciations aside, when you examine Lanza’s career you have to divide it into three distinct periods: 1947/49 consisting of mostly outstanding singing- stylistically sound. 1950/53 extremely erratic with some impressive performances and some truly ghastly lapses of taste.  From 1954 to 1959 we have some outstanding singing in Serenade, 1955, abominable recording of the Lanza on Broadway album in 1956 followed by a back to form Lanza with the subsequent Cavalcade of Show Tunes LP. In 1957 there’s mostly good singing from Lanza with the exception of most of the material in the woeful Seven Hills of Rome.

1958 varies from average (Albert Hall recital) to some outstanding singing in For the First Time and the Neapolitan Songs album, Mario.

1959 also produced mixed results.  Even though the voice was very heavy due to Lanza’s life style, he still managed some standout singing on the Caruso Favourites LP. 

Summing up, what Lanza achieved given his working conditions is nothing short of a miracle and is permanent proof of his tremendous talent.  However, even the greatest artists need to work with the best and, in the operatic material in particular, except for sporadic work with the above mentioned Adler and the brilliant coach Giacomo Spadoni, this was not the case for Lanza.

As such, he is most vulnerable and open to criticism precisely in some of the operatic repertoire. But even allowing for this there is sufficient outstanding singing, if carefully selected, to thrill at least this particular listener (and on this we are in complete agreement, Daniella) with the greatest tenor voice I have ever heard. 

Armando

Derek McGovern

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Aug 4, 2013, 11:48:35 PM8/4/13
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Welcome to this forum, Daniella, and thanks for a most interesting first post.

I couldn't agree more with Armando that it was Hollywood, and not a lack of vocal training, that led to Lanza's singing becoming more inconsistent after 1949. Artistically speaking, Lanza was in the worst possible environment in Hollywood for a young tenor who had always needed discipline and focus in his life. Who in Hollywood really cared about or understood his needs as a potentially great operatic prospect? Instead of people like his former teacher Enrico Rosati and coach Leila Edwards to challenge and inspire him, and the likes of superior artists such as Frances Yeend and George London to perform with (and learn from) on a regular basis, Lanza was surrounded by people, who, with few exceptions (Spadoni being one of them), were either hangers-on or studio executives blithely unconcerned with his development as an operatic singer. 

We can hear sloppiness and a tendency for sheer volume over subtlety creeping into quite a few of Lanza's 1950 operatic recordings for RCA, particularly on the two duets with Elaine Malbin, which are both as rough as old boots. Other RCA operatic recordings that could have been better (much better, in some cases!) include "Una Furtiva Lagrima," "La Donna 'e Mobile," and even his famous "Vesti la Giubba," which is histrionic rather than heartbreaking. (The 1958 version is another story, though!) Mario was still capable of singing brilliantly when he was focused and properly prepared (think of the magnificent "M'Appari'" and Improvviso from Andrea Chenier), but far too often retakes weren't made when they obviously should have been. Producers and conductors simply refused to do their jobs properly and tell him! And the situation only worsened during the radio shows of 1951-52, a period in which a rushed Lanza---through sheer shortage of time---was often singing without sufficient rehearsal, let alone the right frame of mind.

You mentioned that from 1950 onwards, Lanza would periodically show strain on some of his high notes. I agree about his inconsistency, but we have to remember that he often went through long periods of inactivity as a performer---and regular performing is crucial in the life and development of any operatic singer. But he certainly didn't damage his voice; he didn't sing enough for that! His vocal technique was rock solid, in any event---the proof being that he could sing for hours without tiring, as was often noted, and without displaying any loss of vocal quality at any point throughout the three registers. 

There are a few high notes that are noticeably strained in Serenade, which of course is a perfect example of Lanza singing after a long vocal layoff. These include the pinched high Cs at the end of "Serenade" (end of film version), "O Soave Fanciulla," and "Di Quella Pira." The high B at the end of "Nessun Dorma" could also have been better (although the three high As in the first half of the aria are brilliantly executed). But these are difficult notes for most singers, particularly for the larger-voiced spinto and dramatic tenors (Pavarotti, of course, was a purely lyric tenor), and I don't think we should be too hard on Lanza about them. There would be plenty of tenors glad to have a "disappointing" high C such as the one we hear at the end of "O Soave Fanciulla"! Besides, I'm convinced that had Lanza gone to the trouble of recording retakes of all of these pieces, the results would have been considerably better. (In fact, there's an alternate first take of "Nessun Dorma" with a superior high B ending.) 

In The Great Caruso, the outtakes of some of the arias (Che Gelida Manina, Cielo e Mar, etc) reveal less-than-brilliant high notes, but the difference was that either Lanza or (more likely) conductor Peter Herman Adler insisted on retakes. The result was some thrilling vocal moments. It was a different story with Serenade, I sense---and indeed conductor Ray Heindorf acknowledged that shortage of time was often behind the comparative lack of retakes. (Heindorf also sought to justify the situation by claiming that few cinemagoers would have been able to tell the difference between a great high note and a somewhat lesser one!) 

Still, the majority of the material in Serenade was magnificently sung---a miracle, really, as Armando was pointing out above, and surely proof of Lanza's innate artistry.

Cheers
Derek    
     

Daniella

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Aug 4, 2013, 10:55:54 PM8/4/13
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Hi Armando and Derek,

Thank you both so much for your detailed and greatly informative replies!  I definitely see how poor working conditions (for an operatic singer), lack of regular performing, etc. caused the occasional imperfections.  It is so fortunate that we have such an excellent body of his work to enjoy despite the unforgiving conditions he had to deal with as an artist.  The first time I heard him sing, I was just stunned that a human could produce such a sound.  My only regret is not having discovered him sooner, but better late than never, I guess.  I really hope more people continue to discover this great tenor.  His singing is thrilling and magnificent indeed! 
 
Daniella

hertz...@gmail.com

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Aug 5, 2013, 11:48:19 AM8/5/13
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My grandmother, Mildred Seymour, shared an apartment with Tomiko Kanazawa in Los Angeles. Mimi was an accompanists for the chamber orchestra who performed a weekly radio broadcast, The Music Room. To this day I have the 1919 Steinway grand piano given to my grandmother by Allan Handcock who played the viola in the orchestra. At the museum at the LaBrea tar pits there is a small photo of the musicians as they performed for the broadcast at USC. Alan Hancock donated the land on Wilshire Boulevard to the city of Los Angeles. In 1950 my grandmother became the accompanist for the Wiere Brothers, an international opening act for Johnny Matthews, Judy Garland, Tom Jones and many others. They performed four command performances for the queen of England over the course of her 20 year career with the Wiere Brothers.
I remember meeting Tomiko in the mid 50's. She joined us for a memorable dinner in China Town, and she told me about learning to eat with "great dignity" by having to balance an egg in the crux of each elbow throughout her meals. She did not demonstrate this, of course. I did not have the privilege of hearing her perform, but her smile is in indelibly etched in my heart. I was so thrilled to learn she lived at least until she was 95. Three summers ago I was in Venice and had I known she was there I would have cherished the opportunity to visit with her.
I am about to search for a recording of Tomiko's Butterfly. Do you know if such exists?
V Hertz

Derek McGovern

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Aug 5, 2013, 9:34:19 PM8/5/13
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Thanks for your post, and welcome to this forum.

I'd be very interested to know if Tomiko Kanazawa ever discussed Mario Lanza with you and/or your grandmother---and, if so, what she had to say about him. 

By the way, she was living in Vienna---not Venice---when Armando Cesari interviewed her in January 2011. She may well still be alive too, as she was listed in the Vienna phone book as recently as last year. (Perhaps one of our German-speaking members can check if she's currently in the book.) If she is still with us, then she would have turned 98 last month.  

Regards
Derek

P.S. I do love the photo below of Kanazawa and Lanza (out on the town?) with their conductor, Walter Herbert.


George Laszlo

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Aug 6, 2013, 4:54:40 PM8/6/13
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For what it is worth, I sent a letter and some photos to Tomiko about a year ago and never heard back. So, either she is too old to answer or she may no longer be with us. Not sure which. Some of you may recall that my good family friend, Gabor Carelli, often sang as Pinkerton opposite Tomiko as Butterfly. So, the photos I sent were of the two of them together. By coincidence, my cousin Vincent Schaffer, was a violinist in LA and played with the Hollywood Bowl orchestra probably in the same time-frame as Allen Handcock. I'm guessing that Vincent would have been born around 1915-17. We live in a small world.

George Laszlo

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Aug 6, 2013, 5:10:33 PM8/6/13
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Well, Mario seems to have succeeded in sneaking into a performance in Vienna. Our public broadcasting station here in the USA organized a live program called "Salute to Vienna" with heavy emphasis on the Merry Widow with others like Strauss sprinkled in here and there. Whoever was producing the program must love Mario and signed up a British singer to ask us to hear his serenade. Let's just say, he tried hard but...

You can catch a bit of it at roughly 45 seconds into this promo video:

George Laszlo

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Aug 6, 2013, 5:12:38 PM8/6/13
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I should have mentioned that the program overall was pretty well done.

Steff

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Aug 9, 2013, 11:59:47 AM8/9/13
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Hi Derek,
 
I have been in contact with a neighbour of Tomika Kanazawa in Vienna/Austria, and I can confirm that she's still with us.Yet, given that she's almost 100 years old, contacting her, understandably enough, is not possible. I might be able though to pass on a message to her, that's what her neighbour has kindly offered to me.
 
Steff

George Laszlo

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Aug 9, 2013, 1:34:56 PM8/9/13
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Steff, I'm sure that Derek would love to hear comments about Mario from Tomiko. But, if you can squeeze it in, try to find out if Tomiko received my letter and photographs about Gabor Carelli. I guess it's possible that I did not have the right address. If you know what that is, let me know. Thanks, George

Derek McGovern

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Aug 9, 2013, 9:51:33 PM8/9/13
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Hi Steff

Many thanks for going to all that trouble. It's lovely to know that Ms. Kanazawa is still with us. 

No, I don't have any particular message for her---and I certainly don't want to bother a 98-year-old with further questions about Mario. I'm just very grateful that she granted Armando an interview two and a half years ago. At that time, she'd only recently been discharged from hospital, so I thought it most gracious of her to agree to speak with him.

Cheers
Derek

Steff

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Aug 15, 2013, 2:41:31 PM8/15/13
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Some news about the beer mats phantom:
 
 
The article mentions that, when Philips invented the compact disc, Mario's recordings were chosen as the first ones to be transferred to a CD. Never had heard that before. Anyone?
 
Steff

Derek McGovern

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Aug 15, 2013, 10:04:13 PM8/15/13
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Hi Steff: The claim that Lanza's recordings were the first ones ever transferred to a CD appeared on his Wikipedia page a few years ago. There was no substantiation provided by the anonymous contributor, so the statement was later deleted. The Birmingham Mail must have been using an old version of that Wikipedia page as its unreliable source! 

If Mario's recordings really were the first ever transferred to that medium, then why did we have to wait until 1987---a good five years after compact discs first appeared in stores---for a Lanza CD to appear?! I don't believe the claim for a second.

Cheers
Derek 

Steff

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Aug 20, 2013, 11:24:43 AM8/20/13
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Always good to hear comments like this:
 

One classical singer Mahogany admires is the great tenor Mario Lanza.                                                                         “The object of what I do, especially when you do a ballad, you want everyone in the audience to feel you’re singing just for them,” he said. “That’s what I get from Mario Lanza. “It always felt as if he were singing just for you. This beautiful sound and style that seem to cross boundaries. Again, even though it’s classical, it didn’t sound as if it had to stay there. He could have done anything, I think.”  Mahogany got used to crossing boundaries in his listening.

From: The Buffalo News, August 20, 2013

"Singer Kevin Mahogany to headline Lewiston Jazz Festival"

http://www.buffalonews.com/gusto/concert-previews/singer-kevin-mahogany-to-headline-lewiston-jazz-festival-20130819

Steff

 

 

Derek McGovern

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Aug 20, 2013, 8:49:51 PM8/20/13
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Thanks for that, Steff! While it's not the first time Kevin Mahogany has mentioned Lanza as an influence, it's nice to see the latter being described as a "classical singer." Bizarrely, this NPR article about Mahogany and his life and musical loves describes Mario as "a television singer":


More lazy journalism! Still, at least he wasn't labelled a "crooner," as has happened on quite a few occasions.... 

Cheers
Derek

Derek McGovern

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Aug 26, 2013, 7:48:00 PM8/26/13
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I see that Lindsay Perigo's long-promised book on Lanza---The One Tenor---is now available as a Kindle purchase:


Any Kindle owners out there? I'm not one of them, but I'm certainly curious to read what mercurial Linz has to say here. It's a shame the book's not available in other formats. From what I understand---and there's a decent-sized preview available at the link above---this is mostly a compilation of Perigo's various essays for the Lanza Legend, together with assorted CD reviews from his freeradical site. No doubt there's been some revising, but what I'm mainly interested in reading here is Roland Bessette's defense of the often hyper-critical approach taken in his 1999 book---and an elaboration of his bipolar theory---together with Perigo's no-doubt-spirited response. 

If you read this book, please do share your thoughts on it here.

Cheers
Derek

George Laszlo

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Aug 27, 2013, 12:42:22 AM8/27/13
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Derek,
You don't have to buy a Kindle reader in order to read a Kindle book. You can just download the reader to your computer or other device like an iPhone or iPad. You can probably do the same on an android device. Just go to the Amazon site and look for the Kindle link.
George


Derek McGovern

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Aug 27, 2013, 12:42:01 AM8/27/13
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Thanks for the information, George. I really am a novice in these matters!

I've just downloaded a Kindle reader to my computer and have purchased Lindsay Perigo's book. 

Cheers
Derek

Lou

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Aug 27, 2013, 5:02:15 AM8/27/13
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Hi Derek: I've just purchased the book, too. (Thanks to George for his tip.) It says "To Armando" on the title page and contains Lindsay Perigo's foreword to Armando's book. Do I take these gestures to be an olive branch?

Cheers,
Lou

Derek McGovern

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Oct 9, 2014, 7:08:31 AM10/9/14
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Hi Lou:

Count me as surprised too on seeing the dedication to Armando! Perhaps it was Perigo's way of reciprocating Armando's dedication to him back in 2004 in his Lanza book. Or maybe it was an olive branch---I really don't know! But it was nice to see.

I'm juggling a ton of stuff right now (the new semester starts next week), so I've only had time to skim the book. But I will say this: the back and forth with Roland Bessette, as Perigo probes him about his bipolar theory, is fascinating, and Perigo's response to Bessette, in a chapter titled "Mario's Magic Madness," is an excellent riposte to the latter's depressing though ultimately unconvincing speculation.

And it really is pure conjecture on Bessette's part! He throws in all but the kitchen sink in his attempt to label this episode or that event as evidence of Lanza having suffered from bipolar disorder. For example, he makes a great deal out of the fact that, in his experience, everyone except "dyed-in the wool Lanza fans" has been "alarmed" by the Christopher Program. According to Bessette, the program never aired [not true, as it turns out---see this 2014 post], and he speculates that the reason for this was Lanza's behavior on the show, which the good attorney diagnoses as "mania at work." 

So what I see as a charismatic Lanza in pure PR mode---telling the priest (Father Keller) exactly what he wants to hear---by genially fibbing about (or, at the very least, creatively expanding on) his altar boy experiences, Bessette and his remarkably like-minded friends all see as disturbing evidence of a manic episode. Good Lord! Perigo's witty response to all this is bang on in my opinion---"It's [actually] the psychiatrist who needs help! Mario is endearing and adorable throughout, funny and fluent, loving and lovable." As for the supposedly alarmed Father Keller, if he had been that concerned by Lanza's behavior on the program, then why did he write the following words to him in May 1958?

Dear Mario:
At long last we have just received from Hollywood the finished half-hour TV film in which you and Betty "star"---and you really do!
I expected the program to be good --- but not as informally sparkling as it turned out to be. Your singing is tops and you could not be more natural. Betty is a real charmer, too. 

And so the letter goes on.  

Then there's some of the other "evidence" that Bessette throws out there as part of his shock-and-awe approach to convince us that Lanza mentally ill: he was discharged from the army while the war was still raging, Warner Bros. didn't want to make a second film with him, etc. What he fails to mention here, however, is that, in the first instance, Mario was discharged because of defective hearing and associated dizziness, vomiting, etc (we have the medical discharge to prove it), and not some kind of destructive behavior, and, that in the second, whatever Warner Bros. may have thought of Lanza (Bessette darkly alludes to unspecified bad behavior on the set of Serenade), the company would have made a second film with him if the first had been a hit! In fact, Warners waited until it was clear that Serenade wasn't going to light up the box office before shelving the planned second film. (And, incidentally, why would Anthony Mann have been so keen to direct another Lanza film---even going so far as to form a company with him---if Mario had been so impossibly difficult to work with?)

Bessette does have a few interesting things to say when he's not conjuring up dark episodes or labelling people who disagree with his view of Lanza as "cultists" and "non-scholarly." I wish he'd drop the pompous and often condescending mode of expressing himself, though. Sentences such as "[He] was of an age where Lanza's career was contemporaneous with his time as a moviegoer" also reminded me of how much I disliked Bessette's heavy-handed prose throughout Tenor in Exile.  

As for the gaggle of psychiatrists whom Bessette says he consulted and gained qualified agreement from regarding his Lanza Bipolar Theory---five in all, I think---I certainly hope they don't include the elderly fellow who (almost distractedly in Bessette's recounting) mutters something along the lines of "It fits" when told in passing about the theory. Hardly convincing. Besides, as I've questioned before, what psychiatrist worth a damn would even consider diagnosing mental illness in someone whom s/he had never met?!

Cheers
Derek      
 

Derek McGovern

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Aug 28, 2013, 8:10:47 PM8/28/13
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Re-reading the Bessette chapter in Perigo's book this morning, I was struck by how much of what Bessette says would fall apart under cross-examination. I'm also now convinced that through the use of selective testimony and referencing of isolated incidents, it's possible to argue a case for mental illness in just about anybody. That's not to say I don't believe that Lanza had some serious problems, including a dependence on booze that, curiously enough, Bessette downplays here. But I strongly believe that Bessette misdiagnoses the root cause of those problems in his enthusiasm for his theory, while relying on some highly dubious testimony and an awful lot of hearsay. 

I also think it's grossly unfair to imply that those who do not accept his depiction of Lanza are "cultists." No Lanza aficionado I know is blind to the man's darker side. Many, however, are more sympathetic to Lanza---and more willing to consider context----than Bessette is obviously prepared to be.         

When I have a bit more time, I plan to write a response to Bessette's allegations. In the meantime, I'd be most interested to know others' thoughts on all this.

Cheers
Derek        


leeann

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Aug 29, 2013, 7:49:14 AM8/29/13
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Hmmm, thoughts on the Bessette chapter.  It is good, I think, to hear Bessette's own voice, to follow his own thought process on his highly controversial thesis of bipolar disorder. Does he make his case though? I really don't think so.

I think the constrictions and reconstructions he places on the questions Lindsay Perigo poses to him reflect the limitations and boundaries of his argument. And like his book, Tenor in Exile, there's a dearth of evidence, lack of footnotes, factual inaccuracies that you already began to point out, Derek. And there's an awfully narrow selection of opinions. If you only quote people who agree with you--well, you can make a case for whatever you want. But will it be accurate? Probably not.

And, how could reputable psychiatrists form a valid posthumous diagnosis with such limited evidence as the unidentified people  whom Bessette quotes? --Take the Christopher program for example--you can say a lot of things about the staging of BOTH Father Keller and Mario Lanza during that show, but give me a break--bipolar disorder doesn't make the list.

And as for the timeline of mood swings, which seems to have served as the framework of Bessette's investigation--well, timelines can tell us a lot. But in the case of human behavior, context counts. The points on timelines are usually results of huge tangled networks of events and emotions and people. Iit seems to me Bessette just cherry-picked stripped-down stories, happenings, and the recollections of others that matched his dots on the timeline.

So, as much as any shortcoming, the analysis seems invalid because it is so narrow, so without context.  There's a lot twisting and shoving and shaving of information to cram the thesis into the bipolar-disorder definition.

Whether you agree with Lindsay Perigo's rebuttal emphasizing the physical abuse of dieting as a cause for Lanza's sometimes difficult behavior, with his discussion of "good madness" and "bad madness"--certainly his discussion brings the highs and lows of the emotional time line into a more balanced context.

In any event, it's useful to have this group of familiar essays bound together--several of which I'd run across by chance when the impact of Lanza's voice first struck, and I was searching for materials by our Derek beyond his reviews on Amazon! Certainly, they're thoughtful, subjective, fast-paced and heartwarming reads and they give us brilliance and calamity, sometimes on the same page. And the quiet dedication, "To Armando," and identifying him as the best Lanza biographer in the text--well, bravo for that.

Derek McGovern

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Oct 9, 2014, 7:10:17 AM10/9/14
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Hi Lee Ann: I'm sure Perigo is right that excessive dieting contributed to Mario's erratic behavior, particularly in the 1951-52 period. Bessette would no doubt pour scorn on that---in fact, I think he did on one occasion---but I know even from my own limited experience with dieting (and I don't mean the radical variety practiced by Lanza!) that it does indeed cause mood swings. One can't lose eighty pounds, as Lanza did during the making of Because You're Mine, without going through some sort of private hell. Add to that being World Famous Mario Lanza, with the press breathing down his neck and making fun of his weight, or having to deal with the other pitfalls of fame---not to mention unsympathetic MGM executives. (Or wrestling at the same time with insecurities about wasting his talent on lowbrow Hollywood films.) 

As Keenan Wynn publicly observed when he was discussing the detrimental effect that severe dieting had on Lanza's psyche, MGM didn't care about what was actually happening to the man. "A bundle of nerves" was how he described Lanza's state of mind after radical dieting. But in Wynn's opinion, cashing in on Lanza's popularity while he was still a hot commodity was MGM's only concern.

Not surprisingly, you won't find Wynn's observation in Bessette's book. It doesn't tie in with his theory.    

Cheers
Derek


Derek McGovern

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Sep 4, 2013, 8:33:22 AM9/4/13
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I was amused to read Derek Mannering's claim on the Rense forum today that tenor Joseph Calleja is "clearly" an admirer of his [Mannering's] quote "great" compilation CD Serenade: A Mario Lanza Songbook. How does Mr. Mannering know this? Because on his new album, Amore, Calleja employs the same arrangements as Lanza used on his recordings of "Besame Mucho" and "O Sole Mio," two of the five very well-known songs featured on both CDs.     

Hmm. That's a bit of a leap! After all, there's a fair amount of substandard material on Mannering's 2009 compilation, as the discerning Mr. Calleja no doubt recognizes. Besides, using the Mannering Book of Assumptions, one could equally argue that Calleja is "clearly" a great fan of Mario Lanza Sings Caruso Favorites as well, since he also sings a number of songs from that album on his new disc. (In fact, I'd put money on Calleja being a Caruso Favorites admirer. Apart from anything else, he's made it clear that he loves Lanza's late voice, singling out the colour and shading on the latter's recording of the Otello Death Scene.) But, of course, Caruso Favorites doesn't bear the Mannering imprimatur, so the thought may not have occurred to our trusty compiler...

:)  

Sarcasm aside, it does get rather wearying to read Mr. Mannering's continual boasts about the CDs he's compiled---every one of which he assures us is "fabulous." I'd be much less inclined to prick his balloon if even occasionally he lavished the same enthusiasm on worthy Lanza CDs that weren't compiled by him. Or if, heaven forbid, he were to forget the Coke Shows for once and push for an all-operatic CD that included outstanding material recorded after 1952.      

Vincent Di Placido

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Sep 7, 2013, 4:24:34 PM9/7/13
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My copy of the new Lanza cd arrived yesterday & the mastering is very good to my ears, "Granada" especially, it seems less muddy than usual & "Che Gelida Manina" seemed very clear & I could hear detail I couldn't before, now I must add I was using Beats headphones & they are exceptional so that could have something to do with it...
I marveled yet again at how stunning a voice & vocalist Mario was, that Boheme aria is just a wonder, it's perfect!!!
Then you have recordings like "Romance", he was just so gifted the way he caresses those phrases... I have to say the Coke "For you alone" is more enjoyable than the RCA recording. A mixed bag? Definitely, but I'm happy to have these discs because of the mastering, which I have used as replacements in my archive of ripped WAV files, they seem better to me anyway over previous CDs...

Derek McGovern

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Sep 8, 2013, 12:54:39 AM9/8/13
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Hi Vince: Thanks for the feedback on the Toast of Hollywood CD. You've convinced me to order it! I was hesitating, as the only reason I could see for buying it was to have My Romance in pristine sound at last. I certainly wasn't expecting the sound to be improved on the likes of the 1949 Granada and Che Gelida Manina. That's good news. 

At the same time, though, it frustrates me no end to think that Mario's 1949 recordings aside, the material that is really crying out to be properly remastered---and that probably never will be remastered now---is the best of the 1959 albums and, to a slightly lesser extent, the Serenade and For the First Time soundtracks. The 1950-52 love song recordings that Derek Mannering overwhelmingly favours for his compilations were mostly well recorded in the first place. While I'm sure it's nice for those who like their Lanza lite to have "Make Believe," "The Best Things In Life Are Free," etc, in the best possible sound, what lover of great singing and great voices wouldn't prefer to hear, say, the 1955 "Amor Ti Vieta"---a relatively obscure recording as far as the general public is concerned (and one that's never been released on CD in the US)? And that recording could so easily have fitted in with the Hollywood theme here, since it was featured in Serenade. As Lindsay Perigo points out in his book, it's ridiculous that so few arias have been included on a set that's supposedly representative of Lanza's Hollywood years when one considers the sheer amount of opera that he sang in his first five films.    

Oh well. I'll order The Toast of Hollywood anyway, and I'll share my thoughts here on its sound quality once it arrives.

Cheers
Derek                      


Vincent Di Placido

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Sep 8, 2013, 4:26:52 AM9/8/13
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I agree Derek, but I am just taking this release for what it is & I was hopping back & forth between Granada masterings & I was amazed how muddy my previously favoured rip was compared to this new cd as I say maybe I should have used basic headphones because these beats have so much depth, I have been listening to the Mario! album with them & the orchestral detail I'm picking up stuns me...
As regards remastering later Mario recordings, I have been longing for that since I was a wee boy, before I even knew what remastering was, I just knew those albums were badly recorded, well more specifically Mario was badly miked, as we have discussed previously the orchestral microphones seem fine & this is a separate issue to Mario's voice darkening & being in poor health, but there was definitely something strange going in the choice of microphone, the last time Mario was miked properly in Italy was December 1958...
I am amazed at how well his voice was captured for those mono radio transcriptions in 1951-52, possibly the best capturing of Lanza's voice over the 19 years he recorded... Material & stylistic lapses aside the engineering & placement of microphone was near perfect for these radio performances, I actually can't think of a moment of distortion or dullness in all those recordings & he is placed perfectly in the mixes & not a bit of RCA echo. Of course Mario's instinctual microphone technique is never better demonstrated than on these recordings, moving in close for those soft, sensual phrases that make us shiver & stepping back & letting his voice have breathing space on those strong notes which gives them a great acoustic & added dimension, he was a master of this....
But back to 1955-59, I think a great project & really the best we can hope for at this stage would be a compilation of the best of his 1959 performances remastered to the best point they can be... "Mature Mario!", never fails to make me sad that we refer to this glorious tenor voice as mature at 38, practically a baby in tenor years...

Steff

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Sep 9, 2013, 5:32:57 PM9/9/13
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Joseph Calleja’s album “Be My Love – A Tribute to Mario Lanza,” is nominated for the „Classic Brit Awards 2013,” in the category “Classic FM Album of the Year.”

You can give your vote for this category on:

The award ceremony will take place at the Royal Albert Hall on October 2nd.  
     
Calleja is also nominated in the category “Breakthrough Artist of the Year.”

Let's hope that Calleja will be among this year’s winners; This would not only mean an acknowledgment for his own success in the world of music, but certainly also a wonderful promotion for Mario Lanza.

http://www.classicbrits.co.uk/nominees/

Steff
 

Derek McGovern

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Sep 9, 2013, 10:29:21 PM9/9/13
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Hi Vince: Yes, I'd agree that the Coke Shows were brilliantly recorded. There are a few exceptions---With a Song in My Heart, the ghastly Mattinata and Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life come to mind, and the very first show wasn't particularly well recorded---but overall the sound quality was superior to RCA's efforts, with the exception of the Cavalcade album. Imagine how differently even the detractors of Mario's 1959 recordings would view those efforts if they had been as well captured as the Coke Shows!

Of course, if the shows had begun only two or three years earlier---before taping of radio programmes became standard practice---it would have been a very different story. The advances in recording quality in that short period were quite remarkable. 

As for a lovingly remastered compilation highlighting the best of "mature Mario," something tells me that's not going to happen under Derek Mannering's watch. But I'd love to be proven wrong!   

Cheers
Derek

Derek McGovern

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Sep 9, 2013, 10:49:37 PM9/9/13
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Hi Steff

I certainly hope Calleja wins---especially since most of the competition is pretty ghastly! I can't speak for the quality of Lang Lang's Chopin album, but it'd be a travesty if Calleja were to lose to Bocelli, Rieu or Clayderman. 

Cheers
Derek