It's always frustrated me that we've never been able to identify the intriguing operatic snippet
that Lanza sings at the end of his private
recording session for Maria Margelli in 1944.
(It's a great little clip, by the way.)
Now we know that from a young age Mario was interested in obscure
operas; in fact, as Armando discovered while researching for his Lanza
biography, he even appeared in one as a teenager: Crispino e la
(1850), by Federico and Luigi Ricci, for the YMCA Opera
Company in Philadelphia. A few years later he sang in Nicolai's The
Merry Wives of Windsor
-- and that wasn't exactly familiar fare
either. Then in the early 1950s Lanza talked about performing the role
of Paolo in Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini
. Around the same time he
rehearsed an aria from Giordano's Madame Sans-Gêne
(the tape of
which has survived
), and later still he rehearsed a large number of
obscure arias by composers such as Cilea and Leoncavallo for an album
that, sadly, never materialized. (I wonder if RCA got cold feet?)
So much for Lanza only being interested in the usual old operatic
"lollipops", as one lazy critic claimed a few years back!
But getting back to the "unknown aria" (or is it in fact the beginning
of a duet?) that Mario recorded for his friend Maria Margelli...about
a month ago I made a real effort to unearth its identity. I posted a
request for help on Opera-L, an operatic forum with a large number of
subscribers, and included the link to the recording. I even
transcribed the words that Armando and I could make out
("Eterna...calma, o quieta...ora vieni ancora").
Someone immediately wrote back saying it was an aria from Giordano's
La Cena delle Beffe
. That made a lot of sense, actually, since, like
the aria, this opera is a brooding work. A shocker in some respects.
And lo and behold, Armando happened to have a videotape of a
performance of this very unfamiliar work. But on dutifully sitting
through the whole four-act opera on our behalf, he and his
wife discovered that the aria was nowhere to be heard!
It then transpired that the Opera-L fellow had merely assumed
from La Cena delle Beff
I received other suggestions from the Opera-L crowd (Gordano's even
more obscure Marcella
, for example), but no concrete leads. I even
wrote to a Mascagni expert thinking it might be from Nerone
something, but was told emphatically that it wasn't from that opera or any known Mascagni work.
So now I'm back to square one! But I haven't given up hope yet -- and
who knows? Perhaps someone specializing in Giordano, Leoncavallo and
the like may just happen to stumble upon this post and enlighten us...