'The Great Mario Lanza'—First Fond Reminiscences

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Tue, 2016-11-08 04:03

Recipients of this memoirette will be aware that I have just completed a five-week stint as presenter for Operatunity's The Great Mario Lanza show, performed at 24 venues from Invergargill to Whangarei. I am deeply gratified to report that the most common comment from rapt audience members was that this was Operatunity's best show yet in the fifteen years since it started out as a two-person show performing to a handful of people in foyers. The founding Redoubtables—Sue Boland and John Cameron—have chalked up untold successes in that time, but none quite so compelling, according to many veteran Operatunity groupies, as TGML. As Olivia Pierson reports: "I bumped into others whom I knew, who said it was the best Operatunity show they had ever been to. The sheer quality had them in raptures."

First-timers were equally moved: "This was actually a spiritual experience, free from two-bit mysticism, with Lanza’s Voice of God inspiring the audience. Who needs church?" said Greg Davis.

Aside from the sheer joy of paying tribute to the singer who changed my world when I was seven years old, I came away agog at the enormity of what Operatunity have achieved with their daytime concerts and how they have achieved it. To be involved in an Operatunity concert tour is to make the term "multi-tasking" a preposterous understatement. The performers assume responsibility not just for their performance but every facet of each concert, unloading and reloading the equipment (which ain't light!), setting it up and operating it, joining bits of metal together to form screen frames, facilitating the sandwich lunches Operatunity supplies at the end of each concert, manning the doors and box office tables, taking turns at the wheel in the exhausting drives between venues, etc. An Operatunist has to be ready to be most if not all of the following: sprint athlete, power-lifter, kitchen-hand, jig-saw junkie, dish-washer, feeder of multitudes, eftpos-operator, bus driver, doorman/usher, nurse, salesman and all-round schmoozer, etc—and then, if he/she has any energy left: singer, comedian, dancer and pianist! In all seriousness, though I could never at my age do it all again, I salute the regulars who do it routinely and are not only still standing but flourishing as purveyors of quality entertainment with nary a sniff of a subsidy.

On-stage highlights for me were Bonaventure (Bonnie) Allan-Moetaua's Lamento di Federico, my nephew Karl Perigo's Serenade, Sue Boland's If I Loved You and Penny Dodd's Intermezzo. My and Karl's Golden Days duet seemed to go down well every time, too. Of course, Karl's and Bonnie's (both bald as badgers) Besame Mucho routine wearing Mario wigs, culminating in Karl's plonking his on the head of a random bald audience member, was beyond hilarious, and helped lighten the mood just when poignance threatened to become overwhelming.

An off-stage highlight for me was one night near the end of the tour in Wanganui, when we all gathered in the evening to unwind and watch The Great Caruso. I think it fair to report that all members of the troupe came away knowing just why we were paying this tribute to The Great Lanza, fifty-seven years after his demise. As Sue said, "A fabulous movie!"

I'd like to thank my friend Dr. Derek McGovern for his behind-the-scenes assistance in providing Lanza stills and audio clips. One of the latter, Mario saying, "Enough of this talk, I'm here to sing," formed part of the banter between me and Mario during my opening spiel of the show. Hilariously, at one point during rehearsal, Sue was being a bit lengthy in one of her own spoken contributions further on in the show. Whether by accident or design (Bonnie?!), Mario was suddenly there again as if on cue, repeating: "Enough of this talk, I'm here to sing!" and we all dissolved in laughter at his unscheduled but timely intervention!

I'd like also to express my appreciation to Chief Multitude-Feeder Jeanette for realising that apart from my natural-born befuddlement, all the venues were unfamiliar to me and I needed some guidance from time to time as to where I was and where I needed to go.

My heartfelt thanks to Sue and John for making the project possible.

And last word to noted opera singer Heather Pascual, who attended the Remuera concert and has given me permission to quote part of her e-mail to me afterwards:

Hi Lindsay,

I hope you are well and feeling proud of your huge success and input into the Mario Lanza Concert a few weeks ago, which was so well received and enjoyed. ... Mario was an exceptional person with a glorious voice—he will always be remembered. Emotion is part of a singer’s DNA. Go Mario!

Thanks for this gem of a

Derek McGovern's picture

Thanks for this gem of a review!

I'm thrilled with all the love this CD has been receiving, and I still have to pinch myself that this is our fifth Lanza compilation in just two years. In the dark old days of poorly compiled and infrequent releases from RCA/BMG, who would ever have believed that a company such as Sepia Records would come along and embrace Lanza so wholeheartedly?

And it's not just Sepia's dedication to showcasing the best of Mario in lovingly remastered sound; it's the company's insistence on making each CD booklet a work of art. Talk about a class act!

New Sepia/McGovern CD

Lindsay Perigo's picture

One Alone on Amazon.

My review:

The prolific collaboration between Derek McGovern and Sepia continues on its stellar path with their latest release, One Alone. Every track is a gem—no clunkers. Especially outstanding are I've Got You under My Skin, Tell Me Oh Blue Blue Sky, Love Me Tonight (better than we've ever heard it), The Trembling of a Leaf, and the title song, One Alone. The human voice and the human spirit at their most wondrous. Mario Lanza—sui generis.

—Lindsay Perigo, author, The One Tenor

Zsa Zsa Gabor ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... who died late last year (wasn't 2016 big for celebrity deaths?!) at the age of 99, starred with Mario in his last movie, For the First Time. Evidently she was the one and only winner of the Golden Globes "Most Glamorous Actress" award. Story here, replete with shot of her and Mario:


New Trailer ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... for upcoming Lanza film:


Auf Wiedersehen Dahlink!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Zsa Zsa Gabor, who co-starred with Mario in his last movie, has died, at the age of 99.


New Lanza documentary

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Here's a Christmas promo for a new doco on Mario called The Best of Everything to be released in March next year:


It really was...

Olivia's picture

a beautiful show - very funny too. We even got to hear Linz sing 'Golden Days' in his Baritone voice. Was wonderful!

I'm thrilled to hear that the

Derek McGovern's picture

I'm thrilled to hear that the tour was received so rapturously (though having read the beautiful script, I'm not surprised that poignance threatened to overwhelm the audience at times!). Is there any chance that it was filmed and might appear, say, on YouTube one of these days? 


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