KASS Music Gem: Licia Albanese, 85, Sings National Anthem at Mario Lanza Ball

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Sun, 2012-12-02 04:23

In 1995, forty years after appearing with Mario in the movie Serenade, Metropolitan Opera veteran Licia Albanese attended the Mario Lanza Ball in Philadelphia. The octogenarian wasn't scheduled to sing, but sing she did, to the surprise and delight of the 600 attendees, who included moi:

"I attended the Mario Lanza Ball in 1995. Present that night was a soprano who had recorded a big operatic duet with him in 1955. She was seated at the head table as a guest of honour. She was 85 years old. Her name was Licia Albanese, now long retired, but she had been a leading soprano at the Metropolitan Opera House for decades. The MC announced that proceedings would commence with The Star-Spangled Banner, sung by a young baritone. He was at the back of the hall with his accompanist. As he began singing, we turned to look at him. Then we heard a female voice joining in. We turned to the front of the hall again, and there was Licia Albanese on her feet singing. She had decided there and then that she wasn't going to be left out - she would sing The Star-Spangled Banner too. And she did. At 85. Not the most polished, but certainly the most spirited singing of the National Anthem you ever heard."

From the book, Total Passion for the Total Height, by Lindsay Perigo.


gregster's picture

Linz wouldn't be smoking in such close quarters, but he may have been taking notes or asking for an autograph.
[Photo deleted: too large]


Lindsay Perigo's picture

Yes, I should have mentioned that she's still alive, at the age of 307. The photo was taken on the occasion of my interview with her, the day before the Ball. I shall see if I can prevail on Gregster to post that on YouTube next. Especially since, at the end of it, she tells me how "young and handsome" I am. That was probably the last occasion I was told such a thing by a woman. Men had already ceased saying it. As for the white thing in my hand ... it might be the cigarette I wrested from Licia, for her own good. Evil

Incidentally, here's the electrifying duet she and Mario recorded, and excerpted in the movie. It's from Verdi's Otello, based on Shakespeare's play. This is the famous scene where Otello accuses Desdemona of infidelity, and calls her a vile whore, a strumpet, and the like. Doug Bandler should appreciate this. It's not pretty, and not supposed to be:

How wonderful that she spontaneously joined in!

Rosie's picture

And it sounds as though she is spirited in other ways too.

....From Wikipedia: (by the way Wikipedia needs funds in order to continue - a "Please Help" banner just popped up when I looked up her name to see if she is still alive - she is.)

"Her success was instantaneous, and Albanese remained at the Met for 26 seasons, performing a total of 427 performances of 17 roles in 16 operas. She left the company in 1966 in a dispute with General Manager Sir Rudolf Bing without a grand farewell. After performing in four productions during 1965/66, she was scheduled for only one performance the next season. She returned her contract unsigned."

That spirit sounds a little familiar to me!

Re the photo of the two of you - was that taken at the function or at an interview with her? Also, I hope you don't mind me asking, but what is the strange white thing I noticed in your left hand when your name fell away from the photo? At 3:23.

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