Music of the Gods: New All-Operatic Mario Lanza CD Coming in February!

Derek McGovern's picture
Submitted by Derek McGovern on Thu, 2014-12-18 01:58

Unfathomably, for an artist whose film The Great Caruso inspired the careers of many leading opera singers, and whose RCA album of the name was the first operatic LP to sell a million copies, CD compilations of tenor Mario Lanza have long emphasized the lighter part of his recorded legacy. Indeed, as I argue here, Lanza the Opera Singer has been virtually replaced on CD by Lanza the Pop Singer. Little wonder that today his discs are likely to be found in the "Crooners" section of CD stores. Adding insult to injury, there has never been a single consistently outstanding CD compilation of his operatic recordings.

Until now, that is.

I'm delighted to announce that UK-based Sepia Records will be releasing the CD Mario Lanza: Greatest Operatic Recordings on February 10, 2015. This is a Lanza CD that (for once!) lives up to its title. While it may not contain all of Lanza's greatest operatic performances---no single disc could---my good friend Vince Di Placido is right on the money when he describes its contents as "all killer, no filler" :) 

Here's what on the CD:

1.      Von Flotow: Martha. M’apparì  

2.      Mozart: Così fan tutte. E voi ridete        

3.      R. Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier. Di rigori armato  

4.      Puccini: La bohème. Che gelida manina   

5.      Puccini: Tosca. Recondita armonia   

6.      Puccini: Tosca. E lucevan le stelle  

7.      Puccini: Madama Butterfly. Vogliatemi bene   [Live performance]

8.      Puccini: Turandot. Nessun dorma  [Live performance]

9.      Cilea: L’Arlesiana. È la solita storia (Lamento di Federico)   [Live performance]

10.  Verdi: Rigoletto. È il sol dell’anima…Addio! Addio!    [Live performance]

11.  Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana. Mamma, quel vino è generoso (Addio alla Madre)  

12.  Leoncavallo: Pagliacci. Vesti la giubba  

13.  Giordano: Andrea Chénier. Un dì all’azzurro spazio (Improvviso)  

14.  Giordano: Andrea Chénier. Come un bel dì di maggio  

15.  Giordano: Fedora. Amor ti vieta   

16.  Meyerbeer: L’Africana. O paradiso  

17.  Verdi: Otello. Dio ti giocondi  

18.  Verdi: Otello. Dio! Mi potevi scagliar (Monologue)   

19.  Verdi: Otello. Niun mi tema (Death of Otello)   

Track #17---a ten-minute duet from Otello---is especially noteworthy, as this is not the more familiar commercially released version with the great diva Licia Albanese, but a recording made four months before that rendition. And as great as Mario is on the Albanese version, he's even better here: more musical, more vocally resplendent, and more terrifying in his characterization of Otello.

I'll leave you with a couple of paragraphs from my liner notes:

This CD brings together for the first time arguably the best of Lanza’s live and studio operatic recordings, beginning with the tenor’s forays into lighter, lyric parts, then moving gradually into heavier spinto territory and, finally, dramatic roles. As such, it should be a revelation to many. For the tenor presented here is not the sometimes-erratic artist one hears on numerous lightweight compilations, but an opera singer—and a potentially great one at that. Of course, some will baulk at that description, citing the fact that Lanza performed only two complete roles. But as musicologist Matthew Boyden reminds us, “[That] is a little like claiming that a painter is only ever an artist when his or her work has been shown.” 

Lanza, in any event, never stopped studying and singing opera, and he worked diligently with top operatic coaches throughout his adult life. The evidence of that study can be heard here, with the tenor providing convincing characterizations of fifteen distinct roles, only one of which—remarkably—he ever sang (in full) on stage. In short, he transcends a potentially major handicap, while offering what Caruso’s own son, Enrico Jnr, admiringly called “original interpretations.” 

The CD can be pre-ordered from all the usual online sellers, including Amazon US and UK. More details about the CD can also be found at my Lanza forum here.

Ordered it!

Tore's picture

Just ordered this... Now, if anyone can recommend me other CD's by Lanza, without getting a shitstorm by Vile Dick this time, I'll be very thankful.

I've placed an order

gregster's picture

Thank you Derek.

Well, I could scarcely wish

Derek McGovern's picture

Well, I could scarcely wish for a more ecstatic review of this CD. Thank you, Linz!

This CD was a work of love. My collaborators---Armando Cesari and Vince Di Placido---and I spent literally hundreds of hours on this CD, and our only aim was to do justice to Lanza's legacy. Full credit too, of course, to Sepia Records and its esteemed sound engineer, Robin Cherry, for making this dream come true.

Just a reminder that the CD is available for a mere pittance at the following site (8.79 pounds, or US$13.54, to be exact, including postage) to those outside the UK:



First reactions

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'm posting here what I wrote to Derek as I was listening to the CD for the first time tonight. My comments will obviously have to be cleaned up for family consumption, but the spirit of them will remain intact: this is an outstanding achievement. Every true human with a brain and a beating heart should buy this CD and spread the word about it. This is the greatest-ever male singing talent on record, in a compilation that truly showcases the fact, as opposed to the lightweight populist fluff we've had to settle for hitherto.

Guess what I'm listening to?? Smiling

Exceptionally, outstandingly well done kiddo! Liner notes are stellar. I'm just at the Butterfly, with which someone has performed a miracle. Robin Cherry? I'd like to mention a name.

Minor minor quibble. (Oh shit! O notte serena. So resonant!) Couldn't you get a Che Gelida without the dropouts? Just copy the Naxos one! Smiling

The two Toscas—oh my god, Butterfly high C!!!!—destroyed me. Oh, here's Nessun. Enveloped in bass all of a sudden. Hahahaha. Sulla tua bocca. OK. I'll give him a pass. The tech has done wonders in somehow rebalancing voice and orchestra. OK, here we go: dilegua o notte. Holy fuck!!

Lamento. Yes, gorgeous sound. Great rebalancing. Love the lashings of bass. Yes, superb, though still not as good as the Coke.

Addio, addio. More lashings of bass. How awful. Smiling AngelIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII. Christ! Never heard this sound this good. Pity about MJS, wittering away. But amazing how improved this sounds.

Mama quel vino. Just the way it sounded on my grandmother's gramophone. Holy fuck again. Those high notes. Some extraneous subterranean noise, but nothing. Ah. The first take ending. Sharp as buggery. Makes one's eyes water similarly. Beyond magnificent.

Vesti. Ah yes, that sandiness. Minor. Best I've heard it. Still not as good as my favourite, but outstanding. Even the orchestra is redeemed. Oh, I'm loving all this mahogany!

Improvviso. I have Mario's words in that "swing or sentiment" article ringing in my head. How thoroughly he applied them! I seem to have to turn this one up. "T'amo." Jesus! And as for the finale ... destroyed again.

Come un bel di. God. Haven't heard this in ages. Forgotten how well he sings it. Electrifying.

Amor Ti Vieta. Well, slightly boxed in, but still, again, the best I've heard it.

O Paradiso. Can there be a beyond-perfect? If so, this is it..

Otello. Singers seem slightly pushed back. Comes right part way through. Incomparable performance by Mario. I'm cowering in fear. "Giura, giura e ti danna." Well done Ms Boh too. I hope she gets to hear this. So much detail in the orchestra in the bridge. "Quel raggio." Holy fuck again. "Gioia" ditto! I'm shaking all over.

Death of said Otello. Sandy again, but minor, although worse than the Vesti. "Un altra baaaaaaaaaaa ..." Right up front. Absolute heart-wrencher.

I can't praise this highly enough, Derrico, but I'll do my best. In the first instance I'm going to post these notes on SOLO, since they're my spontaneous impromptu reactions right from the heart. Can't put them on Rense with all those desiccated old prudes there. Smiling Then I'll do a more polished account for SOLO, Rense, LL, Amazon etc. You have achieved something we've waited decades for: a clunker-free, musically intelligent representation of quintessential Mario. No need to skip any tracks—every one a masterpiece. Get drunk and celebrate a seminal achievement. The pomowankers said a decent Mario CD couldn't make him go viral again. Let's prove them wrong. This CD shows conclusively that no one since Mario has come close to him. Before and during him they struggled too. This will show the world what *real* singing is, not the mewlings of Bocelli and Potts.

I look forward to this one

gregster's picture

I'm familiar with ten of the above. It will be excellent to have them in the one package with good liner notes. Well done Derek.

Outstanding, Derek

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Congratulations to you, Derek McGovern, and to Sepia for having the nous to proceed with this, unlike the official guardians of Mario's treasures, Sony, who have been criminally negligent, musically speaking, in their exercise of that stewardship. I hope there'll be many more CDs from you and Sepia, and that this signals an end to the hegemony of Derek Mannering when it comes to what Lanza material gets out there. He and Sony have presided over a decades-long travesty where we're supposed to be satisfied with crumbs and morsels, and populist dross has been endlessly reissued while nuggets have remained buried. Enough! Derek is dead! Long live Derek!

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