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Introducing… Mario Lanza (3 CD Box Set)
Mario Lanza 1949-1950 [71:55]
Mario Lanza Vol. 2: The Great Lanza (Original Recordings 1949-1951) [77:28]
Mario Lanza vol. 3: The Christmas Album [61:22]
NAXOS 8.103006

Mario Lanza 1949-1950 [71:55]

Introducing Mario Lanza [5:27]
Celeste Aida from Aida [4:23]
Che gelida manina from La Bohème [5:00]
Mamma mia che vo’ sapè [2:36]
Core ‘ngrato [3:20]
I Know, I Know, I Know [4:03]
They Didn’t Believe Me [5:08]
Libiamo, ne’ lieti calci from La Traviata [3:03]
Stolta paura, l’amour from Madama Butterfly [8:05]
O Paradiso! from L’Africana [3:11]
La fleur que tu m’avais jetée from Carmen [3:38]
M’appari from Martha [3:23]
Toast of New Orleans [3:08]
Boom Biddy Boom [2:50]
The Bayou Lullaby [3:28]
Tina-Lina [3:15]
I’ll Never Love You [3:28]
Be My Love [3:29]
Mario Lanza Vol. 2: The Great Lanza (Original Recordings 1949-1951) [77:28]

O Sole mio [4:20]
Mattinata [3:45]
Granada [3:55]
Lolita [3:38]
Questa o quella from Rigoletto [1:47]
La donna è mobile from Rigoletto [2:04]
Parmi veder le labrime from Rigoletto [4:39]
Recondita armonia from Tosca [2:41]
E lucevan le stele from Tosca [3:05]
Una furtive lagrima from L’Elisir d’amore [4:11]
Cielo e mar from La Gioconda [4:00]
Vesti la giubba from Pagliacci [3:36]
Marechiare [2:32]
‘A Vucchella [2:49]
Because [2:08]
The Loveliest Night Of The Year [3:34]
For You Alone [2:39]
Addio alla madre from Cavalleria Rusticana [3:30]
O tu che in seno agli angeli from La forza del destino [4:48]
I Love Thee [2:29]
My Song, My Love [3:27]
Toselli Serenade [3:29]
Drigo Serenade [3:04]
Mario Lanza vol. 3: The Christmas Album [61:22]

O Holy Night [4:07]
The Virgin’s Slumber Song [3:27]
The Lord’s Prayer [3:24]
The First Noel [3:15]
O Come All Ye Faithful [3:18]
Away In A Manger [2:58]
We Three Kings Of Orient Are [3:04]
Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem [2:47]
Silent Night [3:27]
Guardian Angels [3:58]
Because [2:20]
I Love Thee [2:27]
Ave Maria [2:40]
Without A Song [3:39]
The Rosary [2:35]
Through The Years [2:04]
Trees [2:41]
Song Of Songs [3:51]
Somebody Bigger Than You And I [3:32]
You’ll Never Walk Alone [1:46]

[Originally released independently as Naxos 8.120547, Naxos 8.120668 and Naxos 8.120720]

Mario Lanza is one of those giants of an era who seems to have disappeared in popular culture as his time passed. Known as "The Service Caruso", Lanza had all the makings of a Shakespearean tragic hero. Even though he was a high-school drop out, he had a voice unparalleled and revered by Sinatra and Elvis Presley in his own day as well as Domingo, Carreras, and Pavarotti among many others. He was discovered and made a movie star after only a single staged production, but lost his MGM contract over a dispute with the director Curtis Bernhardt in 1952, and died of a heart attack in 1959 when trying to return to the physical condition he was in during his Hollywood days. Even so, his seven films and multitude of recordings still attract audiences and stand as a testament to this remarkable man. Assembled in this box set is a collection of many of his recordings from his heyday, which should if properly executed serve as an excellent introduction to one of the most magnificent voices of the twentieth century.
It is unfortunate that this was not properly executed. The selection of recordings is not problematic in any way, nor is the organization. These discs do a fine job of introducing the music of Lanza. Although the "Introducing Mario Lanza" track on the first disc is an overly long description of other operatic tenors throughout history comparing Lanza to them, the true problem is one of sound fidelity. The recordings sound as if they were either recorded directly off an AM radio signal or a 50 year old vinyl record. While this can, at times, add a nice effect to vintage recordings of radio shows or big-band era comedy routines, it hardly seems appropriate in the case of a musical introduction to a great voice.
There are three albums presented in this collection, and unfortunately all three of them suffer from the same lack of sound quality. Naxos did notify this reviewer that the lack of fidelity is due to the nature of the original recordings: they are indeed taken in many cases from 78s and radio broadcasts. As they were released under the "Nostalgia Naxos" label, it can perhaps be assumed that the listener would be expecting this type of sound, perhaps even finding it endearing. It is also possible that the recordings that this set was collected from were improperly stored and that there was simply no way to bring the luster back to such a collection. If this is the case though, one wonders at the thought process that would lead to this collection being released with no notice on the packaging that these are low fidelity, vintage recordings where the remastering largely consists of reducing the noise from a record playback rather than a true remastering of the original.
On the positive side, there is no evidence of tape-stretching or record-warping in the transfer. The performances themselves are very good. Once one forgives the inferior quality of the recordings themselves, the music is quite enjoyable. Mario Lanza was truly a giant among singers of his day, and that fact that is difficult to disguise. Additionally, if this were to be a collection for use as mood music or background in a theatrical performance of some kind set in the early 1950s, it would be ideal.
It is a shame that this collection of recordings cannot be more highly recommended. The performances themselves and the performer certainly deserve a better tribute. One would wish that better recordings were presented, as 78s and radio broadcasts simply cannot hope to properly convey the power of Mario Lanza's voice. He was a true giant in his day, and simply isn't given his just due when the original recordings began their existence without that brilliant timbre and then were allowed to age for decades. Should someone be searching for a large collection of Lanza's recordings, this would not be a bad place to start. However, it is likely that there are better recordings available, and if one is looking for sound quality over simple exposure to his legacy this would not be the ideal collection.

Patrick Gary


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