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Mario Lanza: Because You’re Mine
Nicholas BRODSZKY Because You’re Mine; Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) (adapted Irving Aaronson) The Song Angels Sing; Johnny LEHMAN Lee-Ah-Loo; Cole PORTER (1893-1964) You Do Something To Me; Nacio Herb BROWN Temptation; Miklós RÓZSA (1907-1995) Lydia; Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908) Song of India; Bob MERRILL If You Were Mine; Lee KAUDERER Call Me Fool; Constantine CALLINICOS You Are My Love
The Student Prince Sigmund ROMBERG (1887-1951) Orchestral Introduction; Serenade; Golden Days Drink, Drink, Drink; Nicholas BRODSZKY Summertime in Heidelberg; Beloved; TRADITIONAL Gaudeamus Igitur; Sigmund ROMBERG Deep In My Heart, Dear; Nicholas BRODSZKY I’ll Walk With God
Mario Lanza (tenor)
Orchestra/Constantine Callinicos, except tracks 5, 6, conducted by Ray Sinatra.
Recorded in Hollywood 1952; 1954
NAXOS 8.120784 [58:41]

 

 

I have always regarded Mario Lanza as a tremendously gifted singer whose promise of a great career was only partly fulfilled; if one looks at him from a strictly operatic point of view, that is. His commercial success was of course enormous, but mainly in the field of light music. Luckily he recorded; and performed at his concerts quite a lot of operatic material. Nobody can deny that his was in many ways an exceptional voice; or rather, two voices. The first was the honeyed crooner; the second the gleaming Heldentenor. Of these two the crooner is actually easier to take, since he is, in this repertoire, as utterly natural as, say, Bing Crosby, while in operatic tenor mode, singing very often at a constant forte, he can become tiring. Of course his was a fine voice, steady and with perfect high notes, but quite often he forces and seldom does he colour his voice for added expression. This doesn’t mean that he is mechanical. Like Mario Del Monaco he can sing with great intensity and affection, as in Song of India. The Serenade from The Student Prince is also good and it seems that the better the music is, the more he delivers. In Golden Days he demonstrates a fine half-voice and Because You’re Mine is sweetly caressed. “Sweet” doesn’t, in this case, mean “sugary”, but when it comes to the accompanying choruses and orchestras, “sugary” is actually too weak a word, it should be syrupy, for the strings more often than not are typically ’fifties sentimental. There are angelic harp arpeggios and soupy choirs. It is all very much Hollywood of the period and the treacly choir in The Song Angels Sing is of the kind that necessitates an immediate ear rinse.

Most of the excerpts from The Student Prince are more classy. The Drinking Song has a fine male chorus, who also take part in Gaudeamus Igitur, sung a cappella; very good too. Lanza sings the whole song fortissimo. There are also two duets with soprano. On the original soundtrack that part was sung by Ann Blyth, but she was under contract with some other company so RCA Victor re-recorded the duets with Elizabeth Doubleday. Those recording sessions were obviously not very successful and in the end what Ms Doubleday recorded was mixed into existing and later recordings. The result was less than marvellous but that’s all we’ve got. (As is still well-known today Lanza never appeared in the film, since MGM thought he had grown too fat, so Edmund Purdom got the part instead and had to mime to Lanza’s singing.) Ms Doubleday has a pretty voice but she sings rather anonymously. Actually they are not real duets, since they never sing together. Anyway Deep in my Heart, Dear is well sung by Lanza with a great deal of feeling.

The sound, transferred by David Lennick and digitally restored by Graham Newton, is as good as one has any right to expect, But do bear in mind that these RCA Victor originals were never in the forefront when it came to high fidelity. Theirs is a raw sound, clear and quite detailed but not very sophisticated. It should be noted also that several of the titles on this disc are from radio recordings.

Nothing of what I have said need deter die-hard Lanza fans from investing in this disc. For the general listener and lovers of good singing the first two CDs in this series are safer recommendations. There you’ll find many of his best recordings of opera arias and Neapolitan songs, better suited to his voice type. There’s also Granada, which was my first Lanza record more than forty years ago.

I may sound unnecessarily harsh about this issue, but I still have a feeling that this is the commercial Lanza. I have recordings of him in opera, even live ones, and there he is a quite different artist. Those arias go straight to his heart; most of the songs on this disc go straight to his wallet.

Göran Forsling

 

 

 

 

 



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