Be My Love - A tribute to Mario Lanza
Nicholas BRODSZKY (1905 - 1958)
1. Be my love* [3:03]
Agustín LARA (1900 - 1970)
2. Granada [3:59]
Renato RASCEL (1912 - 1991)
3. Arrivederci, Roma [3:47]
Juventino ROSAS (1868 - 1894), Irving AARONSON (1895 - 1963)
4. The loveliest night of the year* [3:40]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792 - 1868)
5. La danza [3:16]
Sigmund ROMBERG (1887 - 1951)
The Student Prince
6. Serenade [3:27]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857 - 1919)
7. Recitar ... Vesti la giubba [2:57]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863 - 1945)
8. Mamma!Quel vino è generoso [3:59]
Paolo TOSTI (1846 - 1916)
9. ‘A vucchella [3:10]
10. Marechiare [3:01]
Cesare Andrea BIXIO (1896 - 1978)
11. Parlami d’amore, Mariù* [2:47]
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834 - 1886)
12. Cielo e mar! [4:35]
Umberto GIORDANO (1867 - 1948)
13. Amor te vieta [1:54]
14. Because you’re mine[2:02]
Georges BIZET (1838 - 1875)
15. La fleur que tu m’avais jetée [3:52]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 - 1924)
16. Nessun dorma [3:08]
Richard RODGERS (1902 - 1979)
17. You’ll never walk alone [1:44]
Guy d’HARDELOT (Helen RHODES) (c 1858 - 1936)
18. Because [2:19]
Joseph Calleja (tenor)
New London Singers (14, 16), BBC Concert Orchestra/Steven Mercurio
* Reconstructed by Steven Mercurio from manuscripts from the original Lanza performances.
rec. The Colosseum, Watford, 21-28 February 2012
Sung texts with German, English and French translations
DECCA 478 3531 [56:45]
In an interview from 16 May 2012 Joseph Calleja explains why he recorded this tribute to Mario Lanza. He ‘is the tenor responsible for the start of my career. My first experience of operatic singing was hearing Mario in the film The Great Caruso’. Joseph Calleja wasn’t alone. Millions of people probably had their first encounter with operatic singing through Lanza’s movies and some of them were so hooked that they wanted to become opera singers themselves. He had a voice, that man! I probably heard him on the radio in my teens, though I have no specific memory of that, but one of my first gramophone records was an EP with four titles from the RCA catalogue: the Pearl-Fisher Duet with Björling and Merrill, the Anvil chorus from Trovatore, the Habanera from Carmen with Risë Stevens and Granada with Mario Lanza. That was for many years the only recording I had with him and after some years I got more or less tired of it. The voice was beautiful, the intensity palpable but everything was too much, larger-than-life. I returned to Lanza later on and still liked the quality of the voice but not the over-use of it. There was no subtlety, very little elegance.
The first time I heard Joseph Calleja I didn’t think in Mario Lanza terms, but subconsciously I must have thought that here was a singer with exactly the qualities Lanza lacked: elegance, subtlety, a willingness to sing softly. It was also a rather small voice and I couldn’t dream of hearing him in the spinto repertoire in which Lanza excelled. He has gradually filled out and grown but basically it is a lirico.
Before I put on the disc after a tasty dinner together with my wife I skimmed through the play-list and found that many of the songs and arias were in Jussi Björling’s repertoire and that was a good omen, since I have always counted Calleja among possible heirs to Jussi. He isn’t there yet, will probably never be but he is certainly among the best of the younger singers - he is not yet 35 and many lyrical tenors have developed towards dramatic roles fairly late. No one, at least not I, could imagine that Gösta Winbergh would become a Lohengrin, a Walther, a Florestan and a Parsifal - but he did.
Calleja sings beautifully and stylishly in the first six numbers, never overloading the voice, concentrating on elegant phrasing and lightness of tone. When he reaches the verismo arias from Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana he cleverly avoids any histrionics a la his idol Lanza. This is good for his vocal health. However something is inevitably missing. It is pretty but pale. Three standard songs from the Italian light repertoire fare much better and in particular Parlami d’amore is fine. With Cielo e mar he is back in the heavy-weight field and, in spite of careful and beautiful phrasing, he feels a size too small. Amor ti vieta is also verismo but this is an aria that even so light-voiced a singer as Leopold Simoneau could manage. Because you’re mine goes well but the Flower song and Nessun dorma are not yet his cup of tea.
You’ll never walk alone from Carousel was intended for a contralto and as such, in the musical, it’s a real tear-jerker. Sung by a tenor it loses some of its magic - but it is beautifully sung. d’Hardelot’s Because brings the recital to a happy end and those who have fallen under Calleja’s spell will, I’m sure, feel fully satisfied. I am more doubtful when it comes to die-hard Lanza fans. I suspect that they, like me, miss the adrenalin and the big gestures. Less than a year ago I reviewed a disc with similar contents, a mix of popular songs and opera arias with Vittorio Grigolo. He is even more lyrical than Calleja but he had chosen arias that were perfect for his present vocal status.
Full marks, anyway, for the playing of the BBC Concert Orchestra and also for the singing of the New London Singers in two of the numbers and, not natural today even with full price issues, complete texts with translations. Someone has been thinking.
Summary: Here is one of the most beautiful tenor voices now before the public, treated with musicality, style and feeling. If the programme appeals to you, by all means buy the disc, but don’t expect the adrenalin kick that Mario Lanza was able to convey.
If the programme appeals, by all means buy but don’t expect Lanza’s adrenalin kick.