1) BE MY LOVE
2) THE TINA-LINA
3) THEY DIDNíT BELIEVE ME
4) CELESTE AIDA
5) CHE GELIDA MANINA
6) AVE MARIA
7) VESTI LA GIUBBA
8) LA DONNA E MOBILE
10) CATARI, CATARI
12) O SOLE MIO
14) MY SONG, MY LOVE
15) FOR YOU ALONE
16) THE LOVELIEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR
18) YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME
19) THE SONG ANGELS SING
21) DRINK, DRINK, DRINK
Mario Lanza was called "The Typical Italian Tenor"
before he became known as "the new Caruso" which virtually
every tenor was known as in the 1920s. He was born Alfred Arnoldo Cocozzo
into an immigrant Italian family in Philadelphia in 1921 and brought
up on Caruso and Gigli by his Mother. He later worked in his Grandfatherís
grocery business, but remained an avid vocal student in his spare time.
In 1942 he auditioned for Koussevitsky during a Boston Symphony Orchestra
tour and was awarded a scholarship at the New England Conservatory and
later that year made his stage debut in "The Merry Wives of Windsor"
at Tanglewood. He signed for a concert tour but his career was interrupted
by two years war service in the Air Force. Based at Texas he successfully
auditioned for Peter Lind Hayes and was also in demand at forces shows.
After touring military bases in Frank Loesserís "On the Beam",
following demobilisation in 1945 he joined the chorus line of the Broadway
musical "Winged Victory" . He also appeared in six "Great
Moments In Music" concerts in New York. Then during 1946 he toured
Canada with Agnes Davis and embarked on more training with Gigliís voice
teacher Enrico Rosati through whose influence he was invited to sing
in Verdi Requiem with NBC Symphony Orchestra under Toscanini though
this he declined due to lack of self- confidence. By 1947 Lanzaís reputation
and confidence had grown and in July that year, in company with soprano
Frances Yeard and bass baritone George London formed The Bel Canto Trio.
Being familiar with Mario Lanzaís singing I looked
forward to hearing his recording of "Celeste Aida which he sang
in his films "That Midnight Kiss" & "The Great Caruso".
With Constantine Callinicos and the RCA Victor Orchestra, Lanza
sings in his rich powerful voice this wonderful aria with clarity and
great feeling. Just occasionally I felt he was putting unnecessary force
into his voice, particularly when he needed to reach top notes but the
end result is very moving. The orchestra are magnificent too. Not to
be missed. To follow this he recorded at the same time "Your Tiny
Hand is Frozen" from Pucciniís "La Boheme" again with
Constantine Callinicos. How could anyone fail to be moved by Lanzaís
rendering of this? His voice soars out powerful and strong. It is like
listening to someone telling you joyfully they are holding the hand
of someone they love and slowly caressing warmth into them. This really
is Lanza at his best.
His next recording made in New York in May 1949. Itís
the familiar "Cartari, Catari" . Of course there is no doubting
his love of Italian songs. He can also use them to give his great voice
full rein. Although no one could ever doubt his ability to reach all
the high notes with verve and clarity I think he does slightly spoil
this song by swelling his voice too loudly and causing it to sound harsh
to the ears. After listening to Lanzaís last song I then heard with
pleasure the opening bars of his next recording made in Hollywood in
August 1949. Itís "They Didnít Believe Me" with Ray Sinatra
& The RCA Orchestra from the film "That Midnight Kiss"
. I immediately noticed Lanzaís voice had become smoother and, I think,
more relaxed. He sings this well and you can hear every word in a voice
that now has a pleading quality that this number demands. He followed
this with "Lolita" , another of his favourite Italian love
songs and itís a good one too. The Orchestra lead him in with a flourish
and you immediately sense you are going to enjoy the song. I was impressed
here by Lanzaís silky smoothness which in no way takes away the power
of his voice. His high notes come through like the sound of bells. You
may not understand the words but you will enjoy the song and the music.
What better number to follow this than the great "O Sole Mio"
recorded at the same time in Hollywood. This is such a well known Italian
song and Mario does it full justice. Having lost the earlier harshness
he now sings with warmth and passion and also great warmth. Itís also
full of charm and you feel he is singing to you. I liked too how the
Orchestra appeared to add something additional to this lovely song.
How pleasant it is to hear Mario singing "Granada", the next
recording he made in Hollywood in 1949, again with Ray Sinatra. He appears
to go from strength to strength as he sings with great abandon this
delightful old number. His top notes ring out clearly and itís obvious
he knows how to breathe correctly when singing. I wondered how he could
hold some of the high notes for so long.
So much could be said of the next recording he made
in Hollywood at about the same time. Itís "Ave Maria" which
was featured in the film "The Great Caruso". Just close your
eyes and let the music lull you for a few minutes before Lanza sings.
You are unlikely to have you eyes closed for long when you hear Lanzaís
next recording he did about the same time. Once more from opera he gives
us "Vesta La Giubba" from Leoncavalloís "Pagliacci"
. No one could possibly ignore the rich, reverberating volume of Lanzaís
voice as he sings this great aria. The huge, ironic laugh comes naturally
as part of the song and Lanza doesnít appear to need to pause to breathe,
itís all part of his natural way of singing. His next recording in May
1950 is more opera, that great favourite "La Donna e Mobile"
from "Rigoletto". I must mention Constantine Callinicos &
the RCA Orchestra here as they are the perfect accompanists to someone
with a voice such as Lanzaís. It is noticeable how the orchestra appears
to sense when to slowly lower their volume and when Lanza touches the
high notes you feel they are waiting for him to slowly drop his voice
A perfect number to follow is "Be My Love"
from the film "The Toast of New Orleans". This
was written especially for Lanza. Itís a lovely song and Lanza ends
it on the highest note without any effort, bringing in the choir to
finish. From the same film we also have "The Tina-Lina". As
with "Be My Love" the choir accompanies, this time singing
softly in harmony in the background and the effect lovely. While still
in Hollywood that August he recorded "My Song, My Love", again
with Ray Sinatra and the RCA Victor Orchestra. By now it seemed as if
Lanza couldnít fail to succeed in any song but in this I feel he sounds
sluggish, as if he is needing to make an effort. Perhaps the song just
didnít appeal to him.
His next recording was "Because", another
number from "The Great Caruso" . He makes full use
of his great voice and sings as though he is really enjoying himself.
I have this sung by others but never with the vibrancy and the beauty
of Lanza. This applies also to the song he recorded during the same
month, "For You Alone". He sings pleadingly as only he can,
telling someone itís for them alone. Now and then you sense a slight
tremor in his voice as it rises and falls in waves of emotion. He then
went on to make "The Loveliest Night Of The Year". He leaves
you in no doubt of his enjoyment in singing this song which incidentally
became one of his many commercial hits. Not a very appropriate song
to follow it is "Temptation" which he recorded the following
January 1952 in Hollywood. This is not a song that I think suits his
voice at all even though he sings it well with just the right note of
sensuality. But in the end it falls short of his usual standard.
However, from July 1952 "You Do Something To Me"
is a different matter. This is a quiet love song and Lanza sings it
just as it should with great feeling. That same month he recorded "Serenade"
from his last film project ĎThe Student Princeí based on Rombergís musical.
Lanza didnít appear in the film as MGM thought he had grown too fat
to play the hero. They gave the role to the English actor Edmund Purdom
but used Lanzaís voice for the songs. "Serenade" is, of course,
a lovely song and Lanza has the perfect voice for it. In fact I think
this is one of his best recordings. Also from "The Student Prince"
we have, of course, "Drink, Drink, Drink". Lanza really is
at his best when singing a song of this calibre and with the choir accompanying
him you hear again what this great and unique voice was capable of.
We have to thank "Living Era" once again
for taking an old record of Mario Lanza singing, and transferring it
onto to a modern disc. Itís one that was well worth doing for all Lanzaís
many fans and those who are yet to join their number.