Search - Giuseppe Verdi, Umberto Giordano, Giacomo Puccini :: Mario Lanza ~ Opera Arias & Duets, from Andréa Chenier · La Bohème · I Pagliacci · Madama Butterfly · Otello

Mario Lanza ~ Opera Arias & Duets, from Andréa Chenier · La Bohème · I Pagliacci · Madama Butterfly · Otello
Giuseppe Verdi, Umberto Giordano, Giacomo Puccini
Mario Lanza ~ Opera Arias & Duets, from Andréa Chenier · La Bohème · I Pagliacci · Madama Butterfly · Otello
Genres: World Music, Jazz, Pop, Classical, Broadway & Vocalists
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #1


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Mario Lanza: Opera Arias & Duets...What Might Have Been
Tony Partington ( | Eden Prairie, Minnesota | 08/19/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Toscanini called Lanza's voice the "Greatest natural tenor voice of the 20th Century." In listening to this disc one understands why he made this amazing statement. Every track is wonderful and exciting listening, but the real gems are the recordings which have, up to now, never been released. The lovely aria "Amor ti vieta" from Giordano's seldom performed FEDORA is sung so lyrically at the start and then builds to a wonderful verismo climax. His reading of "Lamento di Federico" from L'ARLESIANA, finds Lanza in beautiful shape vocally and his investment of passion and pathos of this work is overflowing. One note regarding this aria from this seldom done work; would that Mario have observed the composers dynamics a bit more. It is a lyric piece and often times more effective when sung with that type of approach. One of the finest tracks on this reasonably priced recording is the third act duet from Verdi's OTELLO. Lanza is partnered by the great soprano Licia Albanese. The singing is glorious and had Mario lived past the age of 38, he would have, in all likelihood, have created an Otello on the opera stage that would have rivaled even Del Monaco and Domingo. Certain music critics still turn their noses up at the mention of Mario Lanza doubting his legitimacy as a classical vocalist. To them I commend this recording. Listen, and with objectivity, and you will hear the "Greatest natural tenor voice of the 20th Century.""
Superb diamonds scattered among the dross
D. MCGOVERN | New Zealand | 08/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Let's get the criticisms out of the way first. This is a mixed bag of some of the finest operatic recordings Mario Lanza ever made, together with some decidedly mediocre performances. If it is too much to expect for BMG to get it completely right when it comes to assembling any Lanza collection, let us at least be grateful that some of the tenor's greatest recordings have finally appeared on CD.

But first the gripes:

The CD starts out unpromisingly with a mannered and sloppy performance of Celeste Aida taken from one of Lanza's Coca-Cola-sponsored radio shows from 1952. For a much superior rendition of this aria by Lanza, one need look no further than his outtake for The Great Caruso soundtrack (featured on the 1998 Rhino Records "Lanza at MGM" CD) or his 1949 commercial recording (available on the 1987 "Legendary Tenor" CD). The second track, Amor Ti Vieta -- another "Coke" Show offering from 1952 -- is similarly flawed, with Lanza alternating between his full voice and some inappropriate crooning. (For a completely different performance by the tenor, I recommend his sublime 1955 rendition of the aria, available on the 2004 twofer album Serenade/A Cavalcade of Show Tunes, and reviewed elsewhere on this site.)

The 1955 Serenade soundtrack contained some of Lanza's finest operatic singing. Ironically, however, his two *weakest* offerings from the soundtrack are featured here: the bleary and unfocused Nessun Dorma and a rather graceless O Soave Fanciulla with Jean Fenn. Sadly, these are Lanza's only commercial recordings of these pieces; he did, however, sing both the aria and the duet magnificently in concert at the Hollywood Bowl in 1948 and 1947, respectively. (Both performances are available elsewhere.)

Similarly, the Madama Butterfly Love Duet from 1950 is Lanza at his roughest, with his singing here light years removed from his 1947 Hollywood Bowl performance with soprano Frances Yeend. He mars his last note on the 1950 O Paradiso, an aria that he went on to perform magnificently for the Serenade soundtrack five years later. The ubiquitous Vesti La Giubba (again, taken from the Coke Shows) is inferior to the versions recorded for both The Great Caruso and Lanza's final movie, the 1958 For The First Time.

All is forgiven, however, with the inclusion of what is arguably the finest-ever rendition of the Monologue from Otello. The Australian critic John Cargher once remarked that this recording alone would "assure Lanza of immortality", and he is right. Recorded for the movie Serenade in 1955, this is the perfect Otello voice -- dark, but with dazzling colours and a brilliant upper register. It is an astonishing performance. Irritatingly, BMG have lumped it under the same track number as the duet, Dio To Giocondi which precedes it, but stick with the duet as well for it offers memorable singing with soprano Licia Albanese.

The Improvviso from Andrea Chenier is in the same class, and no one -- not even Gigli -- comes close to capturing the poetry and dramatic thrust of Lanza's rendition. The climactic phrase "Amor, divino dono..." is staggering, and listening to this recording today one can appreciate why leading opera houses were desperate to secure Lanza for the role of Andrea Chenier.

Come Un Bel Di' di Maggio (from the same opera) is also included, and although not quite in the same class as the rendition of the Improvviso, it features a most beautiful first half before Lanza loses his way slightly towards the end. Ironically, considering the number of lesser radio performances featured here, this is actually one aria that the tenor *did* sing better on his Coca-Cola-sponsored show. (That version is yet to be released on any BMG CD.)

Other highlights on the CD include a superb M'appari from Martha, an appropriately dramatic (if slightly hammy) Un Tal Gioco from Pagliacci, and the little-known Testa Adorata from Leoncavallo's La Boheme. Testa Adorata is quintessential Lanza, with the tenor alternately poetic and powerful as he builds up to a tremendous climax of despair in this thrilling performance.

The 1952 Lamento Di Federico (again from the Coke Shows!) also makes its first appearance on CD. Much debated by Lanza aficionados, this is another exciting performance, but one which I find too over the top in its almost-hysterical anguish. Granted, the climactic High B makes my hair stand on end, and the voice is appropriately lyric here, but Lanza sang this much more beautifully in Serenade. In any event, Lanza's best version of this aria is arguably his hauntingly lyrical rendition in a 1948 Toronto concert, which features on the disc accompanying the 2004 biography Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy. Much more restrained, both the Toronto and Serenade performances achieve their impact without the unnecessary histrionics of the Coke performance.

All in all, then, the CD is a decidedly mixed offering, but it is still essential listening for anyone interested in the most fascinating tenor of the 20th Century. And if, by chance, BMG ever gets round to a Volume 2, may I respectfully urge them to compile it more selectively. Let's have, for example, the tenor's 1950 E Lucevan Le Stelle and Recondita Armonia, the Coke Cielo E Mar, the 1949 Che Gelida Manina, the 1950 O Tu Che In Seno Agli Angeli from La Forza Del Destino, and the aforementioned Serenade arias all on the one CD! How about it, BMG?"
Breathless vocal passion
David Adams | San Francisco, CA USA | 08/25/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Beyond possessing a tremendous voice, Mario Lanza's great triumph was to invest in every song -- nay, every note -- a breath-taking depth of emotion. Never artificial or overwrought, it is evident in Lanza's singing that he is feeling every word. This sincerity and passion, combined with his amazing technical ability, form a shimmering alchemy which more often then not leaves me entirely overwhelmed. This CD contains several superb examples of this alchemy, including the two Chenier arias, and the electrifying Otello duet, sung with Licia Albenese. Listening to the latter, I found myself literally gripping my seat, exhilarated. Opera truly lives when it is felt as well as sung, and anyone who understands this will find find this CD blissfully captivating."