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An Open Letter to BMG/Sony: Lanza CD Proposals

Mario Lanza

by Derek McGovern

Derek McGovern

Dear BMG/Sony

It has to be said: Mario Lanza's CDs are a mixed bag. While all but the most one-eyed of his admirers would acknowledge that the great Lanza was, at times, an erratic performer, it is frustrating that so many of his CDs should reflect this fact. Most of his compilations feature magnificent recordings intermingled with substandard performances -- an unfortunate practice when one considers that, in many cases, there are superior versions available of the worst selections. Indeed, multiple renditions abound of a large number of his arias and songs, making the task of assembling any Lanza collection a true test of musical competence on the part of its compiler.

The erratic performances fall roughly into three periods of Lanza's life: his 1951-52 Coca-Cola-sponsored radio show; the May 1956 sessions for the LP Lanza on Broadway (LM 2070); and his final, illness-affected sessions from 1959. The disastrous Lanza on Broadway excepted, however, by no means all of the tenor's output during these periods is substandard. Indeed, Lanza's Coca-Cola radio shows yielded many superb performances -- particularly of English love songs -- while his 1959 sessions produced some memorable singing on those days when he felt well enough to rise to the occasion. Special care, however, needs to be taken when compiling a CD from either of these periods. For incomparable though Mario Lanza was at his best, on his truly bad days -- as biographer Armando Cesari has noted -- his singing resembled "a hideous parody of the 'Lanza style.' " It is the latter impression that the CD proposals below seek to nullify.

The proposals include selections for a single definitive CD, as well as those for an alternative double CD version, both with the working title Quintessential Lanza. Each of the numbers chosen for these CDs represents Lanza at his best -- both vocally and stylistically -- and all of the genres in which he excelled are included. These are compilations that would appeal to the widest possible audience of music lovers, and would, I am sure, attract many new listeners who had previously dismissed Lanza.

The remaining three proposals are for compilations of Lanza's best performances in separate genres: Italian/Neapolitan songs; operatic arias; and English love songs and operetta. I feel that they would greatly enhance the tenor's existing catalogue -- tidying up, as they do, so many "loose ends" and bringing together his finest recordings in each genre for the first time. The operatic proposal deserves to take priority for, incredible as it may seem, the man acclaimed as "Caruso's successor" by Maria Callas has only ever been accorded one all-operatic compilation, the 1999 Opera Arias and Duets. A second operatic CD is obviously long overdue, especially when one considers the number of outstanding performances of arias that are either unreleased on CD, or scattered willy-nilly across many hard-to-find compilations. Only five of the 23 recordings suggested for this new operatic collection were featured on the earlier Opera Arias and Duets. 

Not included here are proposals for Lanza's inspirational songs and Christmas hymns; these genres are already well represented on existing collections (You'll Never Walk Alone and Christmas with Mario Lanza).

I sincerely hope you will accept these proposals in the spirit in which they are intended. As I argued in the liner notes to Armando's Cesari's biography Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy (Baskerville, Fort Worth: 2004), it is time for Lanza to be taken seriously as an artist. I believe these compilations will go a long way toward achieving that aim.

Yours faithfully

Derek McGovern

5 April 2005

e-mail: derekmcgovern@yahoo.com

 

QUINTESSENTIAL LANZA ( a single CD of his 24 greatest recordings)

1/ Serenade from The Student Prince (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

2/ Mamma Mia, Che Vo' Sape? (1949) C. Callinicos, cond.

3/ Some Day from The Vagabond King (1951) R. Sinatra. cond.

4/ M'Appari' from Martha (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

5/ Che Gelida Manina from La Boheme (1949) C. Callinicos, cond.

6/ Drink! Drink! Drink! from The Student Prince (1952) C. Callinicos. cond.

7/ Beloved (1953) C. Callinicos, cond.

8/ E Lucevan le Stelle from Tosca (1950) C. Callinicos. cond.

9/ Torna a Surriento (1955) J. Gimpel, piano.

10/ 'A Vucchella (1951) C. Callinicos, cond.

11/ Amor Ti Vieta from Fedora (1955) R. Heindorf, cond.

12/ Un Di' all'Azzurro Spazio (Improvviso) from Andrea Chenier (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

13/ I'll Walk With God (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

14/ If I Loved You (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

15/ Questa o Quella from Rigoletto (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

16/ Dio! Mi Potevi Scagliar (Monologue) from Otello (1955) R. Heindorf, cond.

17/ Yours is My Heart Alone (1956) Henri Rene, cond.

18/ Begin the Beguine (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

19/ Without a Song (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

20/ The Lord's Prayer (1951) R. Sinatra, cond. (RCA commercial version)

21/ Recondita Armonia from Tosca (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

22/ Voce 'e Notte (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

23/ Vesti la Giubba (1958) C. Callinicos, cond.

24/ Passione (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

*Unreleased on any BMG CD (as of April 5, 2005)

 

QUINTESSENTIAL LANZA (a double CD of his 48 greatest recordings)

In no particular order:

1/ Serenade from The Student Prince (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

2/ Mamma Mia, Che Vo' Sape? (1949) C. Callinicos, cond.

3/ Some Day from The Vagabond King (1951) R. Sinatra. cond.

4/ M'Appari' from Martha (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

5/ Che Gelida Manina from La Boheme (1949) C. Callinicos, cond.

6/ Drink! Drink! Drink! from The Student Prince (1952) C. Callinicos. cond.

7/ Beloved (1953) C. Callinicos, cond.

8/ E Lucevan le Stelle from Tosca (1950) C. Callinicos. cond.

9/ Torna a Surriento (1955) J. Gimpel, piano.

10/ A Kiss (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

11/ 'A Vucchella (1951) C. Callinicos, cond.

12/ Un Di' all'Azzurro Spazio (Improvviso) from Andrea Chenier (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

13/ I'll Walk With God (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

14/ If I Loved You (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

15/ Questa o Quella from Rigoletto (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

16/ Dio! Mi Potevi Scagliar (Monologue) from Otello (1955) R. Heindorf, cond.

17/ Yours is My Heart Alone (1956) Henri Rene, cond.

18/ Begin the Beguine (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

19/ Without a Song (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

20/ Voce 'e Notte (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

21/ Vesti la Giubba from Pagliacci (1958) C. Callinicos, cond.

22/ Passione (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

23/ Romance (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

24/ Yesterdays (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

25/ Wonder Why (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

26/ Cielo e Mar from La Gioconda (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

27/ Recondita Armonia from Tosca (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

28/ I'll Be Seeing You (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

29/ I'll See You Again (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

30/ The Lord's Prayer (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

31/ Be My Love (1950) R. Sinatra, cond.

32/ Because You're Mine (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

33/ My Romance* (1951) R. Sinatra, cond. (From LP A Kiss and Other Love Songs)

34/ Guardian Angels (1951) (commercial Sinatra version, not Coke)

35/ One Night of Love (1951) High A-ending version, R. Sinatra, cond. (from CD The ML Collection)

36/ You Do Something To Me (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

37/ The Song Angels Sing (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

38/ Addio alla Madre from Cavalleria Rusticana (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

39/ Niun Mi Tema from Otello (1958) C. Callinicos, cond.

40/ Testa Adorata from Leoncavallo‚Äôs La Boheme (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

41/ 'Na Sera 'E Maggio (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

42/ Lamento di Federico from L'Arlesiana (1955) R. Heindorf, cond.

43/ Song of India (1953) C. Callinicos, cond.

44/ La Spagnola* (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

45/ Amor Ti Vieta from Fedora (1955) R. Heindorf, cond.

46/ Canta Pe' Me (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

47/ Tu Ca Nun Chiagne! (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

48/ Ideale (1959) P.Baron, cond.

*Unreleased on any BMG CD (as of April 5, 2005)

**Unreleased in any format

 

OPERATIC LANZA: The BEST of his OPERATIC ARIAS

1/ Che Gelida Manina from La Boheme (1949) C. Callinicos, cond.

2/ Questa o Quella from Rigoletto (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

3/ Recondita Armonia from Tosca (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

4/ E Lucevan le Stelle from Tosca (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

5/ Un Di' all'Azzurro Spazio (Improvviso) from Andrea Chenier (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

6/ M'Appari' from Martha (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

7/ O Tu Che in Seno agli Angeli from La Forza del Destino (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

8/ Addio alla Madre from Cavalleria Rusticana (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

9/ Vesti la Giubba** from Pagliacci (discarded 3rd commercial take, 1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

10/ Come un Bel Di' di Maggio* from Andrea Chenier (1952, Coca-Cola Show version) C. Callinicos, cond.

11/ Cielo e Mar* from La Gioconda (1952, Coca-Cola Show version) C. Callinicos, cond.

12/ Un Tal Gioco from Pagliacci (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

13/ Testa Adorata from La Boheme (Leoncavallo) (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

14/ Parmi Veder le Lagrime from Rigoletto (1950) C. Callinicos, cond.

14/ Lamento di Federico from L'Arlesiana (1955) R. Heindorf, cond.

15/ Amor Ti Vieta from Fedora (1955) R. Heindorf, cond.

16/ O Paradiso from L'Africana (1955) J. Gimpel, piano

17/ Dio! Mi Potevi Scagliar (Monologue) from Otello (1955) R. Heindorf, cond.

18/ Di Rigori Armato from Der Rosenkavalier (1955) J. Gimpel, piano

19/ Vesti la Giubba from Pagliacci (1958) C. Callinicos, cond.

20/ E Voi Ridete** from Cosi' Fan Tutte (1958) C. Callinicos, cond.

22/ Niun Mi Tema (Finale) from Otello (1958) C. Callinicos, cond.

23/ Gloria all'Egitto (Grand March) from Aida (1958) C. Callinicos, cond.

* Unreleased on any BMG CD (as of April 5, 2005)

**Unreleased in any format

NOTE: Tracks 19-23 are from the soundtrack of Lanza's final film, For the First Time. Special care needs to be taken with the remastering of these numbers, three of which have been released in poor quality on the CD Double Feature.

In the event of space constraints, track #23 should be omitted.

 

CONTINENTAL LANZA: BEST of his NEAPOLITAN, ITALIAN, SPANISH, & FRENCH SONGS

1/ Mamma Mia, Che Vo' Sape? (1949) C. Callinicos, cond.

2/ Lolita (1949) R. Sinatra, cond.

3/ 'A Vucchella (1951) C. Callinicos, cond.

4/ Ay-Ay-Ay (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

5/ La Spagnola* (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

6/ La Danza (1955) D. Frontiere, accordion

7/ Torna a Surriento (1955) J. Gimpel, piano

8/ Dicitencello Vuie (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

9/Maria Mari' (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

10/Voce 'e Notte (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

11/Canta Pe' Me (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

12/'O Surdato 'Namurato (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

13/Come Facette Mammeta (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

14/Santa Lucia Luntana (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

15/Fenesta Che Lucive (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

16/Tu Ca Nun Chiagne! (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

17/'Na Sera 'e Maggio (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

18/Passione (1958) F. Ferrara, cond.

19/Pour un Baiser (1959) P. Baron, cond.

20/Serenata (1959) P. Baron, cond.

21/Senza Nisciuno (1959) P. Baron, cond.

22/Vaghissima Sembianza (1959) P. Baron, cond.

23/L'Alba Separa dalla Luce l'ombra (1959) P. Baron, cond.

24/Ideale (1959) P. Baron, cond.

*Unreleased on any BMG CD (as of April 5, 2005)

NOTE: Tracks 9-19 are from the LP Mario!, currently available on the CD Mario! Lanza At His Best (coupled with the inappropriate Vagabond King album), but in need of proper remastering to remove its "sandy" quality and lack of warmth. Likewise, tracks 20-24 from the now-deleted The Great Caruso/Caruso Favorites CD require attention. The quality achieved on the BMG subsidiary (Harvest Music) Encore! CD would be an admirable standard to match.

 

LANZA IN LOVE: BEST of his ENGLISH LANGUAGE SONGS & OPERETTA

Single CD version:

1/ Serenade from The Student Prince (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

2/ You and the Night and the Music (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

3/ Some Day (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

4/ The Moon Was Yellow (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

5/ Wonder Why (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

6/ The Song Angels Sing (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

7/ You Do Something To Me (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

8/ If I Loved You (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

9/ Drink! Drink! Drink! from The Student Prince (1952) C. Callinicos,

cond.

10/ Without a Song (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

11/ Begin the Beguine (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

12/ Romance (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

13/ Where or When (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

14/ Yesterdays (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

15/ Yours is My Heart Alone (1956) H. Rene, cond.

16/ Only a Rose (1956) H. Rene, cond.

17/ Arrivederci, Roma* (in English) (1957) G. Stoll, cond.?

18/ Love is the Sweetest Thing (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

19/ My Romance* (1951) R. Sinatra, cond. (from LP A Kiss and other Love Songs)

20/ I'll Be Seeing You (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

21/ A Kiss (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

22/ Beloved (1953) C. Callinicos, cond.

23/ I'll See You Again (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

24/ I'll Walk With God (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

*Unreleased on any BMG CD (as of April 5, 2005)

 

Double CD Version:

1/ Be My Love (1950) R. Sinatra, cond.

2/ Because You're Mine (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

3/ The Song Angels Sing (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

4/ You Do Something To Me (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

5/ Serenade from The Student Prince (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

6/ Beloved (1953) C.Callinicos, cond.

7/ Drink! Drink! Drink! (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

8/ I'll Walk With God (1952) C. Callinicos, cond.

9/ You and the Night and the Music (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

10/ They Didn't Believe Me (1949) R. Sinatra, cond.

11/ Tina-Lina (1950) R. Sinatra, cond.

12/ For You Alone (1951) C. Callinicos, cond.

13/ Yesterdays (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

14/ Song of India (1953) C. Callinicos, cond. 

15/ If You Are But a Dream (1951)

16/ Donkey Serenade (1956) H. Rene, cond.

17/ The Thrill is Gone (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

18/ All the Things You Are (1956) H. Rene, cond.

19/ Without a Song (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

20/ A Kiss (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

21/ Some Day (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

22/ If (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

23/ The World is Mine Tonight (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

24/ Sylvia (1951) R. Sinatra, cond. 

25/ Night and Day (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

26/ Yours is My Heart Alone (1956) H. Rene, cond.

27/ Wonder Why (1951) R. Sinatra, cond.

28/ Where or When (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

29/ Will You Remember (1956) H. Rene, cond.

30/ Romance (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

31/ My Romance* (1951) R. Sinatra, cond. (from LP A Kiss and other Love Songs)

32/ One Night of Love (1951, high A-ending version from 3-CD ML Collection) R. Sinatra, cond.

33/ Begin the Beguine (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

34/ The Night is Young (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

35/ I'll See You Again (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

36/ I'll Be Seeing You (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

37/ Memories (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

38/ If I Loved You (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

39/ The Moon Was Yellow (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

40/ When You're in Love (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

41/ And Here You Are (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

42/ Only a Rose (1956) H. Rene, cond.

43/ Besame Mucho (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

44/ Love is the Sweetest Thing (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

45/ Arrivederci, Roma* (1957, in English) G. Stoll, cond?

46/ Beautiful Love (1952) R. Sinatra, cond.

47/ A Night to Remember (1957) H. Rene, cond.

48/ One Alone (1959) C. Callinicos, cond.

*Unreleased on any BMG CD (as of April 5, 2005)