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MARIO LANZA
"Be My Love"

Twenty-Two original recordings 1949-1952
Compiled by Ray Crick and Peter Dempsey
LIVING ERA CD AJA 5485
[77.56]

 

 

Crotchet Budget price



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
9) BECAUSE
10) CATARI, CATARI
11) LOLITA
12) O SOLE MIO
13) GRANADA
14) MY SONG, MY LOVE
15) FOR YOU ALONE
16) THE LOVELIEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR
17) TEMPTATION
18) YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME
19) THE SONG ANGELS SING
20) SERENADE
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 down.

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.

Joan Duggan
 

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