Lanzapolooza! A Celebration of Mario Lanza

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Saturday, March 01, 2014

In advance of the Academy Awards, this Saturday at 11:30 am, host Marilyn Horne reviews the life of an opera star whose career was made by the movies. Mario Lanza starred in a series of hit MGM films during the 1950s and inspired such contemporary luminaries as Domingo, Pavarotti and Carreras (i.e. the Three Tenors).

Mark Rotella, author of Amore: The Story of Italian American Song and Stolen Figs and Other Adventures in Calabria and Marilyn Horne speculate: Could Lanza have had a career on the opera stage? Was his voice only fit for recording studios? The show includes Lanza performances of arias and songs, so you can hear for yourself.

Tenor Joseph Calleja, who returns to the Met next season, shares his own Lanza story. He says he would never have started singing if it weren’t for Lanza. The show wraps up with a visit from James Jorden, who enlightens us about another versatile artist of Lanza’s day— Dorothy Kirsten.

Scroll down to see Mario Lanza sing "Be My Love," one of the songs he's known best for. 




Brodszky-Cahn The Toast of New Orleans “Be My Love”
Ray Sinatra Orchestra; Ray Sinatra, conductor; Mario Lanza, tenor  
RCA 118574

Brodszky-Cahn The Toast of New Orleans “Be My Love”
London Symphony Orchestra; Karl-Heinz Loges, conductor; Placido Domingo, tenor
Deutsche Grammophon 445777  

Brodszky-Cahn The Toast of New Orleans “Be My Love”
London Studio Orchestra; Marcello Viotti, conductor; José Carreras, tenor
Philips 462892

Brodszky-Cahn The Toast of New Orleans “Be My Love”
BBC Concert Orchestra; Steven Mercurio, conductor; Joseph Calleja, tenor
Decca 001743802

Pietro Mascagni Cavalleria Rusticana Finale
MGM Studio Orchestra; Johnny Green, conductor
Mario Lanza, tenor; Peggy Bonini, soprano; Kathryn Chapman, mezzo-soprano
From MGM film soundtrack to Because Your Mine (1952) | Recorded 11/10/51 & 11/28/51
Turner Classic Movies R2 72958

Giuseppe Verdi Rigoletto “La donna è mobile”
RCA Victor Orchestra; Constantine Callinicos, conductor; Mario Lanza, tenor
RCA 118574

Umberto Giordano Fedora “Amor ti vieta”
BBC Concert Orchestra; Steven Mercurio, conductor; Joseph Calleja, tenor
Decca 001743802

Sigmund Romberg The Student Prince “Serenade”
Lyrics by Dorothy Donnelly with revised lyrics by Paul Francis Webster
MGM Studio Orchestra and Chorus; Constantine Callinicos, conductor; Mario Lanza, tenor
From MGM film soundtrack to The Student Prince (1954) | Recorded 7/29/52 & 8/5/52
Turner Classic Movies Music R2 72958

James Jorden's Observations on Opera

George Gershwin “Soon”
Jerome Kern “I'm Old Fashioned”
Jerome Kern “Look for the Silver Lining.”
Percy Faith, conductor; Dorothy Kirsten, soprano
Collectors' Choice Music 1124989

Gustave Charpentier Louise “Depuis le jour”
New Orleans Opera Orchestra; Franco Patanè, conductor; Dorothy Kirsten, soprano
VAI Music 1154


Comments [19]

Manuel Belbis from Palos Hills, IL

True , Lanza is a recording artist with a golden voice. Listen to Otello duet with Licia Albanese,. His voice is so beautiful and powerful considering duet was recorded together with Ms. Albanese. For me, Lanza is the ultimate tenor voice from GOD.

May. 14 2014 03:22 PM
manny belbis from Palos Hills, IL

I have listened to all tenors, and I always come back listening to Lanza. His Aria's,and love songs are awesome to hear. Listen to his Othello duet with Licia Albanese. Awesome


Apr. 18 2014 01:55 PM
suzanne from New York

I clicked on the arrow above, expecting to hear the "Operavore" episode about Mario Lanza and instead heard the one about John Kander!!
Can you fix, please? Thanks.

Mar. 19 2014 09:43 PM
Suzanne from New York

Re: Question Number 3--Neither Gertrude Lawrence nor KATHARINE Hepburn (nor KATHRYN Grayson--probably the Kathryn your writer was thinking of) were Metropolitan Opera stars. You could have at least chosen names like Eleanor Steber, Lily Pons, or Patrice Munsel.

Mar. 15 2014 09:57 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Made a mistake. It is from Nassau. Mr. Les, I found on youtube Caruso singing Oh Holy Night in French. Downloaded it to my mp3 player. As for Mario Lanza, yes what might have been. Also found Lanza on you tube. He was quite good on some of the arias.
Best wishes

Mar. 02 2014 11:15 AM
concetta nardone from Concetta Nardone

Les, read the book years ago. And agree somewhat with Vincent. Too many of the tenors today do scream.
Best wishes to all

Mar. 02 2014 09:45 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

Ms. Nardone is 100% right. To cite authority, in the Bjo"rling biography, "Jussi", by Anna-Lisa Bjo"rling and Andrew Farkas (Amadeus Press), 1996, on page 212 Bjo"rling was teling Dorothy Caruso how he and his brothers didn't see Caruso in "I Pagliacci" as they intended, because they decided to see a cowboy movie (starring William S. Hart, though Hart's name isn't in this re-telling). This was after Bjo"rlig sang "Vesti la Giubba" on the NBC program, "We the People". Mrs. Caruso gave Bjo"rling the costume Caruso wore as the Duke in "Rigoletto". Quoting Mrs. Caruso, "You have the old Italian school of singing. You're the one worthy to wear his mantle, bear Rico's crown!" Bjo"rling was quoted in a "Time Magazine" article appearing in the 5 March 1951 issue as saying in response, "The greatest moment of my life." It's also written that Bjo"rling never did wear the costume because he thought that would be "pretentious". We all have our list of favorite tenor greats, but I, among the millions, couldn't agree more with Mrs. Caruso's opinion. I'd also like to recommend her book "Enrico Caruso: His Life and Death" (Simon and Schuster) 1945 for an imperishable account, including a complete and detailed discography.

Mar. 02 2014 09:14 AM from dunfermline Scotland

I heard and saw Mario Lanza In the flesh ,a more Thrilling and beautifull voice the world will never hear again, There is no singer alive or dead that I would say ,could sing better than him , Mario Lanza, Sang with his heart not just with his voice,His every words melted your heart , Tenors today "SCREaM" and SHOUGHT", That is not "SINGING,!All they seem to want to do is make a great big noise , They seem to think that , Thats what singing Opera is abought , They are so wrong,!Its not the Opera I want to See Or Hear , I fully agree that Mario Lanza, was a product Of" Hollywood"But what a "PRODUCT!!!!

Mar. 02 2014 07:17 AM
Doug from Naples FL

Nice to see Marilyn Horne again. One of the funniest things ever on the old Met Texaco broadcasts was the time she and Sutherland were being interviewed during an intermission. This was back when intermissions were interesting, informative, and had some class. They were talking about Sutherland's preference in having Bonynge conduct her performances. Sutherland said something like "My husband accommodates me very well." Horne then pipes up, "Well, I must say your husband accommodates ME very well too!" Big laugh!!

Mar. 01 2014 11:51 PM
Derek McGovern from South Korea

I thoroughly enjoyed this programme, and it was most gratifying to hear artists of the calibre of Marilyn Horne and Joseph Calleja paying tribute to Lanza. To Les from Miami and Concetta from Nassau: I suggest you read my article "Myths About Mario Lanza" ( and take a look at the professional reviews of his concert and operatic appearances ( You'll find that not only was Boris Goldovsky quite mistaken about Lanza's ability to learn and perform operatic roles, but that the man was far from being a mere product of the recording studios.

Mar. 01 2014 09:05 PM
Madison from Manhattan

Yes,what might have been! The sound of the voice was warm and gorgeous and the few kinescopes remaining attest to that. In person? Harry Goz, the Broadway musical star, told me years ago that his father took him to a Lanza recital in St.Louis in 1948 when Harry was ca.14 and they sat in the last row. The voice, he said, was powerful and extraordinarily beautiful and easily filled the hall.

Mar. 01 2014 09:49 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

No, Lanza was not Caruso reborn. Years ago, Caruso's widow said that Jussi Bjoerling's voice reminded her of Caruso. What artistry we had in Jussi, Nicolai Gedda. If we had to think of great tenors in the past, we would have to think of those mentioned, not Lanza.

Mar. 01 2014 07:35 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

For me, Mr. Lanza is one who about whom I'll always think "...what could have been." In "Tanglewood" by Herbert Kupferberg, McGraw-Hill, 1976, p. 99, no less an eminent authority as the late Boris Goldovsky recalls Mr. Lanza's student days at Tanglewood in 1942. Goldovsky recalled hearing him sing a duet from "La Bohe`me" (which one isn't specified) with Irma Gonzales "to such effect that Koussevitzky wept and cried out 'Caruso redivivus! --- Caruso reborn!" It goes on to say that Koussevitzky asked Goldovsky to teach him the tenor part in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. 'So I went to Koussevitzky and told him 'Uncle Serge, it can't be done. Pick out something else.' It was decided to teach him Fenton's Serenade from Nicolai's "The Merry Wives of Windsor". Goldovsky continues, "I think that Fenton was the only part Lanza ever learned to sing on stage. He was a poor musician and simply couldn't remember things. But my God, that sound!' " As I say, I can't help but think "what could have been" as far as Lanza in complete performances of operas on stage.

Mar. 01 2014 05:56 AM

I was puzzled by one of the choices for an answer above. Who is *Kathryn* Hepburn?

Who is editing the WQXR website? Can I get a job?


Mar. 01 2014 01:37 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

OK TLC I stand corrected. Saw him on TV once and you can tell by the way he was breathing that it was recorded. He later confessed.
Best wishes to all

Feb. 28 2014 03:07 PM
Arsenio from NYC, NY

If anyone is a product of the recording studio, it would be stars of today where the enhancement technology is so perfect that you really can't rely on what you hear. In the 1950s, there wasn't a whole lot engineers could do to make a "product of the recording studio" as it were. Listen to other opera singers who worked with him on his movies, they rave about him. In addition, I don't necessarily agree with the other commenter that he would have given us amazing recordings had he not died...ONLY because of his poor habits which probably contributed to killing him off. He was not known as a hard worker and pretty much ate himself to death. So perhaps if he had changed his lifestyle and got serious...maybe.

Feb. 28 2014 12:59 PM
TLC from Los Angeles

Concetta: I heard him sing live twice: Once in L.A. and once in Italy. You couldn't be more wrong.

Feb. 28 2014 12:20 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

This is a joke, right? He was a product of recording studios. In the film, the Great Caruso, the great tenor was portrayed by Lanza as a plastic saint. In reality, the Great Enrico was real, funny, warm, generous and a bit of a rascal. True son of Naples. Lanza was a true son of the recording studio.

Feb. 28 2014 07:29 AM
harry from howard beach , ny

I have yet to hear a more thrilling or better tenor voice. It buggles the mind to imagine the output of operatic and popular reportoir he would have contributed had he not died at such an early age.

Feb. 28 2014 02:28 AM

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