- On January 13, 2005, the Metropolitan Opera Guild and
Opera News presented BE MY LOVE: THE WORLD OF MARIO LANZA, an inspiring
tribute to the great American tenor at Alice Tully Hall in New York's Lincoln
Center. The event was an unqualified success and it was especially gratifying
to see so many dear Lanza friends in attendance that night.
Derek and Aaron
- Pam Latham and members from the British Mario Lanza Society
were there in sparkling form and were acknowledged by Mario's daughter
Ellisa Lanza Bregman from the stage. Ellisa also paid tribute Raphaela
Fasano's mother Josephine who was in the audience. Jim Thompson and his
lovely wife Dima were as charming and gracious as ever, and Buddy Mantia
arrived with the beautiful Barbara Feldon who, I swear, hasn't aged a day
since her appearance as 'Agent 99' on the popular "Get Smart"
TV series. Alan Burns defied some recent health problems to attend - a
magnificent accomplishment, Alan, well done! I was delighted to see the
Klees and Heidi from Germany, Paul and Terry Velda from England, and Joan
Marsden, who pleased many visitors by bringing along photos of her visit
with Mario on the set of "7 Hills of Rome". I also shook hands
with Mary Papola from the Mario Lanza Institute, had a brief and enjoyable
chat with Bill Ronayne, and was introduced to a delightful young tenor
Aaron Caruso and his lovely lady.
- Two notable absentees on the night were Terry Robinson
and Kathryn Grayson; both were sorely missed and undoubtedly would have
made important contributions to the proceedings. What a shame, too, that
weather conditions in the NY area prevented my friend David Weaver from
departing Ohio on time to attend the performance. My own family traveling
in from Chicago on the day only made it by a whisker! I did catch sight
of Damon after the performance but he had left by the time I worked my
way through the crowd. Ellisa, her husband Bobby and their two sons Tony
and Nick were there, of course, along with Betty Lanza's delightful sister
Shirley Hicks Borregaard and it was a great delight to meet up again with
Rick and Laurie Leech.
Pam Latham and Ann Blyth
- As for the evening's entertainment, only someone fixated
on the minutiae of Mario's career could have found fault with the proceedings.
Host F. Paul Driscoll did an exceptional job throughout the night, his
script was intelligent and interesting at all times, and I found the film
selections overall to be outstanding. What a thrill to see Lanza up there
on the big screen again, with glorious clips that ranged from "Mamma
Mia, Che Vo Sape?" through "Be My Love" to the death scene
from "Otello". No scenes were shown from "The Student Prince",
perhaps understandably, but I couldn't help but think what an impact "I'll
Walk With God" would have had on the audience.
Pam Latham and Richard Leech
- The panel discussion with Ann Blyth, Jane Powell, Lucine
Amara and Elaine Malbin was entertaining, if a little Lanza-lite; you'd
have to look elsewhere if you wanted some deep discussion on Mario's voice
and his operatic potential, but it could be argued that this was neither
the evening nor the audience for that type of discourse. All four ladies
were enchanting and witty and looked absolutely wonderful. The announcement
of a surprise guest in the audience was a particular thrill: the magical
Licia Albanese, who movingly blew a kiss at the image of the man she had
shared a duet with up there on the screen.
Shirley, Ellisa and Bobby
- Brian Kellow introduced Ellisa and Damon on stage for
a brief chat about their father and they were as charming and as gracious
as could be. Finally, following some glorious film excerpts from "For
the First Time", tenor Richard Leech had the unenviable task of bringing
the evening to a close with a brief recital in tribute to Mario. Rick is
that rare classical artist who is equally at home with both popular and
operatic fare and his tribute that night was as heartfelt as it was inspiring.
His selections covered such Lanza favorites as "Because You're Mine",
a moving "E Lucevan le Stelle", "Come Prima" and "I'll
Be Seeing You". Bravo, Mr. Leech, you are truly one of a kind!
Jonathan, Tony and Nick
- BE MY LOVE: THE WORLD OF MARIO LANZA flew by much too
quickly but I'd be very surprised if a single person left Alice Tully Hall
that night thinking the tribute had been anything less than a total triumph.
Mario may never have sung at the Met but for that one unforgettable evening
at Lincoln Center, Lanza ruled.
- DEREK MANNERING