Sam Samuelian Reviews
& Notes For 'Mario Lanza -
Live Concert & Radio
Performances 1945-50'

1. A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody (January 23 1946 The Celanese Hour: Great Moments in Music; Sylvan Levin conductor)
The pleasing tones of the radio announcer are heard introducing the first song herein as Mario Lanza with Celanese Chorus begin while the orchestra accompanies. The Celanese recording restorations are notable for better fidelity that includes brighter sound with greater clarity, background noise reduction, pop and click elimination, and less surface noise than on any previous releases. From the outset, Mario's voice is forward and pleasing. Boasting well controlled singing (notable since his intense vocal study with Enrico Rosati had not yet started), his early efforts on radio still exemplified Mario's natural ability to emote and let his voice flow to bring life to the printed lyrics. I must admit I never much cared for this recording (even though a lovely song) until hearing it sound this good. The sound of the chorus is also clear and we are left having a very fine impression at the very start of this exciting new CD release. (Note: This same recording and some others in this collection are included on the bonus CD in the Armando Cesari Lanza biography while others appear on Damon Lanza Production CD releases. Those CDs also had sound restoration work done, but Jeff Rense has gone noticeably beyond them with meticulous detail and endless striving for more and better improvements, so immediately you can hear the fuller bass and the crisper treble on his release, all of which result in a much more pleasurable listening experience for you.)
2. A Jug of Wine (December 26 1945 The Celanese Hour: Great Moments in Music; with Frances Yeend, soprano; George Sebastian conductor and Roger Lyons narrator)
This track is from "In A Persian Garden".
Again, the soothing voice of the narrator is heard first as he speaks poetically. Then Mario starts singing. He is followed by his partner of the Bel Canto Trio days, soprano Frances Yeend. Yeend had a rich and very pleasing voice suitable for duets with a voice as great as Lanza's. His performance is somewhat studied and controlled, but it suits the piece. Their combined singing has some slight distortion at the peaks, but nothing very objectionable. This is a fairly short and unusual art piece that was probably not a Lanza favorite, as he did not record it again during his career. It has a spirited ending and is the type of piece that will surely endear itself.
3. Ah, Moon of My Delight (December 26 1945 The Celanese Hour: Great Moments in Music; George Sebastian conductor and Roger Lyons narrator)
This is the second excerpt from Liza Lehmann's work entitled "In A Persian Garden".
As the orchestra plays Mr. Lyons narrates, nicely filling in background information for what will follow. Mario begins tenderly and builds slowly. This piece has that operetta quality which puts it in a class above a simple song. Notice Mario's lovely mezza-voce timbre at the mid point of the song. There may even be a moment of delicate falsetto singing. He comes in much stronger voiced after the orchestra interlude, with diction so typically clear and precise. His vocal studies were paying off even at this early time period. You will hopefully enjoy this more than ever before thanks to the restoration. This is a dramatic essay. While you should not expect Coca Cola Show pristine sound quality, you can expect full enjoyment and will no doubt marvel at the sweet ending.
4. All Alone/What'll I Do (January 23 1946 The Celanese Hour: Great Moments in Music; with Natalie Bodanya, soprano, and Leonard Stokes, baritone; Sylvan Levin conductor)
This is from the show "The Music of Irving Berlin".
Mario Lanza starts the medley after a brief orchestral intro. Slight record transcription swish at the beginning soon dissipates. Some light background noise is unavoidable when voices are not singing. This is boldly sung and perfectly suits the intent of the music and lyrics. Notice Lanza's excellent phrasing. Soprano Bodanya has a dear and cute voice, dated in form but likable as she ponders her options stated in the lyrics. The baritone makes a brief appearance and the Celanese Chorus ends the work, subduing Mario's last notes--which we can only blame on the original recording engineer. Irving Berlin's classic music is always a delight and Mario is up to the challenge.
5. Golden Days from The Student Prince (February 20 1946 The Celanese Hour: Great Moments in Music; with Robert Weede, baritone; Sylvan Levin conductor)
Easily six years before the movie soundtrack was recorded comes this early version from the classic Romberg score. Having performed this piece several times previously, Mario must have had more confidence--all aided by the appearance of one of his mentors and good friends Robert Weede. After the quick announcer's segment passes, Weede begins the verse in a clear voice with pleasing tone. Lanza enters and then the two alternate phrases and share the melody. Although not up to the par of Mario's rich voiced Bel Canto Trio baritone partner George London, Weede still does quite well in his blend with Mario. Interesting that he sounds more dated than Lanza. Lanza's voice transcends time--even at this early stage. After the pretty orchestral interlude, Lanza returns sounding somewhat less emphatic than he is at this point for the movie version. A lovely and heartfelt joining of the voices leads to the finale.
6. Serenade from The Student Prince (February 20 1946 The Celanese Hour: Great Moments in Music; Sylvan Levin conductor)
The brief announcer's introduction is spoken. and the Lanza voice follows. Nothing can dim the forward, forceful, and brilliant sounding Lanza vocals, which are open throated yet full toned. This is a fine performance of one of the loveliest melodies of the classic operetta. Some might feel his more youthful sound is not as fine as his much touted movie singing, but give this another listen and be pleasantly surprised at his grasp of the music long before it was enjoyed on screens around the world. Incidentally, Mario's high notes are quite thrilling and prominent in this restoration!
7. Improviso from Andrea Chenier (August 28 1947 Hollywood Bowl Concert, Eugene Ormandy conductor)
Also known as "Un Di All'azzuro Spazio", this is an aria from Mario's very first Hollywood Bowl appearance. The lucky break came when he replaced Ferruccio Tagliavini (who cancelled) through the efforts of Hollywood Bowl board member Ida Koverman. That was the night famed MGM head Louis B. Mayer was in the audience and heard Mario's glorious singing and quickly signed him to a movie contract. Lanza was in excellent voice for the occasion and the surviving recordings leave no doubt about that. His voice also shows the benefit of having studied for one year and a few months with noted vocal instructor Enrico Rosati.This aria is one of Mario's most exciting. The sound quality is extremely life-like and vibrant and matches Lanza's excellence. You have the equivalent of a front row seat on that night as you listen! He sings intelligently and interprets it like a man with much more experience. He shows early examples of what were recently dubbed "Mario-isms", meaning stylistic mannerisms that would easily identify the voice as that of our South Philadelphia born tenor. Hear the emphasis, the emotions, and heartfelt outpouring that would soon become his trademarks. As he became older these mannerisms sometimes went over the top, but at this stage he exhibited firm control. Note the interesting tempo changes he employs. Also note that his voice sounds developed beyond his 26 years. Thrill to the long held and exciting high note and hear the well deserved huge applause at the end, an ovation that continued for a record twelve minutes of pandemonium! People who are bothered by background noise will be happy that this recording has none. What it does have is more depth, presence, and clarity than ever before. And keep in mind that this was LIVE and had no studio re-takes or touch-ups.
8. Parigi o cara from La Traviata (August 28 1947 Hollywood Bowl Concert; with Frances Yeend, soprano; Eugene Ormandy conductor)
The orchestra swells as applause fades out and then this great duet begins at full volume. Once again Mario luckily is with a soprano who well complements his voice. Both voices are easy to hear as separate entities and are not muddled in this sparklingly clean transfer. After the full bodied opening, Mario practices nuance for his lines during the famous melody and Yeend uses similar delicacy. Orchestra clarity is notable for a monaural recording and has enough depth for the time and recording techniques of the era. The Lanza harmony blends quite well with that of Yeend. Notice how Mario may sing an intense entrance, then appropriately subdues the volume in his replies to his partner. The finale is particularly delicate and both singers keep perfect timing together. To sum up this track in a word: great!
9. Vogliatemi bene from Madama Butterfly (August 28 1947 Hollywood Bowl Concert; with Frances Yeend, soprano; Eugene Ormandy conductor)
Mario Lanza film buffs will recognize this as the duet performed with Kathryn Grayson at the finale of the film "The Toast of New Orleans". But this entry preceeds that segment by three years and fortunately Mario has the fuller voiced Frances Yeend as his vocal partner. The haunting strains of the violin introduce Yeend, as she begins her artful singing, which builds until Lanza comes in powerfully, sounding nearly as vocally mature as he does in the movie. There is practically no distortion in this masterful restoration, not even in their loudest passages together. The singing, in fact, is so colorful that one can easily imagine the pair on stage in costume acting in a complete version of the opera (something Lanza critics often cite as a major shortcoming...that is, his lack of having sung no more than three complete live operas in his lifetime). To those shortsighted critics, we present this recording as a testament to what Mario Lanza would easily have achieved on the operatic stage had he not chosen the more lucrative movie star route. The route that inspired countless tenors who watched him as youths and became operatic singers themselves! Behold another great track to cherish on this historic CD. Can you imagine the excitement the two young singers shared here in bringing it to life?!
10. Lamento di Federico from L'Arlesiana (March 5 1948 Massey Hall, Toronto, Canada; with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Scherman)
With confidence on his side after the Hollywood Bowl triumph, Mario appeared in Canada months later in the following year. You can easily hear that the man is in control of his destiny by now. Mario Lanza performed this aria in the 1956 Warner Brothers movie "Serenade", but this live performance pre-dates that recording by at least seven years. While his voice was richer and showing a darker and more mature spinto sound at the later date, this is still mighty fine singing, even if less consistent in tone. No one will mind a bit of transcription swish at the opening, because within seconds the Lanza magic captures your spirit. A couple quick needle pops pass by very quickly. There is much he offers in dynamics and excitement throughout, not the least of which is the long held ringing high note, full of squillo, and providing a strong ending. It ends in applause by an audience who surely must have known how fortunate they were to be there on that night.
11. La Donna e Mobile from Rigoletto (March 5 1948 Massey Hall, Toronto, Canada; with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Scherman)
The concert in Canada preceded Lanza's debut in a complete stage production of a full length opera by a couple months. It was "Madame Butterfly" and he performed the opera two nights in New Orleans, where he was certainly the "toast" of the city before that word was used in the title of his future film. Here we have a track from another opera, "Rigoletto", where he sings one of the all time popular arias in a broad style and with precise speed. It builds to an impressive cadence (though not as flowery as his "Great Caruso" counterpart) and ends with a truly great high note. Hear the type of ending lovers of the tenor voice live for and then must yell to while exclaiming "bravo"! Note that the "Vesti La Giubba" from this concert is not included here, but fear not because an even more wonderful rendition of that aria is heard later on this disc.
12. Thine Alone (July 24 1948 M-G-M Night at the Hollywood Bowl; with Kathryn Grayson, soprano; Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra conducted by Miklós Rózsa)
This was "MGM Night" at the Hollywood Bowl, a show that came about one year later than Mario's first appearance there. Of course with his movie career in full swing, he appeared with co-star Kathryn Grayson this evening. He had noted conductor Miklos Rozsa at the baton, but some feel the maestro's tempi were too drawn out and lethargic. This was the last number on the program and their final duet together for this show. Once again, we are treated to bold sound with clarity and depth. Mario starts the duet assertively and then is answered by Kathryn. Both sing with confidence, passion, and control. There is a very even balance between the two voices throughout. A bit of very slight distortion on the next to last note leads to a strong ending with Grayson taking a high D while Mario grabs a high B. I personally don't mind the slower tempo, as it seems more a concert piece that way. The audience was obviously thrilled and you can just imagine how the two young stars looked together, dressed elegantly and beaming.
13. Nessun Dorma from Turandot (July 24 1948 M-G-M Night at the Hollywood Bowl; Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra conducted by Miklós Rózsa)
One of the most popular tenor arias today and one that has been admired for years and years, Mario tackles this and succeeds on all levels despite a slow tempo that demands more breath control on lengthy phrases. Many prefer his "Serenade" versions (there are now two recordings from that session extant), and while his voice has more maturity and darkness in those, this recording may very well be the best captured for posterity. Keep in mind, he sang it live and did a splendid job. Mario starts by thanking the audience and announcing this aria as his encore, a great choice! In a voice more vibrant and of the moment than ever heard previously in his recordings of this performance, Lanza generously releases his great voice and clear overtones can be heard. Not as open throated in parts as the later versions, this is perhaps the most exciting, since he holds the ending note nearly nine seconds before coming off it and closing the piece with no breath in between. Of course thunderous applause follows and many "bravos" can be heard! Note that his solo "Agnus Dei" and duet "O Soave Fanciulla" from the same program are not included here and will hopefullly be released some day in a restored version equal to this one.
14. Thine Alone (September 22 1948 Salute to M-G-M, radio broadcast)
Including a second version of this song is not a mistake, but an interesting comparison. Back on radio for MGM (the second program of two which followed a week after the first), Mario sings in a program devoted to his film studio. The announcer speaks of both Mario and Kathryn and their shooting of the film "This Summer Is Yours", which was one of the working titles for "That Midnight Kiss". Mario begins with an exceptionally clear and forward sound. He is just a bit "studied" in his pronunciation, which became somewhat more relaxed and natural by the time of his popular Coca Cola Radio Show. His singing is expressive, even though there is less emphasis on specific words as he was apt to do in later performances. Quite easy and wonderful to listen to and enjoy. He sports a high note (B flat) final phrase that brings much applause. It is your prvilege to decide which "Thine Alone" you prefer on this CD, but don't be surprised if you can't chose a favorite!
15. Cosi Cosa (November 28 1948 Elgin Watch Thanksgiving Special: Holiday Star Time)
The announcer boldly states in his introduction of Mario that he is "regarded as the greatest tenor since Caruso". Mario comes right in with a strong chorus (even if the group is somewhat dated sounding) and in a glorious voice that is bold, deep, and thrilling. This is a more expanded version than the one done later on his Coca Cola Show. Mario sings with abandon and is clearly having fun, if a bit more controlled than on the Coke track. A treat for all is the great and vibrant high B that he holds long enough to bring a near sexual excitement to this listening experience. Cheers are heard at the conclusion.
16. The Lord's Prayer (December 19 1948 Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy Show)
Edgar Bergen and his "dummy" Charlie McCarthy joke in the beginning about Mario singing like Caruso, and even twist the Mario Lanza name to sound like "Mary's old laundry"...a joke the audience obviously enjoyed. After more clowning, Bergen gets serious and fervently introduces the song while interviewing Lanza. The sound is crystal clear and has full bodied reverb. Sung with the same expansiveness and power of his classic later RCA recording, it also is a bit more subtle in nuances---especially the delicate decrescendo at the end, which shortly follows the thrilling B flat. Anytime Lanza sings the "Lord's Prayer", people will take note and be emotionally moved. 
17. E il sol dell'anima/Addio, addio from Rigoletto (August 16 1949 Hollywood Bowl, with Mary Jane Smith, soprano; Johnny Green, conductor)
I love how Mary Jane Smith kids with Mario to "please, please don't go away" while the audience waits. He "agrees" to stay and starts with the "E il sol dell'anima" duet from "Rigoletto". This is his third and final Hollywood Bowl appearance, still another year later than the last time he sang there. He comes close to completely overshadowing Ms. Smith, who has a pleasing but lightweight vocal quality. His phrasing and command of the aria are quite suitable and he varies his volume from full voiced to mid voiced to light voiced. The real treat comes when Mario starts the "Addio, addio" duet. This version is noticeably superior to the soundtrack recording in "Because You're Mine", his movie released three years later. He sings full throated and very precisely, never losing tempo or synch for a second. This cut shows off the extent of his range, from the deep E flat to the extremely high C sharp...the highest note Lanza ever sang on record! Both singers nail the climactic finish.
18. Mamma Mia, Che Vo Sape? (September 29 1949 Screen Guild Theater Program; Henry Russell, conductor)
Keep in mind that the premier of "That Midnight Kiss" was in early September of 1949, so this radio program soon followed. The announcer begins the introduction and the orchestra plays the familiar strains. In restored sound quality that will rival a good studio recording, Mario begins singing the song that introduced him to movie audiences around the world (the famous scene where he sits at the piano and plays and sings while Kathryn Grayson and her voice coach listen in the background). He always did well with this song and he delivers it brilliantly here in a full voiced and vibrantly sung manner with exacting pitch. Huge applause at the end for a Lanza performance where he holds nothing back...including listener excitement!
19. Verranno a te sull'aure from Lucia di Lammermoor (September 29 1949 Screen Guild Theater Program; with Kathryn Grayson, soprano; Henry Russell, conductor)
Since Kathryn appeared with Mario on this promotional radio show, she obviously needed to do a duet with him that she performs in the movie "That Midnight Kiss". Here she sounds much better than anything you have heard previously, as this recording existed in poor form and had her sounding very screechy. She starts in quickly and sounds fine. You won't mind the one tiny transcription click noise, since you will be enthralled to hear Mario with the lovely and shapely soprano who ensured his screen success by being a perfect film partner and one who already brought an established celluloid singing and acting career to the table. This version is more exciting and precise than the movie version (practice makes perfect?). Hear the confidence Mario exudes after his first screen success had already made a huge change in his attitude. Grayson hits an astounding high F to his B flat, ending a piece that is thrilling from start to finish. Well deserved applause follows.
20. Vesti la Giubba from I Pagliacci (November 19 1950 Hedda Hopper's Hollywood; Frank Wirth conductor)
This is what Mario called his "lucky aria", as it served him well throughout his career. This is the latest chronological recording on this CD and Mario is in his full glory with magnificent vocalizing and sounding as if he had recorded it years later. Among his best early performances, it is completely passionate and once again the listener can imagine him singing it in costume and make up on the opera stage. It is never over done nor does it exhibit false dramatic emotion. Full applause at the end, so be sure to add your own applause along with the audience!
21. Be My Love (November 19 1950 Hedda Hopper's Hollywood; Frank Wirth conductor)
This performance (and even the arrangement) differ from Mario's classic and first million-selling RCA Victor recording. It was done after the release of the RCA record and obviously helped in promoting his second MGM feature entitled "The Toast of New Orleans". Comparing it to the movie and record tracks, parts are definitely more exciting and relevant and somewhat more rich in tone, though some may find it is less evenly sung. You will hear that the restoration has more vibrancy and kick than anything previously released. Mario surprisingly goes for a higher note even in the first passage. Following is the orchestra interlude, with no chorus as we have been accustomed to hearing here. He sings boldly and then literally blows out a superior high C for an ending far superior and more resonant. Note that this ending may have had a splice in the original tape, as there is a very slight pause heard before the finale. The big drum roll and huge applause bring a superior end to this superb CD you have enjoyed, a CD I promise will delight you over and over and over!
Make Believe - A Great CD With Some Surprises From Jeff Rense
With sound as sharp as a razor, this disc starts impressively with clarity and verve as heard in the impressive opening number, Begin the Beguine, showcasing a full spectrum of sound completely belying the age of the recording. Long Ago and Far Away follows, sung with a range that varies from delicate to full-voiced. Toselli's Serenade is next, interpreted with a fine supported tone. The beauty of this piece especially stands out since it has never sounded this good before. If I Loved You, that great Rogers and Hammerstein classic from 'Carousel', follows. This is nicely phrased, but I believe could have been better sung if performed with a more even tone. Make Believe is next. This is a take that has not been heard since it was recorded for the Coca Cola Show, making the title song of this CD an absolute treasure. It is simply great...and is sung full-voiced. A Vuchella is performed with abandon and then brought down appropriately for the tender spots. Next up is They Didn't Believe Me which sounds like Mario is in the next room...and is a delight. One Alone presents in stark contrast to Mario's later and much darker-voiced version. It is beautifully sung here, if less even in tone than the 1959 recording. Torna A Surriento checks in next and deserves comparison to the version heard in 'Serenade'. While it isn't up to that par, it still is exciting. I'll Be Seeing You is tender and is sung as the composer would surely have wanted. You'll Never Walk Alone, also from 'Carousel', fares somewhat better than If I Loved You as it builds to a big climax. This is an alternate version that has not been heard before. Mamma Mia Che Vo Sape was sung by Mario on several recordings...and all are noteworthy. He was at ease doing this reading, and it shows! Lady of Spain is perfectly sung from beginning to end...a standout in the Lanza popular repertoire. Deep In My Heart Dear from 'Student Prince' is sung larger, and unfortunately less tenderly, than his soundtrack version. Serenade also from the 'Student Prince' follows, has the Lanza stamp...and he makes the song his own. Mattinata, though beautifully restored, still suffers from being a bit below par vocally. Of course, below par Lanza is better than many other tenors at their best. The World Is Mine Tonight is next and we are treated to a fine interpretation, sung intelligently. Marcheta is one of those songs that never fails to excite when given the Lanza treatment. Needless to say, the sound is glorious (as is the case with each and every track in this collection). Drigo's Serenade, another gem released for the first time, is sung with a rich tone that could easily have been the Lanza voice a few years down the road...and worth the price of this CD alone! The Moon Was Yellow follows in stark contrast, as it is bubbly and light - and well done. Where or When is next - sung in a lovely fashion - and builds dramatically throughout. The performance of O Sole Mio , from the Coke Show, features a youthful Lanza voice, has room for improvement. Then again, you may just like the sheer exuberance of it. My Romance (on CD for the first time) is simply gorgeous. Nothing more need be said. Non Ti Scordar Di Me, which is played at every Lanza Ball with good reason, can be heard with pristine clarity here. Even the mandolins stand out. I'll See You Again ends this marvelous CD (a bargain with 25 selections!). Reverently sung, it is a delight.
I'll See You In My Dreams...'Rensovated'
 One would be hard pressed to improve a great CD, but that is just what Jeff Rense has done in this re-released and expanded collection. The sound is improved, which is really saying something since this disc had fine sound before. Since most are familiar with the first release, I will review only the new additions (there is one deletion from the first edition: Because). First of the four additions is La Spagnola which is new to CD, is sung with abandon, and it is a winner. What Is This Thing Called Love follows and is also making its CD debut. It is passionate and dripping with emotion. Later down the track list is Tell Me Tonight which is delicately sung at first and then builds in the second half to a superb conclusion. A Kiss is the final new entry. You can actually hear Mario breathe in this classic. A great choice to round out the new additions. Also note: I'm Falling In Love With Someone is an altenate take which features an exceptional ending. And Roses of Picardy has an alernate ending that is different (the opposite of the somewhat stressed and forced ending of the regular released version -ed). If you are not familiar with the remaining tracks, suffice it to say that they are well chosen and programmed to provide an emotional and fulfilling experience. Jeff not only believes in giving you the best sound but also a program that flows along on an unforgettable listening journey. When a disc is 'Rensovated' - you can expect the best!
Copyright 2007 by Sam Samuelian. All Rights Reserved








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