On the 2005 BBC documentary Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods, Peter Prichard, a one-time London representative for Leslie and Lew Grade’s talent agency (the Grade Organization) claimed that Lanza disliked performing in public. “He was basically a movie star,” he asserted.
Prichard’s opinion presumably stemmed from being present at the Dorchester in November 1957, when an agitated Lanza went on an alarming drinking binge that ended only on the eve of his performance at the London Palladium.
And not just any performance: this was the Royal Variety Show in front of the British Royal Family, and Lanza was acutely aware that he would be facing an army of critics ready to pounce on any vocal mishap.
What Prichard perhaps failed to appreciate, however, is that Lanza’s nervousness was not borne out of a dislike of public performing per se. Rather, it was the understandable anxiety of a tenor who had not performed on the concert stage in six and a half years. As any professional singer could have told Prichard, regular performing is essential to maintaining confidence in one’s abilities. In Lanza’s case, his confidence had been further eroded by years of negative publicity and skepticism from the press and music critics alike.
Victoria Station, London, 14 November 1957. Peter Prichard is on Lanza's immediate left.
More Than a Movie Star
If Prichard had met the same man ten years earlier, however, he would have discovered a very different Lanza: a happy tenor on the brink of an outstanding operatic career, and a performer who relished the demanding program that he performed regularly—sometimes even on successive days—with his illustrious fellow opera singers.
Nevertheless, this feature, which lists every known public performance by the tenor, may be sufficient to convince Prichard and his ilk that Lanza was always much more than just a movie star. It is designed to complement several other features on this site that focus on Lanza’s performing career: our list of existing live recordings, three pages of press reviews of his concert and stage work, reactions from opera singers who heard him sing in person, and a list of all known repertoire that he performed in public.
I am indebted to Armando Cesari, author of Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy(Baskerville, 2004; 2nd edition 2008), for his exhaustive research into Lanza’s life and performing career, and to Lee Ann Cafferata and Stefanie Walzinger for unearthing additional information about the tenor’s public performances through newspaper reviews and other resources. Derek Mannering's research is also acknowledged (and noted below, where appropriate.)
I should emphasize that this remains a work in progress, as many performance dates and venues (particularly for the 1947-48 Bel Canto Trio tour) still await identification. If anyone can provide additional information regarding specific performances, I would be most happy to hear from them. I can be contacted via our About Us page—--Derek McGovern.
1940-1942: First Performances and an Operatic Debut in Tanglewood
Lanza’s first public performance is often reported as a Christmas Day 1940 church rendition of the Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria”; however, he had actually performed earlier that year in public under the direction of his friend Earl Denny, a popular bandleader in Philadelphia. 1940 was also the year in which he began repertoire lessons with the former soprano Irene Williams, who went on to teach him twenty songs and two operatic roles over the next eighteen months.
It was through Miss Williams’s connections that Lanza came to the attention of William K. Huff of the Philadelphia Concerts Forum. Huff was greatly impressed by Lanza’s vocal potential, and in 1942 engineered an audition for the 21-year-old tenor with the famous Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Serge Koussevitzky. The conductor promptly offered Lanza a scholarship to study at the Berkshire Musical Festival in Tanglewood, and it was there, on 7 August 1942, that the tenor attracted the attention of top music critics with his performance in Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. The young tenor was on his way.
Sometime in 1940. Concert at the Fleischer Auditorium, Philadelphia. Earl Denny, Conductor.
December 25, 1940. St Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Church, Philadelphia. Lanza sang the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria;" Earl Denny conducted a string ensemble.
Circa 1941. Performances of opera with Apollo Grand Opera Company and YMCA Opera Company of Philadelphia, both directed by Rodolfo Pili. Venues included the Philadelphia Town Hall and local churches. The roles that Lanza performed are unknown, with the exception of the Contino del Fiore, the lead tenor part in Crispino e la Comare (1850), by Federico and Luigi Ricci. Opposite Antoinette Pescrilli (Annetta). Conductor Rodolfo Pili. Venue possibly Town Hall, Philadelphia.
April 5, 1942. Concert, Vernon Room, Haddon Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Orchestra, Anthony Coletti, cond. Stuart Ross, pianist. According to Derek Mannering (Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods, p.15), Lanza performed the arias "Ombra mai fu," Lamento di Federico, "Ch'ella mi creda," and "Come un bel dì di maggio," and duets with soprano Josepha Chekova from Tosca and Cavalleria Rusticana.
May 13, 1942. Concert, Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Philadelphia. Held by the Women’s Club of the Canadian Society in honor of Mrs. Lawrence Robinson, wife of the then British Consul General. The accompanying pianist was Lanza's then repertoire teacher Irene Williams.
June 3, 1942. Concert at the Grand Court, Philadelphia, with Anne Simon, contralto. On the day of the concert, the Wilmington Morning News of Delaware carried a promotion on its Wanamaker’s (store) advertisement page stating: "1942 Summer Concerts Begin. Wednesday evening in Grand Court at 8.45, Mario Lanza, tenor, who was chosen by Koussevitzky to sing solo roles in the coming Berkshire Festival, will lead off our popular light summer programs. With him will be Anne Simon, contralto, accompanied by a piano, harp and violin trio. The program will include ‘Vesti La Giubba,’ ‘Mattinata,’ ‘A Dream,’ and ‘Estrelita [sic],’ closing with bright songs from “The Student Prince’.”
July 27, 1942. Berkshire Music Festival, Tanglewood, Massachusetts. Together with principals Irma González, James Pease, and Laura Castellano, Lanza (singing the role of Rodolfo) performed the entire Act III of Puccini’s La Bohème as part of an evening of staged scenes from operas. The conductor was Leonard Bernstein.
August 7, 1942. Lanza sang the lead tenor role of Fenton in Herbert Graf’s production of Otto Nicolai’s 1849 comic opera The Merry Wives of Windsor. The conductor was Boris Goldovsky. [Further details are available here.]
August 13, 1942. Lanza sang the role of Fenton in a second performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor.
August 14, 1942. Berkshire Music Festival, Tanglewood, Massachusetts. Together with principals Irma González, James Pease, and Sheila Vogelle, Lanza (singing the role of Rodolfo) performed the entire Act III of Puccini’s La Bohème for a second time. The conductor on this occasion was conductor Boris Goldovsky.
November 23, 1942. Concert, Jersey City, New Jersey. Lanza appeared at the event hall of the Jersey City Women’s Club as a replacement for famed Metropolitan Opera bass Nicola Moscona (with whom he would later sing in The Great Caruso). Also performing that afternoon were contralto Irene Antal, soprano Doris Marinelli, and Metropolitan Opera baritone Angelo Pilotto. A review of the concert in the Jersey Journal of November 24 stated that, “From a tremendous frame and chest, a tremendous and dramatic voice came forth, belying his youth, in the tragic arias: ‘Ch’ella mi creda’ from Puccini’s ‘Girl of the Golden West,’ the ‘E Lucevan le stella [sic] from ‘Tosca,’ [and] also the poetic ‘Un di all’azzuro [sic] spazio’ from ‘Andrea Chenter’ [sic] by Giordano. The pianist (and host of the event) was the Metropolitan Opera conductor Thomas Philipp Martin. (The review can be seen here.)
1943-1944: A Performer with the US Army’s Special Services
Lanza’s promising career was interrupted by World War II, and from December 29, 1942, until January 29, 1945, he was enlisted with the US Army. However, the tenor (who was partially blind in his left eye) never saw active military service, and after a miserable period of basic training in Marfa, Texas, his talents were soon better utilized as a featured performer in Peter Lind Hayes's On the Beam. Chorus work in Moss Hart's Winged Victory followed soon afterwards.
Summer 1943. As a soldier in the US Army’s Special Services, Lanza performed in the traveling revue On the Beam. He usually performed "E Lucevan le Stelle," plus (presumably) encores.
October 12, 1943. Concert, Rancho Esperanza, California. Lanza sang, among other things, Fenton's "Serenade" from The Merry Wives of Windsor (the only known occasion on which he reprised material from the opera in which he had appeared the previous year) and "Vesti la Giubba."
Nov. 20, 1943 to May 20, 1944. Lanza sang in the chorus of Moss Hart’s wartime musical play, Winged Victory. A reported 212 performances were given at Broadway’s 44th Street Theater, New York City, in addition to try-out performances in Boston.
Summer 1944. Masquers Club of Hollywood. Lanza performed informally on Friday nights at this exclusive club for actors, writers, producers, and other members of the film colony.
1945-1946: Sporadic concert appearances and intensive vocal technique study
After being honorably discharged from the US Army in January 1945, Lanza married Betty Hicks, worked on voice and repertoire with assorted teachers, made test records for RCA, performed on the live radio show “Great Moments in Music,” and in September of that year resumed his concert career. Keenly aware, however, of his (then) limitations, Lanza cancelled all of his upcoming concerts and radio engagements in February 1946 and embarked on a 15-month period of intensive voice study with celebrated teacher Enrico Rosati.
As his vocal technique studies progressed, Lanza was encouraged by Rosati to sing occasional concerts in order to gain the necessary confidence and experience as a performer. These concerts were invariably well received, with the young tenor also earning excellent reviews for his efforts. [See this feature for further information.]
Please note: This section also includes Lanza's six appearances on the CBS radio show "Great Moments in Music." According to a 2010 interview with former trumpeter Maxim Gershunoff, who participated on these performances, the venue for these live broadcasts was Liederkranz Hall in New York City. Although no actual audience, other than the musicians and assorted CBS personnel, was present in the Hall, the live nature of these performances ensured that no retakes were possible. All other radio performances included in this feature consist of live broadcasts in front of a physical audience.
September 3, 1945. Concert, Convention Hall, Atlantic City, with the NBC Symphony Orchestra for the Association of Broadcasters. Peter Herman Adler was the conductor. This was an important concert in Lanza’s early career (and his first in almost two years), and brought him into contact with Adler, who would play an important mentoring role in his life, in addition to conducting most of the soundtrack of The Great Caruso.
October 24, 1945. "Great Moments in Music." CBS Radio Program. Performed live from the Liederkranz Hall, New York City. As part of a program devoted to excerpts from Puccini's Tosca, Lanza sang "Recondita Armonia," "E Lucevan le Stelle," and (with soprano Jean Tennyson) an abridged version of the Act I Love Duet. Sylvan Levin conducted.
October 25, 1945. Concert, Imperial Ballroom, Hotel Statler, Boston (30th Anniversary Banquet Associated Industries of Massachusetts). The conductor was Arthur Fiedler, with 56 members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Lanza sang at least four selections, including “For You Alone,” “Mattinata,” Nina,” and “M’Apparì.”
November 7, 1945. "Great Moments in Music." CBS Radio Program. Performed live from the Liederkranz Hall, New York City. Theme of the evening's program: "Peace Must Be Won." Conductor unknown. Lanza performed "The House on the Hill" and (with baritone Robert Weede and soprano Vivian Bauer) "America the Beautiful," momentarily forgetting the lyrics on the latter.
November 14, 1945. "Great Moments in Music." CBS Radio Program. Performed live from the Liederkranz Hall, New York City. As part of a program devoted to excerpts from Verdi's Otello, Lanza sang the Act I Brindisi (in the part of Cassio) with Robert Weede, and (as Otello) the Act I Love Duet ("Già nella Notte Densa") with soprano Jean Tennyson. Georges Sébastian conducted.
November 21, 1945. Concert: Erie, PA. John R. Metcalf conducted the Erie Philharmonic, and Lanza performed “La Donna è Mobile,” “Tre Giorni Non Che Nina,” “M’Apparì”, "For You Alone," "Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes," and "Mattinata." An interesting 2011 article on this concert can be read here.
December 19, 1945. Red Barber Review (radio). Lanza performed "Vesti la Giubba" and "I'm Falling in Love with Someone." Conductor unknown.
December 26, 1945. "Great Moments in Music." CBS Radio Program. Performed live from the Liederkranz Hall, New York City. Georges Sébastian conducted. As part of a program devoted to excerpts from Lehmann's song cycle In a Persian Garden, Lanza performed "Ah, Moon of My Delight" and "A Jug of Wine." On the latter song, he sang in duet with soprano Frances Yeend. This marked the first occasion on which he performed with Yeend. The two would go on to perform in joint concerts in 1946 and 1947, and extensively from 1947 to 1948 (with bass-baritone George London) as the Bel Canto Trio. Lanza performed in public more often with Yeend than any other singing partner (or instrumentalist, for that matter).
January 23, 1946. "Great Moments in Music." CBS Radio Program. Performed live from the Liederkranz Hall, New York City. As part of a program devoted to the music of Irving Berlin, Lanza performed "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody" and (with soprano Natalie Bodanya) "Blue Skies." He also performed on a medley with Bodanya and baritone Leonard Stokes, with his solo contribution consisting of part of "All Alone." Sylvan Levin conducted.
February 6, 1946. "Great Moments in Music." CBS Radio Program. Performed live from the Liederkranz Hall, New York City. As part of a program devoted to excerpts from Romberg's operetta The Student Prince, Lanza performed "Serenade" and the duets "Golden Days" (with Robert Weede) and "Deep In My Heart, Dear" (with Winifred Smith). Sylvan Levin conducted.
First half of 1946. Lanza performed at the "Opera Log," Trenton, New Jersey. According to Derek Mannering (Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods, p.38), Lanza sang selections from Verdi’s Otello, with Thomas Martin, pianist, for the Trenton Opera Guild.
July 2, 1946. Concert with the Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra, Varsity Arena, Toronto. Taino Hannikainen conducted.
July 6, 1946. Concert with soprano Frances Yeend, Grant Park, Chicago. Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, Leo Kopp, conductor. This important concert brought Lanza to the attention of the influential and much-respected music critics Claudia Cassidy and Albert Goldberg, both of whose reviews can be read here.
July 7, 1946. Second concert with Frances Yeend, Grant Park, Chicago. Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, Leo Kopp, conductor.
July 17, 1946? Lanza refers to an upcoming appearance (“easy—only 4 numbers”) on this date in a postcard to his voice teacher, Enrico Rosati.
November 13, 1946. Concert, Ottawa, with the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra. Venue: Capitol Theatre. Allard de Ridder conducted. At this extremely well-received concert, Lanza sang, among other things, "Che Gelida Manina," "M’Apparì," and "Vesti la Giubba."
1947-1948: Concerts, the Bel Canto Trio Tour and a Professional Operatic Debut
1947 and 1948 were Lanza’s peak years as a live performer,
and the most disciplined period of his artistic life. After completing his fifteen months of study with
Rosati in May 1947, and now armed with a solid vocal technique that would stand him in excellent
stead for the remainder of his life, the tenor joined the Bel Canto Trio with soprano Frances Yeend
and bass-baritone George London—two very promising singers—and embarked on a ten-and-a-half-month tour of the US,
Canada, and Mexico. Lanza also found time for a solo concert career, together with occasional
recitals with other singers (most notably, sopranos Agnes Davis, Carolyn Long, and the Metropolitan Opera's Dorothy Kirsten).
Most significantly of all, he studied the role of Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly for four months with
vocal coach Leila Edwards, going on to make his professional operatic debut in the part to excellent
reviews with the New Orleans Opera Association in April 1948.
The period also included Lanza’s life-changing concert at the Hollywood Bowl in August 1947, an
event that ultimately led him to M-G-M Film Studios and his disastrous attempt to combine an
operatic career with a film one.
January 18, 1947 Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis. Joint concert with Frances Yeend and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Golschmann conducted. [A review can be read here.]
January 19, 1947. Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis. Second joint concert with Yeend and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Golschmann conducted. [A review can be read here.]
March 24, 1947. Recital, Elks Club, Allentown. In this short, mostly song, recital for the Allentown Community Concerts Association, Lanza performed “The House on the Hill,” “Thine Alone,” “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise,” “Lolita,” “E Lucevan le Stelle” from Tosca, and “I’m Falling in Love with Someone.” Kary Y. Donecker accompanied Lanza on the piano. A review of this very-well received performance can be read here.
April 14, 1947. Recital, State Teachers' College Auditorium, Shippensburg, PA. The pianist was Constantine Callinicos, and this was the first occasion on which the two worked together. Callinicos would later conduct Lanza’s operatic recordings for RCA and his MGM version of The Student Prince, among other things, and also serve as his pianist in his recitals from 1949 to 1951 and again in 1958.
April 28, 1947. Informal recital, Mitchell Inn, Middletown, New York. This was a campaign launch for the Community Concerts Association, whose Eastern Division Manager, concert pianist Lawrence Bernhardt, accompanied Lanza as he performed, among other things, "The House on the Hill," "Tell Me, Oh Blue Blue Sky," "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise," "Thine Alone," and "E Lucevan le Stelle" from Tosca. The Middletown Times Herald reported the next day that, "Lanza revealed a thrilling and richly rewarding voice" to his delighted audience. [Review here.]
June 24 1947. “Romberg-Herbert Festival.” Concert with soprano Carolyn Long, New Orleans Municipal Auditorium, Emanuel Balaban, conductor.
June 26, 1947. “Romberg-Herbert Festival.” Concert with Carolyn Long, New Orleans Municipal Auditorium, Emanuel Balaban, conductor.
June 27, 1947. “Romberg-Herbert Festival.” Third and final concert with Carolyn Long, New Orleans Municipal Auditorium, Emanuel Balaban, conductor.
July 8, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert with Frances Yeend and bass-baritone George London, “Music Under the Stars” Symphony Orchestra, Washington Park, Milwaukee. Jerzy Bojanowski conducted. [See review here.] This was the first concert of a ten-and-a-half month tour featuring Lanza, Yeend, and London as the Bel Canto Trio. Their mostly operatic program was a demanding one, and Lanza’s contributions included two duets with Yeend (“Parigi, O Cara” from Verdi’s La Traviata and “Nobody Could Love You More” from Lehár’s Paganini); the duet “Ecco il Magico Liquore” from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore with George London; the arias “E Lucevan le Stelle,” “La Donna è Mobile,” and “M’Apparì” from Puccini’s Tosca, Verdi’s Rigoletto and Von Flotow’s Martha, respectively; trios from Verdi’s I Lombardi (“Qual Voluttà Trascorrere”) and Simon Boccanegra (“Perdon, Perdon, Amelia”), the Prison Scene from Gounod’s Faust, and the Farewell Scene from Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
July 19, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Grant Park, Chicago. Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, Paul Breisach, conductor. An audience of 55,000 attended.
July 20, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Grant Park, Chicago. Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, Paul Breisach, conductor. Word of mouth and a rave review by Claudia Cassidy resulted in 76,000 people attending in spite of rain.
July 28, 1947. Recital, State Teachers' College Auditorium, Shippensburg, PA. Joseph Blatt, pianist. Selections included “Lolita,” “Recondita Armonia,” “A Song of You,” and “Che Gelida Manina.”
August 28, 1947. Concert with Lanza and Yeend, Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles. Eugene Ormandy conductor. This extremely well-received concert was recorded, and is commercially available. This was the concert that brought Lanza to the attention of M-G-M head Louis B. Mayer, and subsequently led to the former’s decision to sign a seven-year film contract with the Studio.
October 10, 1947. Concert with soprano Agnes Davis, Montcalm Palace, Quebec. Josef Blatt was the pianist. [A review can be read here.]
October 16, 1947. Concert with Carolyn Long in Grinnell, Iowa. Venue unknown; Emmanuel Balaban conducted. [A review can be read here.]
October 17, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Wisconsin Union Theater, Madison, Wisconsin. Presumed assisting artist: Josef Blatt, pianist.
October 19, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Wisconsin Union Theater, Madison, Wisconsin. Presumed assisting artist: Josef Blatt, pianist.
October 22, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Memorial Chapel, Lawrence College, Appleton, Wisconsin. Josef Blatt, pianist. [A review can be read here.]
October 24, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville, Illinois. Assisting artist: Josef Blatt, pianist. [A review here refers to Lanza's magnificent singing and "tremendous volume."]
October 26, 1947. Bel Canto Concert, Municipal Auditorium, Oklahoma City. Josef Blatt, pianist. Reviewing the concert the following day in the Daily Oklahoman, music critic Tracy Silvester wrote that Lanza had “the lyric quality of Jussi Bjoerling in his voice, with the fine Italian fire in his interpretations.” Silvester also commented on Lanza’s singing of “La donna e mobile”: “It was evident that he was accustomed to singing the aria . . . in Italian, and when he started singing the aria in English he started mixing the two. He handled the ensuing embarrassment wonderfully well, however, and after a new start thrilled his audience.”
November 2, 1947. Concert with Frances Yeend, Tri-City Orchestra, Masonic Temple Auditorium, Davenport, Iowa. Presumed conductor: Oscar Anderson (as advised to Stefanie Walzinger on 22/2/17 by the Director of Development of what is now called the Quad City Symphony Orchestra).
November 8, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Majestic Theatre, San Antonio, Texas, San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, Max Reiter, conductor. Ernest Pratt, writing in the San Antonio Light (14 November, 1947), gave high praise to the Trio (who were a late replacement for an indisposed Helen Traubel) singling out their performance of the trio from I Lombardi.
November 10, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, State College Auditorium, Cape Giradeau, Missouri. Josef Blatt, pianist.
November 12, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, University of Arkansas Field House, Fayetteville, Arkansas. Josef Blatt, pianist.
November 24, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Woodrow Wilson Junior High Auditorium, Port Arthur, Texas. Josef Blatt, pianist. [A review can be read here.]
November 26, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Liberty Hall, El Paso, Texas. Josef Blatt, pianist. (Originally scheduled for November 28.)
November 28, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Chihuahua, Mexico. Josef Blatt, pianist. Note:Originally scheduled for November 27, it seems more likely that this is the actual performance date. (See below.) The concert definitely took place, as it is referred to in a review of the Trio's subsequent Torreón performance.
November 29, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Teatro Royal, Torreón, Mexico. Josef Blatt, pianist. Note: Various newspaper announcements of the Trio's Mexican concert dates make for confusing reading. However, the Trio apparently experienced Immigration difficulties when entering Mexico, and then a misunderstanding caused by the Head Office of Columbia Concerts resulted--incredibly--in the Trio being detained overnight by the Mexican authorities. The Torreón concert itself had first been announced for November 25, then re-scheduled for November 28, before finally occurring on November 29. [A review in Spanish can be read here.]
December 1, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Blatt Carlisle Gymnasium, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Josef Blatt, pianist. [A review can be read here.]
December 8, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Fenger High School Auditorium, Chicago. Presumed pianist: Josef Blatt. The Chicago Daily Tribune of December 7, 1947 refers to this as “the second in a series of five concerts to be presented by the group.”
December 9, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, La Porte Civic Auditorium, La Porte, Indiana. Josef Blatt, pianist.
December 11, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Eaton Auditorium, Toronto. Josef Blatt, pianist.
December 16, 1947. Bel Canto Trio concert, Middletown, New York. Josef Blatt, pianist. Reviewer Gladys De Freitas of the Middletown Times Herald gave high praise to the Trio, singling out Lanza's and Yeend's "bewitching interpretation" of Franz Lehar's "Nobody Could Love You More."
January 8, 1948. Bel Canto Trio concert, Lyman Hall High School Auditorium, Wallingford, Connecticut. Presumed pianist: Josef Blatt.
January 26, 1948. Bel Canto Trio concert, Bowling Green, Kentucky. Venue unknown. Presumed pianist: Josef Blatt.
January 29, 1948. Bel Canto Trio concert, Sheffield High School Auditorium, Florence, Alabama. Presumed pianist: Josef Blatt.
February 14, 1948.Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy Show (Radio). State Fair Auditorium, Dallas. (Broadcast live.) Conductor Ray Noble. Lanza performed “Vesti la Giubba.”
February 24, 1948. Bel Canto Trio concert, Scottish Rite Auditorium, Bloomington, Illinois. Josef Blatt, pianist. [A review can be read here.]
February 27, 1948. Bel Canto Trio concert, Washington Gardner High School Auditorium, Albion, Michigan. Josef Blatt, pianist.
March 2, 1948. Bel Canto Trio concert, Akron Armory, Akron, Ohio. Pianist: Josef Blatt.
March 5, 1948. Concert, Massey Hall, Toronto. Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Paul Scherman, conductor. Lanza performed three arias with Scherman (all of them recorded), and later with pianist Leo Barkin sang "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise," "Thine Alone," and "I'm Falling in Love with Someone."
April 8, 1948. Lanza performed the role of Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly for the New Orleans Opera Association at the Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans. Walter Herbert conducted. [Click here for cast details and here for reviews.] This was Lanza’s professional operatic debut.
April 10, 1948. Second performance as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans.
April 25, 1948. Bel Canto Trio concert, Municipal Auditorium, Burlington, Vermont. Josef Blatt, pianist. [A review can be read here.]
May 27, 1948. Final Bel Canto Trio concert, Moncton, New Brunswick. Venue unknown; the pianist was presumably Josef Blatt.
Note: There were at least 60 Bel Canto Trio concerts between July 1947 and May 1948, according to promotional material released by Lawrence Evans Artists Management in 1948. (Lawrence Evans was one of the founders of Columbia Artists Management, to whom Lanza was under contract.) In fact, there may have been as many as 86 Bel Canto Trio concerts, if Lanza’s mother and various published sources are to be believed. (One wonders, however, if this much-quoted figure also included Lanza's solo concerts during this period, together with his joint concerts with Yeend, Davis, and Long.) Other scheduled Bel Canto Trio concerts not listed here included performances in St. John’s, Newfoundland; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Wheeling, West Virginia; Ames, Iowa; Albion, Michigan; Minot, North Dakota; and Sylcauga, Alabama.
June 18, 1948. New York City. (Technically, not a public performance, but worthy of inclusion here nonetheless.) Successful semi-staged audition (for a proposed series of televised operas) for NBC Head David Sarnoff, NBC Musical Director Samuel Chotzinoff and others of part of Act IV of Puccini’s La Bohème, with Frances Yeend, George London, and two unidentified singers. Pianist Herbert Grossman. [Part of this performance can be heard here.] In a 1960 article for the Meriden Journal (Connecticut), Chotzinoff referred to the occasion, singling out Lanza's "wonderful voice," and praising the "poignancy" of his performance, which he described as "vocally and histrionically, absolutely true."
June 27, 1948. Concert with Metropolitan Opera soprano Dorothy Kirsten, Forest Meadows, Dominican College, San Rafael. Theodore Paxson, pianist. Note: Two years later, Ms. Kirsten would co-star with Lanza in The Great Caruso. [Review here.]
July 24, 1948. Concert with soprano Kathryn Grayson, Hollywood Bowl. Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra; Miklós Rózsa, conductor. With Grayson, Lanza performed the duets “Thine Alone” from Herbert’s Eileen and “O Soave Fanciulla” from Puccini’s La Bohème. He also sang “Agnus Dei” by Bizet and “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot, in addition to performing in Lionel Barrymore’s musically undistinguished Halloween Suite.
September 15, 1948. “Salute to MGM” (Radio). Lanza performed "Vesti la Giubba."
September 22, 1948. “Salute to MGM” (Radio). Lanza performed "Thine Alone."
November 25, 1948. "Elgin Watch Thanksgiving Special” (NBC Radio). Lanza performed “Cosi Cosa,” “E Lucevan le Stelle,” and “All Ye Thankful People Come.”
December 19, 1948.Edgar Bergen Charlie McCarthy Show. Lanza performed Malotte’s “The Lord's Prayer” (one of only two confirmed occasions when he sang this piece in front of a live audience).
1949-1950: A recital tour, a promotional tour, and a Hawaiian diversion
Lanza was by now ensconced in Hollywood, and a scheduled return engagement with the New Orleans Opera Company in 1949 (as Alfredo to Eleanor Steber’s Violetta in a production of La Traviata) was an early casualty of his film career. For the time being, however, his performing career continued. After completing the shooting of his first movie, That Midnight Kiss, in March 1949, the tenor embarked on a recital and concert tour in mostly smaller cities that had been scheduled when he was still a relative unknown. He also made his first commercial recordings for RCA in May of that year. For the remainder of 1949, his public performances were largely restricted to promotional appearances in connection with the release of That Midnight Kiss.
With his film and recording career burgeoning, 1950 saw even fewer public performances, with appearances limited to three recitals in Hawaii in March and a charity concert in Los Angeles in April. Lanza spent much of the remainder of 1950 in the recording studios and working at M-G-M on The Great Caruso, and consequently another scheduled operatic performance—this time in the title role of Andrea Chénier opposite soprano Licia Albanese at the San Francisco Opera—fell by the wayside.
March-May 1949. According to his accompanist Constantine Callinicos, Lanza performed a mere twelve recitals/concerts during a scheduled tour of 27 dates that had been scheduled between March 7 and May 25. However, please see my note below.
The following are the only confirmed appearances during the tour:
March 22, 1949. Concert, Orchestra Hall, Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Victor Alessandro. Among the selections Lanza performed were Bizet’s “Agnus Dei” and the arias “Celeste Aida” from Verdi’s Aida and the Lamento di Federico from Cilea’s L’Arlesiana.
March 25, 1949. Recital, Zanesville Municipal Auditorium, Zanesville, Ohio. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
April 6, 1949. Recital, Music Hall, Troy, New York. Constantine Callinicos, pianist. [Review available here.]
April 8, 1949. Recital, City Hall Auditorium, Portland, Maine. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
April 11, 1949. Recital, Kingston High School Auditorium, Kingston, New York. Constantine Callinicos, pianist. [A review of this very well-received recital can be read here.]
April 22, 1949. Concert, Chicago Orchestra Hall, with Marshall Field Choral Society. Albert P. Stewart conducted. [A somewhat critical review can be read here.] Among the selections Lanza performed was Schubert’s “Serenade”—the only known occasion on which he sang this piece.
April 25, 1949. Concert for the Apollo Club, Lyceum Theater, Minneapolis. Constantine Callinicos, pianist. [A brief review of this concert can be read here.] Note: Lanza was scheduled to repeat his program for the Apollo Club on April 26 and 27, but we have not yet been able to confirm if those performances took place.
April 29, 1949. Recital, Eastern State College Auditorium, Charleston, Illinois. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
Note: The number of performances—and even the content—of Lanza’s 1949 March-May tour is mired in confusion due to contradictory and misleading comments made by Callinicos in his 1960 book The Mario Lanza Story (co-authored with Ray Robinson). [See this forum discussion for further information.] Callinicos claims, for example, that Lanza cancelled fifteen of the 27 recitals he was supposedly scheduled to sing on that tour. Yet Callinicos goes on to list only seventeen venues at which Lanza was apparently booked to perform. Since it is unlikely that Lanza would have agreed to sing more than once in what were mostly small cities, one has to wonder which total of concerts was closer to the truth: 17 or 27.
Roland Bessette, in his often harshly critical view of Lanza in the 1999 Mario Lanza: Tenor in Exile, treats Callinicos’ comments on the 1949 tour as gospel. However, recent research has disproved many of Callinicos’ claims, the most damning of which Bessette (regrettably) regurgitates in his book, including the former's suggestion that Lanza was incapable of learning three Hugo Wolf lieder that were supposedly on the program. In fact, the three Wolf songs were never part of the official 1949 tour program, although Lanza did perform them on at least three occasions (as reviews reveal), together with another song, Giordani’s “Caro Mio Ben.” It was only in March 1950 that Lanza added the three Wolf lieder to his official program when he performed at McKinley Auditorium, Honolulu.
August 16, 1949. “Salute to MGM.” Concert, Hollywood Bowl. John Green, conductor. For his third and final appearance at the Hollywood Bowl, Lanza performed the aria “Celeste Aida” from Verdi’s Aida and, with 19-year-old soprano Mary Jane Smith, the duet “È il Sol dell'Anima . . . Addio, Addio” from Verdi’s Rigoletto. [A brief review can be read here.]
August 29, 1949. Citizens’ Reception Committee Luncheon in honor of Harry S. Truman and Perry Brown, national commander of the American Legion, Bellevue-Stratford Hotel Ballroom, Philadelphia. Solo by Lanza (selection unknown). Note: President Truman had to leave before Lanza sang, and according to reporter Bob Thomas "apologized to [the tenor] before the throng." A second opportunity for Lanza to sing for Truman in Washington D.C. (mentioned by Hedda Hopper on her NBC radio show of December 3, 1950) never materialized.
September 1949.That Midnight Kiss promotional tour. Lanza and soprano Kathryn Grayson performed briefly at various venues, singing one song each and one duet, assisted by Giacomo Spadoni, pianist. These included the following dates (venues identified where known):
September 2, 1949. Boyd Theater, Philadelphia
September 7, 1949. Capitol Theater, New York
September 8, 1949. New York (performances at four theaters): Loew's 46th Street, Loew's Pitkin, Loew's Oriental, and Loew's Valencia
September 12, 1949. New Haven, Connecticut
September 14, 1949. Loew’s State Theater, Cleveland, Ohio (two performances)
September 16, 1949. Loew's State Theater, St. Louis (two performances)
September 17, 1949. Loew’s Midland Theater, Kansas City (two performances)
September 29, 1949. “Screen Guild Theater Program” (NBC Radio). Conductor Henry Russell, NBC West Coast Orchestra. Lanza performed “I Know, I Know, I Know,” “Mamma Mia, Che Vo’ Sape?,” and with Kathryn Grayson “They Didn’t Believe Me” from Kern’s The Girl from Utah and “Verrano a Te sull’Aure” from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.
November 29, 1949. Life with Luigi (Radio). Lanza performed “Mamma Mia, Che Vo' Sape?”
March 22, 1950. Recital, McKinley Auditorium, Honolulu. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
March 24, 1950. Recital, McKinley Auditorium, Honolulu. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
March 27, 1950. Recital, McKinley Auditorium, Honolulu. Constantine Callinicos, pianist. [Note: For this third and final recital, Lanza departed from his printed program. A review can be read here.]
April 22, 1950. Friar's Frolic Charity Show, Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles. Lanza performed “Vesti la Giubba” and “O Sole Mio.” Giacomo Spadoni assisted on the piano.
1951: A Sold-Out Tour of the USA
In anticipation of the release of his third film, the hugely successful The Great Caruso, Lanza embarked in February on a ten-week record-breaking nationwide concert and recital tour across the U.S. Although the critical response was mixed at times, with some of the more demanding reviewers chiding Lanza for perceived stylistic shortcomings, the tenor was accorded a rapturous reception by his public. As Time magazine noted in its cover story on the tenor in August 1951, "Caruso himself never commanded the adulation that swamped Lanza on his latest concert tour." [For press reviews and other information, please click here.]
February 16, 1951. Recital, Scranton, Pennsylvania. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
February 21, 1951. Recital, Stanley Theater, Utica. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
February 27, 1951. Recital, Lyric Theater, Baltimore. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
March 2, 1951. Recital, The Mosque, Richmond, Virginia. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
March 6, 1951. Concert, Syria Mosque, Pittsburgh, with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Vladimir Bakaleinikoff, conductor. Note: Lanza's afternoon rehearsal was also opened to the public at general admission prices.
March 9, 1951. Recital, Columbus, Ohio. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
March 13, 1951. Recital, Philadelphia Academy of Music. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
March 16, 1951. Recital, Miami Beach Municipal Auditorium, Miami. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
March 19? 1951. Recital, Orlando, Florida. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
March 22, 1951. Recital, Peabody Auditorium, Daytona Beach, Florida. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
March 28? 1951. Recital, Municipal Auditorium, Tampa, Florida. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
March 30, 1951. Recital, Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
April 28, 1951. Recital, Ogden High School Auditorium, Ogden, Utah. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
April 30, 1951. Recital, Fresno Memorial Auditorium, Fresno, California. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
1954, 1957: Sporadic But Acclaimed Performances in the US and in the UK
After 1951, Lanza’s live appearances became rare as the increasingly embattled tenor retreated from public performing after his dismissal by M-G-M in 1952. Lawsuits, financial problems, the severing of ties with his once-trusted manager, and a seemingly endless wave of negative publicity further undermined his now-fragile psyche. However, a surprise move to Italy in 1957 reinvigorated the tenor, and led to a resumption of his concert career later that year at the venerable London Palladium, where he was jubilantly received by audiences and critics alike. [See this article for further information and reviews.]
October 4, 1954. Informal operatic recital at his Beverly Hills home for fifteen members of the US Press. Giacomo Spadoni accompanied Lanza on the piano, and reportedly sang a "falsetto Desdemona" to the latter's Otello in the Act III duet from Verdi's Otello. Other selections included "Che Gelida Manina" from Puccini's La Bohème and "Un Tal Gioco" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci.
October 28, 1954.Shower of Stars (live CBS TV Show). Giacomo Spadoni, conductor. Lanza performed “E Lucevan le Stelle” from Puccini’s Tosca and “Some Day” from Friml’s The Vagabond King. [Essay and video clips here.]
July 14, 1957. Lanza performed one number in front of a massive outdoor audience in Naples' Piazza della Sanità, Italy. [For intriguing background information on this event, click here.]
September 8, 1957. Filignano, Italy. Impromptu mini-concert in the town square of his father's hometown.
November 18, 1957.Royal Variety Show, London Palladium. In front of Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British Royal Family, Lanza performed “Because You’re Mine,” “E Lucevan le Stelle,” and “Loveliest Night of the Year.” Constantine Callinicos conducted.
November 24, 1957.Sunday Night at the London Palladium (televised), London Palladium. Lanza again performed “Because You’re Mine,” “E Lucevan le Stelle,” and “Loveliest Night of the Year.” Constantine Callinicos conducted. [Click here to watch this performance.]
1958: The Final Tour: Lanza Performs Throughout the UK and on the European Continent
Fresh on the heels of his acclaimed performances at the London Palladium in November 1957, Lanza embarked on his first recital tour in seven years. Although the sold-out tour was marred by many cancellations—many of them due to a serious bout of phlebitis that afflicted Lanza in the third week—the tenor still managed to perform the same number of recitals (22) that he had given on his memorable 1951 tour.
Critical response in the United Kingdom was often excellent, while some of the Continental reviewers faulted the tenor on stylistic grounds. All were in agreement, however, that Lanza possessed an extraordinary voice. As conductor Richard Bonynge, who with his wife Joan Sutherland attended one of the tenor's two recitals at London's Royal Albert Hall, later observed: "No doubt [Lanza] could have had an outstanding operatic career." [For press reviews, photos and Lanza's 1958 recital program, click here.]
The 1958 tour constituted Lanza's final performances in public. During the remaining eighteen months of his life, he considered further concert tours, including offers from such distant countries as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and also discussed his return to opera with Riccardo Vitale, Artistic Director of the Rome Opera House. A one-off performance as Canio in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci was tentatively scheduled for that theatre's 1960-1961 season, with provision made for further appearances if the first was successful. Lanza appeared enthusiastic at the prospect of returning to opera—"his only true love," according to conductor Peter Herman Adler, who visited him in Rome in the summer of 1959 and noted the tenor's daily workouts with an operatic coach. Barely four months later Lanza was dead.
January 4, 1958. Recital, Sheffield City Hall, Sheffield, England. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
January 7, 1958. Recital, St. Andrew’s Hall, Glasgow, Scotland. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
January 9, 1958. Recital, City Hall, Newcastle, England. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
January 12, 1958. Recital, De Montford Hall, Leicester, England. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
January 16, 1958. Recital, Royal Albert Hall, London. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
January 18, 1958.Saturday Spectacular (ATV) (televised live TV show) Lanza performed three songs from his recital program: “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise;” “Marechiare;” “I’m Falling in Love with Someone.” Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
January 19, 1958. Recital, Royal Albert Hall, London. Constantine Callinicos, pianist. Note: Lanza was in considerable discomfort during this recital, having suffered a fall the previous day on the steps outside his friend Lana Turner's home near London.
January 24, 1958. Recital, Kongresssaal des Deutschen Museums, Munich, Germany. Constantine Callinicos, pianist.
January 27, 1958. Recital, Liederhalle, Stuttgart, Germany. Constantine Callinicos, pianist. Note: Stricken with phlebitis in his right leg, Lanza returned to Rome for treatment at the Valle Giulia Clinic. Against the orders of his doctors, he resumed the tour in March using a cane to support his affected (and tightly bandaged) leg.
Note: Felicitously, the final public performance of Lanza's career was also one of the most successful on the tour, both critically and in terms of audience reception. Writing in the Lübecher Nachricten on 14 April 1958, music critic Dr. Kurt Klukist noted the sustained applause that greeted Lanza's singing, which he described as "an event of blessed southern sensuality" from a "wonderfully melodious tenor" with "a completely natural sound." Lanza, he wrote, "has a 'strad' in his throat and he understands how to use it. It is difficult to know what to admire the most. The faultless breathing technique, the elastic precision of his wording, the light 'piano.' The constantly disciplined 'forte.' The well-synchronized join between registers. Lanza sings emotionally, a smoldering fluency. . . . An encore is dragged out of him---or is it two? Then, with a gesture of typical romantic panache, he says goodbye."
Lanza arriving at Victoria Station, London, November 14, 1957. Betty Lanza and Peter Prichard are on his immediate right; Constantine Callinicos is the man behind him holding a newspaper.