Repertoire Performed Live by Mario Lanza by Derek McGovern
All known material sung in public by Lanza, and the year in which he first performed it
Lanza at the time of his 1958 tour.
During Mario Lanza’s final recital tour in 1958, a number of British reviewers expressed their surprise at the relative absence of popular songs on the tenor’s program. In fact, the only bona fide Lanza “hit song” performed on the tour was “Because You’re Mine”—and that was sung exclusively as an encore.
This prompted the reviewer of the Sheffield News Review to question whether it was appropriate for the tenor's program to be aimed more at “opera fans” than Lanza admirers. (Evidently, this luminary assumed that the musical tastes of the two groups were mutually exclusive!)
What the reviewer failed to appreciate, however, was that Lanza always saw himself foremost an as operatic artist. He would have bristled at the thought of being pigeonholed as a pop or film singer—just as he would surely have disliked his recording company's peculiar present-day emphasis on the lighter side of his legacy, as practiced by RCA/BMG/Sony in numerous patchy compilation CDs over the last two decades.
Accordingly, there are very few popular ditties on this list of known repertoire that Lanza performed in public from 1940 to 1958. Instead, we find selections from early twentieth century operettas, a sprinkling of art songs (including a few Hugo Wolf lieder), religious songs, a handful of ballads, Neapolitan and Italian songs, and, above all, a liberal helping of opera.
Lanza performing at the London Palladium, November 1957
This list also includes the three complete operatic roles that Lanza is known to have performed in staged productions. (There were others, too, that the embryonic tenor sang in Philadelphia around 1941 for the Apollo Grand Opera and YMCA Opera companies, but identification of their titles awaits further research.) Sadly, none of these was recorded.
Please note: The first year in which Lanza is known to have performed the selections listed here is shown in square brackets. An asterisk* indicates selections that Lanza performed live but never recorded.
Complete operatic roles performed
Contino del Fiore in Crispino e la comare (Federico and Luigi Ricci; libretto by Francesco Piave). Performed circa 1941 for the Apollo Grand Opera Company and YMCA Opera Company under the direction of Rodolfo Pili, former tenor with the Metropolitan and Rome Opera companies. The venue may have been the Philadelphia Town Hall. In an article for the Italian-American Herald ("The Lanza Story, Chapter 14: When the Twain Did Meet," 17 August 1961), Philadelphia journalist Marion Benasutti interviewed Antoinette Pescrilli, the soprano opposite whom Lanza had performed the tenor lead in Crispino e la comare, noting that the production had been "a huge success." Pescrilli recalled the excitement that she and the youthful Lanza felt on becoming members of Pili's Apollo Grand Opera Company, adding that the two of them performed with the group at the Town Hall and in churches around Philadelphia. (They may also have appeared at the Fleischer Auditorium, where the Apollo Grand Opera Company is known to have performed in April 1940.)
Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor (Otto Nicolai; original German libretto by Salomon Mosenthal; English translation by Myron Ryan). Performed on August 7 and 13, 1942, at the Berkshire Music Festival in Tanglewood, Massachusetts. Conducted by Boris Goldovsky; production directed by Herbert Graf of the Metropolitan Opera. Lanza was coached for the role by Boris Goldovsky, Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss. [See Lanza and the Press: Operatic Performances 1942, 1948 for reviews of the opening-night performance by the New York Times, Opera News, and New York Herald-Tribune.]
Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly (Puccini; libretto by Illica & Giacosa). Performed on April 8 and 10, 1948, for the New Orleans Opera Association, Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans. Conducted by Walter Herbert; production directed by Armando Agnini. Lanza studied the role with vocal coach Leila Edwards. [See Lanza and the Press: Operatic Performances 1942, 1948 for reviews of the opening-night performance by the St. Louis News, Times-Picayune, and New Orleans States.]
Rodolfo in Act III of La bohème (Puccini). Act staged in its entirety on July 27 and August 14, 1942, as part of the production "Opera Scenes," Berkshire Music Festival, Tanglewood. Conducted by Leonard Bernstein (July 27) and Boris Goldovsky (August 14).
Operatic arias/duets/trios performed in concert
Cilea:L'Arlesiana: È la Solita Storia (Lamento di Federico)  Donizetti:L’elisir d’amore: Ecco, il Magico Liquore*; Una Furtiva Lagrima [both 1947] Donizetti:Lucia di Lammermoor: Verranno a Te sull'Aure [radio performance with live audience, 1949] Giordano: Andrea Chénier: Un Dì All'Azzurro Spazio (Improvviso); Come un Bel Dì di Maggio [both 1942] Gounod:Faust: Prison scene*  Handel:Xerxes: Ombra Mai Fu*  Leoncavallo:Pagliacci: Vesti la Giubba  Mascagni:Cavalleria rusticana: Bada, Santuzza! Schiavo Non Son  Monteverdi:L'Arianna: Lasciatemi Morire  Mozart:The Magic Flute: Farewell scene*  Nicolai:The Merry Wives of Windsor: Fenton’s Serenade* (“Hark! The lark sings in the grove”)  Ponchielli:La gioconda: Cielo e Mar  Puccini:La bohème: Che Gelida Manina ; O Soave Fanciulla  Puccini: La fanciulla del West: Ch’ella Mi Creda  Puccini:Madama Butterfly: Vogliatemi Bene  Puccini:Tosca: Recondita Armonia ; Act 1 duet ; E Lucevan le Stelle  Puccini:Turandot: Nessun Dorma  Scarlatti:L'onestà negli amori: Già il Sole del Gange  Verdi:Aida: Celeste Aida  Verdi:I Lombardi: Qual Voluttà Trascorrere*  Verdi:Rigoletto: È il Sol dell'Anima . . . Addio, Addio ; La Donna è Mobile  Verdi:Simon Boccanegra: Perdon, Perdon, Amelia*  Verdi: La traviata: Parigi, O Cara  Von Flotow: Martha: M'apparì 
Caro Mio Ben* (Giordani)  The Forsaken Maiden* (Wolf)  The House on the Hill (Charles)  My Lady Walks in Loveliness* (Charles)  Secrecy* (Wolf)  Serenade* (Schubert)  Song to Spring* (Wolf)  Tell Me, Oh Blue Blue Sky  Tre Giorni Son Che Nina* (Ciampi) 
Because (Teschmacher-d’Hardelot)  Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes* (Mellish)  For You Alone (Geehl-O’Reilly)  A Song of You*  Southern Roses* (Johann Strauss II waltz, adapted by Josef Blatt; lyrics also by Blatt) 
Deep in My Heart, Dearfrom Romberg’s The Student Prince (as a duet with Carolyn Long)  I’m Falling in Love with Someonefrom Herbert’s Naughty Marietta  Lippen Schweigen* (Lips Are Silent) from Lehár's The Merry Widow (as a duet with Frances Yeend)  (Note: this is the assumed number that Lanza and Yeend performed; Albert Goldberg's review does not specify the title of the duet) Nobody Could Love You More*from Lehár’s Paganini  Softly, As in a Morning Sunrisefrom Romberg’s New Moon  Some Dayfrom Friml’s The Vagabond King  They Didn't Believe Mefrom Kern’s The Girl from Utah [radio performance with live audience, 1949] Thine Alonefrom Herbert’s Eileen  Wanting Youfrom Romberg’s New Moon (as a duet with Carolyn Long)  Will You Rememberfrom Romberg’s Maytime (as a duet with Frances Yeend)  Yours Is My Heart Alone from Lehár’s The Land of Smiles 
Be My Love (Cahn-Brodszky)  Because You’re Mine (Cahn-Brodszky)  I Know, I Know, I Know (Kaper-Russell) [radio performance with live audience, 1949] Loveliest Night of the Year (Rosas/adapted by Aaronson; lyrics Webster)  Seven Hills of Rome (Adamson-Young) 
Agnus Dei (Bizet)  All Ye Thankful People Come (Alford) [radio performance with live audience, 1948] Ave Maria (Bach-Gounod)  The Lord’s Prayer (Malotte) [radio performance with live audience, 1948; concert 1950] Pietà Signore (attributed to Stradella) 
The following songs were included on programs (or in press releases for upcoming concerts) that Lanza performed, in each instance, with one other (female) artist. Consequently, it remains unclear whether Lanza himself performed these pieces, or, in the case of selections from The Student Prince and The Desert Song, what the actual song titles were.
A Dream* (Bartlett)  Estrellita* (Ponce)  Additional songs from The Student Prince (Romberg-Donnelly) [1942 and 1947] Songs and/or duets from The Desert Song(Romberg-Harbach-Hammerstein-Mandel) 
Perhaps most intriguingly of all, Lanza may have also performed at an "Opera Log" for the Trenton Opera Guild, New Jersey, sometime in the first half of 1946. He apparently sang selections from Verdi’s Otello, with Thomas Martin, pianist, accompanying. This event is mentioned in Derek Mannering's Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods (U of Mississippi P, 2005, p. 38), but no source is provided for this information.
Note: One confirmed semi-public performance of a selection from Verdi's Otello occurred at Lanza's home in Los Angeles on October 4, 1954, when he sang the Act III duet "Dio ti giocondi" for selected members of the Press with his accompanist vocal coach Giacomo Spadoni providing a falsetto Desdemona.