Note: Only LPs released on official RCA/BMG/Sony CDs are included here.
The Great Caruso
This non-soundtrack album, released to capitalize on the release of the 1951 film, was the first classical LP to sell a million copies. Surprisingly, it features a mere eight selections—-all arias recorded in May 1950 for RCA. Only four of these were actually in the film: "Vesti la giubba," "E lucevan le stelle," "Cielo e mar," and "La donna è mobile." The remaining four arias on the album are "Recondita armonia," "Questa o quella," "Parmi veder le lagrime," and "Una furtiva lagrima." Although Lanza is in great voice throughout, with the two Tosca arias especially memorable, some of his singing is stylistically below par, and there are pitch problems at times, most notably on the otherwise well-sung "Cielo e mar." Lanza is also hindered by some poor conducting, with the orchestra often either sluggish (e.g. "E lucevan le stelle") or the tempos too fast (e.g. "Questa a quella," "Parmi veder le lagrime"). [CD: The Great Caruso and Other Caruso Favorites.]
The Student Prince
The full title of this classic 1954 album is the long-winded Mario Lanza Sings the Hit Songs from The Student Prince and Other Great Musical Comedies. The best selling of all Lanza's LPs, Side 1 contains RCA's mono mixes of the tenor's magnificent MGM soundtrack recordings of The Student Prince (recorded in 1952, with one remake in 1953). Side 2 comprises six songs from Lanza's 1951-52 radio show, including the beautifully rendered "Romance," "If I Loved You," and "One Night of Love." Note: for contractual reasons, RCA replaced soprano Ann Blyth with Elizabeth Doubleday on two duets: "Summertime in Heidelberg" and "Deep in My Heart, Dear." The result on the latter song is an awkward hybrid, with Doubleday singing some of the Prince's lyrics, while Lanza sings only the introduction. [CD: Mario Lanza: Original Album Classics.]
The soundtrack album of Lanza's fifth film, Serenade (1956), this LP features some of the tenor's finest operatic singing—-"Amor ti vieta," "O paradiso," "Di rigori armato," Lamento di Federico, and the Monologue from Verdi's Otello—--together with a splendid rendition of the Neapolitan song "Torna a Surriento." The album also features the long Act III duet from Otello, "Dio ti giocondi," which Lanza sings impressively with the Metropolitan Opera soprano Licia Albanese. The remaining highlights are a sensitive rendition of Schubert's "Ave Maria" and a fine version of Rossini's "La Danza." Note: the orchestral version of "My Destiny" is not from the actual soundtrack, and the opening phrases of the "Ave Maria" differ from the film. [CD: Serenade/A Cavalcade of Show Tunes. However, the full Otello duet is only available on the CD Opera Arias and Duets.]
The Touch of Your Hand
Released in 1955, this was the second album to be drawn exclusively from the tenor's Coca-Cola-sponsored radio show of 1951-52. A very poorly compiled LP, it features only a handful of well-sung selections—-e.g. "Love Is The Sweetest Thing" and "Look for the Silver Lining"—-and many substandard renditions, including "The Desert Song," which vies with "Diane" (available on the equally substandard 1993 CD Don't Forget Me) as the worst of Lanza's radio output in English. [CD: Mario Lanza: Original Album Classics.]
Lanza Sings Christmas Carols
This delightful 1956 compilation combines Lanza's earlier (1951) album of Christmas carols ("Silent Night," "O Holy Night," "Away in a Manger," etc) and religious-themed material, including Malotte's "The Lord's Prayer" and Harpo Marx's "Guardian Angels," with newly (1956) recorded renditions of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "O Christmas Tree," and five other carols. The album was reissued under a variety of covers. [CD: Christmas with Mario Lanza.]
Cavalcade of Show Tunes
Released in 1957, this was the second of two concept albums recorded by the tenor in 1956. A collection of operetta and Broadway songs from the early decades of the 20th Century, this well-recorded album featured intermittently quirky arrangements and Lanza in ravishing vocal form, with his upper register thrillingly on display throughout. [CD: Serenade/A Cavalcade of Show Tunes.]
Seven Hills of Rome
This 1958 release included most of the rather uninspiring (and poorly recorded) soundtrack of Lanza's penultimate film, Seven Hills of Rome, and assorted singles made between 1955 and 1957 ("Never Till Now," "Love in a Home," etc). Note: Lanza's rendition of "Questa o quella" featured here is not the Seven Hills soundtrack version, but an earlier recording from his album The Great Caruso. [CD: Mario Lanza: Original Album Classics.]
You Do Something To Me
Arguably the best of Lanza's compilation albums, this 1958 release included outstanding material previously unreleased on LP, including "Some Day," "Song of India," and "O Tu che in seno agli angeli." Other selections included "Beloved" and "Che gelida manina." [CDs: You Do Something to Me and the "twofer" Christmas Hymns and Carols/You Do Something to Me.]
This 1959 release of twelve Neapolitan songs (recorded in December 1958) was the tenor's first studio album for RCA in stereo, and one of his finest achievements. Franco Ferrara of Rome's National Academy of Saint Cecilia conducted the album (magnificently), and the excellent arrangements were by Carlo Savina and Ennio Morricone. [CD: Mario! Lanza At His Best.]
For the First Time
This Grammy-nominated soundtrack album of Lanza's final film, For the First Time,was recorded in stereo in September-November 1958. The LP features the tenor in fine vocal and interpretive form, and includes excellent renditions of "Vesti la giubba" and the Otello Death Scene. Note: The "I Love Thee" and Schubert "Ave Maria" featured here are different takes, while the outstanding Trio from Mozart's Così Fan Tutte from the movie is not included. [CD: For the First Time/Caruso Favorites.]
Lanza Sings Christmas Carols
Arguably the tenor's worst album after the 1956 Lanza on Broadway, this stereo remake from May 1959 of most of the material featured on his 1956 Christmas album (see above) is completely lacking in charm and commitment. Although not in bad voice per se, Lanza sounds tired throughout, and the sound quality—-at least on his singing—-is poor. [Inexplicably released on CD: Lanza Sings Christmas Carols.]
Mario Lanza Sings Caruso Favorites
Posthumously released in 1960, this collection of songs popularly associated with Caruso is by far the best of Lanza's five 1959 albums. Good arrangements and conducting complement a restrained Lanza's often impressive and sensitive renditions, although the sound quality is disappointing at times. [CDs: The Great Caruso and Other Caruso Favorites and For the First Time/Caruso Favorites.]
A 1960 compilation that conveniently brings together arias, duets, and four songs recorded by Lanza in 1949 and 1950 for the RCA (non-soundtrack) versions of his movies That Midnight Kiss and Toast of New Orleans. In two instances ("Core 'ngrato" and a magnificently sung "Che gelida manina"), the selections were never part of either film. The album features good sound, particularly on Side 1 (That Midnight Kiss), and for many years was the only LP to include Lanza's outstanding RCA renditions of "Mamma Mia, Che Vo' Sape?" and "M'apparì." [CD: Mario Lanza in Hollywood.]
The Desert Song
This 1960 release comprises Lanza's final recordings, made in August-September 1959. Although Lanza sounds understandably tired on much of the album, having been hospitalized for pneumonia shortly after the sessions had begun, his singing is stirring on "Azuri's Dance" and the demanding "One Flower Grows Alone in Your Garden," and inescapably moving on "One Alone." The contributions of the chorus, soprano Judith Raskin, and other soloists on the album were recorded separately in 1960. [CD: The Student Prince and The Desert Song.]
A Mario Lanza Program
A recording of most of Lanza's recital of 16 January 1958 at London's Royal Albert Hall, this 1961 album was released in defiance of the tenor's earlier wishes. It is easy to understand why Lanza was opposed to its release: his singing is far from perfect here, and by all accounts he often sang better at other recitals on his 1958 tour. Still, as an exhibition of what one reviewer on the tour described as "a vocal superman," the album seldom disappoints. At times, however, Lanza's extraordinary vocal dynamics prove too much for the LP's sound engineering. [CD (in much-improved sound): Live from London.]
The Vagabond King
Recorded in July 1959, a month before sessions began on The Desert Song, this LP was not released until 1961, a year after the later album was issued. Perhaps the delay was due more to concerns about the poor recording quality (with Lanza often sounding as though he were singing inside a vast tunnel) than the ailing tenor's obvious tiredness at times here. Sound issues aside, however, the album arguably contains more highlights than The Desert Song. As with the latter album, soprano Judith Raskin and the chorus recorded their contributions to the album separately in 1960. [CD: Mario! Lanza At His Best.]
I'll Walk With God
A mix of religious-themed songs (the title track, "O Holy Night," etc), inspirational songs (e.g. "Through the Years"), love songs ("The Trembling of a Leaf," "Because"), and the Addio alla Madre from Cavalleria Rusticana, good tracks outnumber poor selections on this 1962 album. The chief low points are a badly sung "None But the Lonely Heart" and a rough (and often piercingly sharp) 1950 version of "I Love Thee." [CD: Mario Lanza: Original Album Classics.]
The Best of Mario Lanza
For an album purporting to represent the best of Lanza, this 1964 compilation falls well short of the mark. It includes the weakest tracks from the otherwise highly regarded Mario! and Caruso Favorites albums, the below-par "And This Is My Beloved" from the Lanza on Broadway album, and the 1959 version of Serenade from The Student Prince, as opposed to the tenor's classic 1952 version. Ten of the album's 12 tracks were featured in RCA's first Lanza CD in 1987. [CD: The Legendary Tenor.]
Lanza Sings His Favorite Arias
This 1967 album consists of twelve previously unreleased renditions of arias from Lanza's 1951-52 radio show. A decidedly mixed bag, the compilation ranges from substandard renditions of "Che gelida manina" (at a ridiculously fast tempo), "Una furtiva lagrima," and several other arias, to fine renditions of "Testa adorata" from Leoncavallo's seldom-heard La Bohème, "Cielo e mar," "Un tal gioco," and "Come un bel dì di maggio." Reviewers were surprisingly kind to the album (see Lanza and the Press: Albums). [CD: Mario Lanza: Original Album Classics.]
The Mario Lanza Collection
A 5-LP set released in 1981, this is a very good introduction to Lanza's English-language recordings in often-excellent sound. Operatic selections are limited, however, to just seven in this 61-track collection, while Neapolitan songs, an important part of the Lanza
legacy, are similarly under-represented. Interestingly, though, the collection features different (1950) takes of several of the operatic numbers, including "Vesti la giubba" and the Flower Song. [CD: The Mario Lanza Collection.]
The Student Prince (1959 version)
Oddly, this lesser stereo remake of Lanza's most famous album displaced the earlier LP for 13 years in RCA's catalog. Poorly recorded in April 1959, the album features an obviously tired Lanza (he was unwell during the sessions), with a slightly raspy vocal quality at times. Nevertheless, he gives good renditions of most of the songs, particularly the poignant "Thoughts Will Come to Me," which was not part of the earlier album. [CDs: The Student Prince, RCA Japan release only; also this very good quality unofficial release.]
Note: Although much of the material on these LPs has been released on assorted Lanza CD compilations, none of these albums has been released in its entirety on any individual RCA/BMG/Sony CD. Not included here are any of the various posthumous compilations of previously released material (e.g. Younger than Springtime, Lanza Sings Caruso).
Love Songs and a Neapolitan Serenade
An early 1950s compilation of English love songs and Italian and Neapolitan ballads—-long available and re-released with a different cover—-for many years, it was the only LP that featured Lanza's first million-selling single, "Be My Love." With the exception of the RCA version of "Toselli's Serenade," everything on this album has been released on various official CDs.
A Kiss and Other Love Songs
The first and best compilation of songs taken exclusively from Lanza's 1951-52 radio show, this fine 1954 album—-like all of the "Coke" Show material issued in the 1950s—-did not acknowledge the source. Most of the songs here are readily available elsewhere, with the exception of "My Heart Stood Still" (only available on a subsidiary label release).
The third compilation of songs taken exclusively from Lanza's 1951-52 radio show, this 1956 release was an improvement on the previous year's The Touch of Your Hand, and featured good renditions of "Ay-Ay-Ay" and "The World Is Mine Tonight," among other highlights. Only one of its tracks has not been released on a mainstream RCA/BMG/Sony CD: "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise."
Lanza on Broadway
The nadir of Lanza's recording career, this 1956 collection of Broadway standards suffers from poor arrangements, bad conducting, and mostly appalling singing from the tenor, who alternately strains, bellows and mis-pitches. Fully two-thirds of the album is unlistenable, except for those who are tone deaf. Mercifully unreleased in its entirety on CD, with the exception of an obscure UK budget disc issued in 1987 under the ironic title Sixteen Top Tracks.
I'll See You in My Dreams
The fourth compilation of songs taken exclusively from Lanza's 1951-52 radio show, this 1964 album inadvertently included one previously released recording, "I'll See You Again" from the "B" side of the 1954 Student Prince album. Overall, a fairly lightweight compilation; only two of its tracks have not been released on mainstream BMG CDs: "Cosi Cosa" and the dullish title song.
If You Are But a Dream
Yet another compilation of material taken exclusively from Lanza's 1951-52 radio show, this 1965 album of English love songs features two recordings that have not been released on official CDs: "Play Gypsies, Dance Gypsies" (only available on the 1994 Reader's Digest set The Very Best of Mario Lanza), and "A Kiss in the Dark." The album's highlights are arguably "Where or When", the title track, and "You and the Night and the Music."
Overall, Lanza has been poorly served on CD by Sony/BMG. Too often, songs and arias have been chosen purely because they contain popular titles (e.g. "Nessun dorma," "Funiculì Funiculà"), or because they were previously unreleased—-irrespective of whether they should have remained that way.
The following CDs comprise arguably the best of Lanza's legacy on compact disc, and include not only "official" (Sony/BMG) CDs, but titles released by other companies, including the UK-based Sepia Records, which released five remarkable Lanza compilations between 2015 and 2017 (Greatest Operatic Recordings, Vol. 1 and 2, My Italian Soul, Never Till Now, and One Alone). For full track listings, simply click on any of the images below to be taken directly to an online seller. Please note that we receive no income for these referrals; the links are offered purely for convenience.
Christmas With Mario Lanza
A fine Christmas compilation, bringing together the tenor's 1950-1956 Carol recordings, together with "The Lord's Prayer," "I'll Walk With God" and other religious-themed material. It also includes (for the first and only time) Eudice Shapiro's violin solo on Lanza's RCA recording of the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria." The sole unfortunate choice is the inclusion of "Pieta', signore" from the tenor's first Albert Hall recital.
Mario Lanza in Hollywood
The liner notes are a little unfair to Lanza, but otherwise this is a good release of the material recorded by the tenor for the RCA versions of his first two films. It includes Lanza's magnificent renditions of "Che gelida manina," "Mamma Mia, Che Vo' Sape?" and "M'apparì," together with well-sung versions of English love songs (e.g. "Be My Love," "Bayou Lullaby," and the rarely heard "Toast of New Orleans").
Opera Arias and Duets
Incredibly, the only all-operatic Lanza CD yet issued by BMG/Sony, this decidedly mixed bag features peculiar choices (e.g. badly sung radio versions of "Amor ti vieta" and the Flower Song) alongside some excellent material, including the Otello Act III duet "Dio ti giocondi" and the Monologue that follows it, "Testa adorata," "M'apparì," and two arias from Andrea Chénier.
Mario! Lanza At His Best
A splendid reproduction of Lanza's 1958 album Mario!, coupled with the best reproduction to date of the poorly recorded Vagabond King LP, this 2006 hybrid Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) can be played on conventional CD and SACD players alike. Highly recommended, despite the odd coupling of Neapolitan songs with operetta. Please note: Sadly, this CD is no longer being produced, and consequently is often sold at exorbitant prices. The less-impressively reproduced (1995) non-SACD version of the CD is still available, however.
Serenade/A Cavalcade of Show Tunes
This BMG UK "twofer" CD comprises the Serenade and Cavalcade of Show Tunes LPs, and also includes, as a bonus track, a previously unreleased song called "Serenade." Due to space constraints, however, only a brief extract from Serenade's Act III Otello duet is included (although the Monologue that follows is featured in its entirety); for the full 10-minute duet, see the CD Opera Arias and Duets.
Encore: Greatest Arias and Operatic Favorites
A two-CD set of fifteen operatic arias & duets, fourteen Italian & Neapolitan songs and the Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria." Many of these selections are in better sound than available elsewhere, and there are relatively few poor choices. The five selections taken from the Caruso Favorites LP are a revelation sound-wise, particularly "Ideale" and "Serenata." A difficult-to-find set, but highly recommended when available at a reasonable price.
The Mario Lanza Collection
A 3-CD version of the 5-LP set of the same name (see LPs on CD section). Excellent sound quality, and a good choice for those looking for a substantial collection of Lanza's English-language recordings. Note: A single-CD version of this set, Mario Lanza: Greatest Hits, is a superior introduction to the tenor than the various misleadingly titled "Ultimate Lanza" and "Definitive Lanza" collections that BMG has released.
When Day Is Done
A reasonable compilation of love songs from Lanza's 1951-52 radio show. While some of the song choices are a little dull ("Time on My Hands," "The Best Things In Life Are Free"), and it begins unpromisingly with a poorly sung "One Alone," the bulk of the CD features excellent reproductions of such memorable "Coke" recordings as "Begin the Beguine," "I'll See You Again," "The Moon Was Yellow," and "Yesterdays."
Live from London
A much better reproduction of Lanza's first recital at the Royal Albert Hall than the 1961 LP A Mario Lanza Program, this CD also features the tenor's entire program for the first time. Three additional numbers are heard: "Lasciatemi morire," "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise," and "La donna è mobile." Of special note is the thrilling reproduction of the opening number, "È la solita storia" (Lamento di Federico), which captures Lanza's extraordinarily vibrant, ringing tenor in all its glory.
Mario Lanza/Eugene Ormandy: The 1947 Hollywood Bowl Concert
This is a fine reproduction of the entire Hollywood Bowl concert of 28 August 1947, featuring Lanza, soprano Frances Yeend and conductor Eugene Ormandy. Lanza (in magnificent form) sings the arias "Una furtiva lagrima," "Un dì all'azzurro spazio," "E lucevan le stelle," and performs three duets with Yeend from La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, and Puccini's La Bohème. Yeend also performs three solo numbers. Highly recommended. (Note: Five of Lanza's six selections here also appear on the CD accompanying Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy.)
Be My Love: Mario Lanza's Greatest Performances at MGM
A 1998 CD issued by MGM's Rhino Records, and promptly withdrawn from the market after an injunction by RCA. This historically valuable CD contains soundtrack recordings and previously unreleased outtakes from Lanza's first four films (notably a different take of "Celeste Aida" for The Great Caruso), plus two outtakes from The Student Prince ("Beloved" and "Deep in My Heart, Dear") and the "Serenade" in stereo from that film, with an extended orchestral introduction. Worth buying for the previously unreleased "All the Things You Are" alone.
For the First Time/Caruso Favorites
This 2004 "twofer"of the 1958 For the First Time soundtrack and the 1959 Mario Lanza Sings Caruso Favorites is an intelligent coupling of fine "late" Lanza. Note: For the First Time had previously been released on the 1991 CD Double Feature (not to be confused with the 1960 LP of the same name), coupled with the tenor's RCA version of That Midnight Kiss, but this CD features marginally better sound of the 1958 soundtrack, while the selections associated withThat Midnight Kiss are better reproduced on Mario Lanza in Hollywood (see above).
Christmas Hymns and Carols /You Do Something To Me
An excellent introductory CD to Lanza, comprising a "twofer" of an enjoyable RCA Camden collection of 1950-56 recordings of Christmas and religious music and the splendid 1958 compilation LP You Do Something to Me. As such, it provides examples of Lanza at his best in multiple genres: religious music (the 1951 RCA "Lord's Prayer"), Italian song (the 1949 "Lolita"), operetta (the 1951 "Some Day"), opera (the 1949 "Che gelida manina;" the "Song of India" from Sadko) and love songs (the 1953 "Beloved;" the title track). Note: the Christmas album featured here contains slightly fewer carols than the CD Christmas with Mario Lanza (see above), omitting (to no great loss) "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and "Deck the Halls."
The Student Prince and The Desert Song
This 1989 coupling of the MGM recording of The Student Prince and the The Desert Song is a logical enough coupling in that it brings together two Romberg operettas. However, for those who wish to hear the pristine mono pressing of the 1954 Student Prince album, as opposed to the stereo "effect" heard here, the 2009 5-CD set Mario Lanza: Original Album Classicsincludes an excellent reproduction of the original LP, complete with its "B" side of love songs from the tenor's radio show.Alternatively, the DVD of the film offers the full Student Prince soundtrack in excellent stereophonic sound. Note: Lanza's haunting rendition of "One Alone" from The Desert Song is heard to better effect on the Legendary Tenor CD, while the impressive "One Flower Grows Alone in Your Garden" is best heard on the "raw" studio master.
The Great Caruso and Other Caruso Favorites
This 1989 "twofer" of The Great Caruso and Mario Lanza Sings Caruso Favorites brings together two albums made at opposite ends of Lanza's brief recording career, and offers an interesting juxtaposition of his development as an artist. The sound is a little on the thin sound, however, and it is obvious that no remastering has been carried out.For better sound quality of The Great Caruso LP arias and eight of the twelve Caruso Favorites songs (together with other material), Mario Lanza: The Legendary Tenor: Historical Recordings 1949-1959 is probably a more satisfying choice, although, annoyingly, it omits four of the highlights from the latter LP. A further possibility is the excellent Encore CD (see above).
This 2017 Sony 2-CD compilation offers a mostly well-chosen overview of Lanza's 10-year commercial recording career. The inclusion of ten arias is a welcome departure from Sony/BMG's usual approach, and the set also includes "Passione" and the 1951 "Some Day"---two masterpieces overlooked on previous "best of" compilations. There are also a number of new-to-CD recordings, the best of which is arguably a 1951 radio version of "Silent Night." One niggle:The sound quality on this set is inconsistent. While recordings such as "Some Day" and the RCA "Be My Love" sound glorious, at least a dozen of the 44 tracks, including "Che Gelida Manina," "Questa o Quella," "Amor Ti Vieta," "Granada," "Beloved," "Night and Day," and "Because," suffer from either thin (or overly bright) sound or a so-called "stereo effect" echo chamber. Given that this is Sony's best Lanza compilation to date, it's a shame more care wasn't devoted to the remastering.
Five Outstanding CDs Released by Sepia Records Note: Each of these CDs focuses on one particular musical genre (e.g. opera, Neapolitan and Italian songs, English-language love songs). The material for each CD was selected by a group of contributors to this site, including myself (Derek McGovern), Lanza biographer Armando Cesari, Vincent Di Placido, and Lee Ann Cafferata, with the aim of presenting Mario Lanza at his consistent best in multiple genres. (I should emphasize here that none of us receives any financial reward for these releases.) The CDs were sourced and remastered from the finest-available vinyl reproductions, reel-to-reel tapes, and private acetates, and they include many fascinating rarities.
Greatest Operatic Recordings
This non-Sony compilation (produced by the UK-based Sepia Records) was released in February 2015. It brings together for the first time arguably the best of Lanza’s live and studio operatic recordings, beginning with the tenor’s forays into lighter, lyric parts, then moving gradually into heavier spintoterritory and, finally, dramatic roles. I should declare my hand here, however, since the CD was conceived by me. For more information on this release, click on the image above.
Greatest Operatic Recordings, Vol. 2
Released in July 2015. Click on CD image for more information.
Mario Lanza: My Italian Soul
Released in July 2015. Click on the CD image for more information.
Never Till Now Released in February 2016. Click on the CD image for more information.
One Alone A follow-up to the 2016 release Never Till Now, this 2017 compilation of English-language songs spans the years 1948 to 1959. Click on the CD image for more information.