Misconceptions About Lanza and Operatic Singing by Armando Cesari page three
It is customary for a singer, in order to warm up the voice, to start a concert with a few Romanze da Camera by Bellini, Caldara, Bononcini and similar 18th and 19th century composers, or include Arie Antiche such as “Caro Mio Ben,” “Nina,” and “Già il Sole dal Gange,” and then proceed to two or three operatic arias, usually followed by songs by Tosti (which can also be classified as Romanze da Camera) and then such standard concert numbers as “Because” and “For You Alone.”
Di Stefano, for example, aside from his 1950 San Francisco concert, which was an all-operatic one, hardly varied his program during the next twenty-five years. It regularly featured songs by Bellini, Lalo, Tosti and three or four Sicilian Folk songs. Operatic arias varied from two to a maximum of three. At his June 1968 concert in Vienna, Di Stefano didn’t sing a single operatic aria.
Back in the 1930s, Tito Schipa’s concerts hardly varied and almost inevitably contained selections by Pergolesi, Scarlatti and Tosti. He sang two identical concerts in Berlin, neither of which contained an operatic aria.
As late as 1987, before the Three Tenors circus sprang into action, Pavarotti’s concert program still included such songs as “Caro Mio Ben,” as well as selections by Caldara and Bellini.
Lanza was asked to add an extra operatic aria in his 1958 concert program and he refused, says Mannering. Fair enough: he could have done that, but the fact that he didn’t is no big deal!
We Will Never Know
Mannering is further bothered by various assertions, including mine, that Lanza had agreed to sing Pagliacci at the Rome Opera during the 1960/61 season. “No evidence of a contract with ROH or any other European opera house has ever surfaced,” he claims.
No, but the mere fact that Lanza had summoned the help of his Great Caruso conductor, Peter Herman Adler, to prepare him for an operatic career speaks volumes.
I also see no reason for someone like Lanza’s European agent, Sam Steinman, to make up the story. Steinman, who—unlike some of Lanza’s “best friends”—was not averse to looking me straight in the eye, was categorical in stating that discussions had and were taking place between Lanza and the Rome Opera artistic director Riccardo Vitale for the tenor to make a single special guest appearance as Canio during the 1960/61 season.
Had Lanza lived, would he have been able to overcome his fears, get his health and body back into shape and fulfil his operatic dream? We will never know. But one thing is certain. As Sam Steinman remarked, “Mario was more sinned against than sinner.” His biggest sin, in my opinion, was to be a super-sensitive human being, easily hurt and one who was almost destroyed by his Hollywood experience. As his good friend Barry Nelson stated, "The giants are weak and yet they are giants. To be a great artist you have to have the vulnerability."
It’s precisely that sensitivity and vulnerability that made him the giant he was. Without those traits he would not have been able to sing with such sincerity and dramatic conviction that he invariably left the listener spellbound.
The world of opera lost what, in my opinion, was the greatest tenor voice ever, but Mario Lanza left behind a recorded legacy, which in its variety and interpretive intensity has placed him firmly among the immortals in the sphere of music.