Misconceptions About Lanza and Operatic Singing by Armando Cesari page two
Mannering goes on to say that if Lanza had been that interested in opera he should have recorded more arias for RCA. However, does it not occur to him that with the unprecedented sales of “Be My Love,” “The Loveliest Night of the Year” and “Because You’re Mine,” RCA may have been more interested in pushing the popular repertoire instead?
After all, it’s not exactly the norm for a classical singer to come along and start selling records in the millions! So (from RCA's perspective) why push the operatic material when you have a gold mine in the popular field?
Just how serious was Lanza in pursuing an operatic career? Mannering asks, pointing out that Lanza was 27 when he made his professional debut, while at that same time Domingo and Carreras had already performed in major theatres, with the latter having sung 24 leading roles by the age of 28.
Domingo, of course, is almost an isolated case. The son of singers, he made his professional debut at the incredibly young age of 20, but in reality served his apprenticeship during three invaluable years with the Israel National Opera.
Carreras’ professional debut also took place at a very young age (23). However, in his case, it would have been better had he studied longer and perfected his technique. As it turned out, Carreras’ voice, much like that of his idol Giuseppe Di Stefano, was in a precarious state by the time he reached his mid-30s.
Furthermore, neither tenor spent two years in the Army, as Lanza had been obliged to do from the age of 22 to 24.
In any event, twenty-seven is an average age for a singer to make a debut. If we look at some of Lanza’s contemporaries, we find that Di Stefano was 25; Corelli, 30; Bergonzi 24 (as a baritone) and 27 as a tenor; Tucker, 30; and David Poleri, 28.
So there is every reason to believe that, had Hollywood not intervened, Lanza would have followed his 1948 Pinkerton with Alfredo the following year, and with ultimately what many feel certain would have been a successful operatic career.
After The Student Prince
Ah, says Mannering, but if he was so keen to sing opera, why didn’t he do it after his dismissal from MGM, when he was virtually idle for the next three years?
The years were, in fact, two (his contract with MGM was terminated in April 1953). But regardless, does Mannering seriously think that a man who had been publicly humiliated and ridiculed over The Student Prince affair, who had found himself almost penniless after his break with his manager Sam Weiler, and who had debts amounting to almost $200,000, would have been in the right frame of mind to attempt making a return to the operatic stage?
The notion that Lanza’s dismissal from MGM had destroyed his confidence is nonsense, proclaims Mannering. Not according to his friend and colleague George London, who in a letter to me had this to say: “[Lanza’s] Hollywood experience undermined his inner security, which is why he avoided performing in public.” London also added, “I would venture that if he had not gone to Hollywood he would, at least for the beginning, have had a major operatic career.”
In a 1982 article Domingo said more or less the same thing: “Lanza was ruined by Hollywood before he had a chance to find out who he was.”
A More Challenging Concert Program?
Mannering also questions the content of Lanza’s concert programs during his 1958 European Tour. “His program had advanced little from the 1951 tour,” he says. Mannering goes on to assert that while the list of songs Lanza chose to sing on his concerts was fine for young singers still developing, by 1958 Lanza should have developed a more challenging program. Wrong!
While it’s true that young singers often begin with such songs, these pieces were not written for beginners but for accomplished singers, and they therefore require considerable technique in order to be sung correctly.
Furthermore, said songs—more appropriately known as Arie Antiche and Romanze da Camera—have been a permanent part of a concert singer’s program since time immemorial regardless of the number of years they have been singing.