Finally, he had the one quality that for me reigns supreme in judging the “classics” in almost any field.
In literature and art there are works that are of such high quality that they exceed the test of time and distance and have a “universal” element that cuts across cultures and nations. Such appeal surpasses generations and the challenges of ever changing tastes and styles. The “classics” pass all the epochal examinations, especially those that deal with constant popular allure. Perhaps the most difficult trial of all, in this regard, is the test of “repetition.”
This, for me, is the hardest of all exams to pass for a tenor. It is the challenge to give constant pleasure and enjoyment so that the listener never tires of hearing this thrilling and graceful sound. In my opinion, Mario Lanza achieved this as no other tenor, past or present, has.
Understanding the breathtaking talent of Mario Lanza is simple.
Popular music is like driving an automobile. It gives enjoyment and is practical and as routine as sun up and sun down. Opera is like flying and leaping into the skies and floating and swimming on clouds and currents of wind and air. Lanza could drive and fly at the same time and do each supremely well.
We are fortunate that Mario Lanza gave us the pleasure of scores of operatic and popular recordings and concerts in the few short years that he was on the world’s stage. His voice was snuffed out when he was only thirty-eight. A half century later his following among the lovers of the sublime art of “belcanto” grows , as more and more people discover the special gift and special sound that only he could give us.
Appreciating His Work
Understanding the breathtaking talent of Mario Lanza is simple. Listen to him sing and he reveals a voice that one can take pleasure in continuously. To appreciate his work, I suggest focusing on the special “intonation” and interpretation he brought to classical arias and popular melodies alike.
To hear the delightful sound of a crooner, listen to They Didn’t Believe Me or I Know, I Know, I Know. For sheer passion fused with poetry, listen to his Serenade from The Student Prince” or Love Is the Sweetest Thing, and you will understand why he filled theatres with swooning girls and fans who to this day remember the experience.
Fans who filled theaters to hear him remember the experience to this day.
Lanza’s rendition of Neapolitan music was frequently splendid, and few could imbue ’A Vucchella with more feeling and sentiment. I have heard many tenors sing Core ‘Ngrato, but never with the approach of Lanza. Concentrate on the tears and emotion in his voice as he expresses the ingratitude of a lost and bitter love.
Lanza captures a similar feeling in his thrilling 1958 performance of Leoncavallo’s Vesti La Giubba, from Pagliacci, where the clown cries of his frustration to go on with the show while his heart is breaking. Many of Lanza’s recordings of operatic arias reveal similar moments of brilliance: Che Gelida Manina, M’Appari’, E Lucevan le Stelle, to name but a few.
Lanza’s voice has been described as “God-like” by those of a religious disposition. Such is the power for good expressed in this once-in-a-lifetime vocal talent that it is difficult to disagree with this assessment.