COMPOSERS: Bizet; Leoncavallo; Mascagni; Puccini; Rossini; Bixio; Brodszky; Giordana; Hardelot; Lara; Ponchielli; Rascel; Romberg; Rosas; Tosti
ALBUM TITLE: Be My Love: A Tribute To Mario Lanza
PERFORMER: Joseph Calleja (tenor); BBC Concert Orchestra/Steven Mercucio
CATALOGUE NO: 4783531
Italian tenors have been ‘crossing over’ ever since Enrico Caruso picked up the microphone at the beginning of the 20th century. What made Mario Lanza different was that his movies mattered more than his nights at the opera. That said, his voice was remarkable whether it was tackling tried and tested arias or curled around such sugary delights as ‘The Loveliest Night of the Year’ or the irresistible ‘Be my Love’.
Joseph Calleja is not Mario Lanza: he’s a gifted lyric tenor with a voice that is most comfortable in the head. That burnished baritonal quality that makes Lanza so attractive is simply not there. Yes, there’s a nice throb in the voice in Lara’s ‘Granada’, he makes a brave stab at Rossini’s tongue-twisting ‘La danza’, and Tosti’s ‘A vuchella’ would seduce a slab of marble. But ‘Vesti la giubba’, ‘Cielo e mar’ and ‘Nessun dorma’ all lack vocal drama. Lanza and Caruso wore these roles as second skins; Calleja, you feel, is still trying them on for size. Perhaps this young Maltese tenor needed better support from his music director, Steven Mercurio, whose tempos are so careful that at times you feel he’s taking a rehearsal.