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Music of the Gods—'Poetry and Passion'

"Pretty much as close to technically perfect as you can be."
Hot contemporary tenor Joseph Calleja describes one of his most illustrious predecessors, Mario Lanza, in this way in the 2017 Screenbound Pictures documentary, Mario Lanza: The Best of Everything.

One doesn't notice that Lanza's technique is near-perfect until it's pointed out—near-perfection, being near-perfection, is not obvious until one pays conscious attention to its components. What is obvious, always, in Lanza's singing is its passion, its purveyor's commitment to "sing each word as though it were my last on earth."

Emotional urgency and technical mastery abound in all tracks on the new Sepia CD, Mario Lanza—Poetry and Passion, the latest in a string of stunners master-minded by noted Lanza aficionado Derek McGovern, Associate Professor of English Literature at Pukyong National University, Busan, South Korea. Dr. McGovern and his co-conspirators, who include definitive Lanza biographer Armando Cesari, have chosen pieces from the many genres in which Mario was ultra-proficient, in a compilation that will leave any listener with a beating heart and functioning ears deliriously and dangerously euphoric. Worse, an unheralded twist before the final song has the potential to cause those such as I—the unsuspecting, the vulnerable and the susceptible—to unravel altogether.

Every single one of these twenty-three tracks sounds better than we've ever heard it, thanks in significant measure to the expertise of Sepia engineer Robin Cherry. I have never noticed the rhythmic drive of the double basses in the second verse of Come Prima the way it is manifest here, superbly complemented by Mario's impeccable timing. The two home recordings of arias from Pagliacci and Andrea Chenier are knock-outs among a whole CD of knock-outs and stand-outs. Nocturne from The Vagabond King, recorded just before and released just after the singer's death, is unbearably poignant, a sublime epitaph. The first and last tracks both end with blazing, sustained High B-flats, testament, almost sixty years on, to the imperishable glories that were Mario Lanza's voice and spirit. Not just the technical prowess, but also the unique "swagger and sway" and "purity of heart" noted by Russell Watson and Lesley Garrett respectively in the same documentary—it's all here in spades.

Poetry and Passion comes with a classy little booklet with super-informative liner notes written by Derek McGovern himself.

Profuse thanks and congratulations are due to him and his associates, to Robin Cherry, and to Sepia Managing Director Richard Tay for keeping these Lanza CDs coming, in accordance with Sepia's mission "to preserve the great recordings of our musical heritage."

Keep them coming still!


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