Sharing the Lanza love

Mark Vincent Sings Mario Lanza and the Classics (Lunchbox Productions)

QPAC, Concert Hall

October 29

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Modern connections to Mario Lanza, it seems, are many and varied. Mine is courtesy of a mother’s nostalgia, but one that doesn’t go much beyond knowing that for a short time the American Tenor was the greatest star of the 1950s. Yet, still I adored every moment of “Mark Vincent Sings Mario Lanza”, such is the infectious passion and immense talent of Australian tenor Mark Vincent in the touring celebration of Lanzo as one of the greatest voices of all time, lost suddenly and too early at only 39 years of age in 1959.

The show, which serves as expansion of the songlist of his Area Classical Crossover Chart topper album “A Tribute to Mario Lanza”, allows opportunity for Vincent to share the rich repertoire of songs and arias made popular by the great Italian-American tenor and actor. And from the playful opening number, ‘Granada’, his flawless vocals fill the flamboyant song about the Spanish city of the same name with full emotional resonance. Not only in this musical standard, but throughout the show, there are many light-hearted and joyous moments; audience members clap along to the famous Neapolitan song ‘Funiculi Funicula’ and sing along with Verdi’s lively ‘Brindisi’ from “La Traviator”, one of the best-known opera melodies, otherwise referred to as ‘The Drinking Song’.

It is revisits to Lanza’s movie career that make for the show’s best moments. There is the romantic aria from Puccini’s operatic thriller “Tosca”, ‘E lucevan le stelle’, which featured in Lanza’s 1951 film “The Great Caruso”, memorably melodic in its musical texture, and the simply beautiful ‘Be My Love’, which featured both in Lanza’s 1950 MGM musical “The Toast of New Orleans” and also as the theme song for his radio program, “The Mario Lanza Show “.

Vincent is a simply stunning vocal performer, including when he revisits Wimpole Streetmand his time as idle socialite Freddie Eynsford-Hill in the recent Australian anniversary production of “My Fair Lady” with a vaulting ‘On the Street Where You Live’, full of intensity and vibrato. The musical also features in the repertoire of guest, Jennifer Little, which see the New Zealand soprano sharing a light and breezy ‘I Should Have Danced All Night’ in contrast to the piercing heights of her ‘Art is Calling for Me (I Want to Be a Prima Donna)’, from the 1911 Broadway Comic Opera “The Enchantress”.

Under versatile Conductor Guy Noble, the 20 piece orchestra serves as a perfect accompaniment to the honest emotional expression on stage. The sounds are never overpowering, yet when given opportunity, they certainly shine, whether it be through the sombre clarinet introduction to the romantic aria ‘E lucevan le stelle’ or the expressive strings that create the swaying sounds of ‘Come Priva’, a Lanzo love song favourite of many in the audience. Lighting, too, contributes much to the aesthetic experience, painting the Concert Hall in beautiful blues, rich reds and orange sunset shades in accompaniment to the syrupy sounds of the popular ‘The Loveliest Night of the Year’.

The spectacular venue is a perfect location in which to hear Vincent’s exquisite tones, particularly in the show’s encore songs. ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is inspirational in its rise from low notes to a powerful and emotional crescendo. And then there is every tenor’s favourite ‘Nessun Dorma’ from the final act of Puccini’s “Turandot”, which kick-started Vincent’s career as a 15 year old on “Australia’s Got Talent”. Affecting and emotional, the aria of all arias makes for a tear-to-the-eye conclusion, so moving is its experience. And the standing ovation and calls of “bravo” certainly do it justice.

Mark Vincent is a stunningly talented opera singer and this is the perfect vehicle to showcase his magnificent golden tenor sound, always respectful of the integrity of the source material. Indeed, “Mark Vincent Sings Mario Lanza and the Classics” is a wonderful and long overdue tribute to Lanza’s unforgettable vocals, charisma and talent, as a classical artist, not just a film star. And in Vincent’s hands, the famous tenor’s legacy continues to resonate, regardless of initial audience connections. His voice conveys richness, emotion and narrative conviction, which, alongside the show’s lush orchestration, showcases not only his own versatile voice but the uncanny vocal similarities he shares with one of the 20th Century’s best tenor voices.

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