For those lucky enough to have heard Joseph Calleja live, now is the time to say thank you to Mario Lanza. For it was the Hollywood-savvy tenor who inspired Calleja's career. Now Calleja has now put down his Lanza tribute on record, singing the American tenor's hits in a luxurious sounding release. If anything, this disc is even more glorious than the original.
Nostalgia is big business, of course. But what is the most welcome development over the last few years is the trend to recapture the original sound. John Wilson and his orchestra have been at the forefront of the movement and, now, Steven Mercurio has done the same with his reconstructions of the luxurious orchestrations that supported the great Lanza. Here, with banks of strings and pin-point horn playing, the BBC Concert Orchestra truly shines.
The one thing that is new, of course, is the singer (not the songs). For all the glories of Lanza's performances, Calleja has a richer voice by far. Stereo lends a bloom that mono cannot reach, but the inimitable flutter in Calleja's voice, a hint of unexplored darker colourings and his mesmeric top notes provide a thrilling listening experience.
And as well as the deliciously saccharine 'Be my love' and 'The loveliest night of the year' (with its outrageous harmonies and swags of harp), we are treated to Lanza's show-stopping snippets from Pagliacci, Cavalleria rusticana and Turandot. As Calleja writes in the liner note, 'it was impossible for [Lanza] to have a successful film career and a full stage career as well'. This disc not only reminds us of Lanza's achivements, but how lucky we are that Calleja has dedicated his life to the stage.