Well, this is it. I promised myself I wouldn't post 29 versions of Vesti la Giubba, so I had to choose one. So many of them have things to recommend them. Bjoerling even had tears streaming down my face from his tender pronunciation of "Columbina" (the wounded core of the aria) and the tiny, bewildered, hopeless head-shake that went with it. Kudos also to Placido Domingo for staging it "properly", not IN costume but looking at his costume (and himself) in utter contempt.
Most of these don't have a visual, which meant I wasn't as distracted, and most also have shitty sound quality, which is too bad. I try to imagine this one with pristine modern acoustics. More than that, I try to imagine being in the room with him. I've never experienced it, but I have heard the power and beauty of being close to a superb singer is unbelievable.
There are many versions of Lanza singing this, since it's kind of the old nag of opera, and he sounds different in each one. I think "classical" singers scorned him because he "went Hollywood", made a whole lot of highly sentimental films (still worth watching for the singing) and record albums of popular music that sold like mad.
I don't know what I think of him as a person, and he died awfully young, his health destroyed mostly by booze and food. Some of the singers I heard today had better (smoother, more melodious, or even more powerful) vocal equipment, and a few were better actors (Domingo!), but this version has a nearly-crazed quality, a sense he is about to break loose and do something absolutely terrible. Which is what Pagliaccio is all about. He just sings it, letting the music produce the drama. Bravo, bravissimo.