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Serenade tells the story of a poor vineyard worker who becomes an operatic tenor, and is involved with two women — one a high society hostess, the other a Mexican bullfighter's daughter. Highly melodramatic in nature, the film features a large amount of operatic music, all of it sung by Lanza. Of note are the Act III Monologue from Verdi's Otello and an extract from the duet "Dio Ti Giocondi" from the same opera featuring Metropolitan Opera soprano Licia Albanese. Reviewing the film in The New York Times, A.H. Weiler wrote that, "Mr. Lanza, who was never in better voice, makes this a full and sometimes impressive musical entertainment."The movie differs greatly from the James M. Cain source novel. In the book, Juana (Montiel) is a prostitute and she and Damon (Lanza) set out to open a brothel together. She comes into conflict with the local police and the two flee to Los Angeles and then move to New York, where Damon struggles to overcome his bisexuality. Obviously, none of this material could be made into a popular movie in the US in 1956, so the story becomes merely that of an opera singer torn between a bitchy, worldly patron of the arts (Fontaine) and a Mexican bullfighter's daughter. The tenor has a breakdown because of his unrequited love for the society woman, but finds love (and a happy ending) with the Mexican girl.