Philadelphia 1921 d. Rome 1959)
Lanza was born on 31 January 1921, in Philadelphia, a baby
son to a humble family of Italian migrants. At nineteen years
of age, the sport-minded Lanza took singing lessons from Irene
Williams and went on to take perfection courses, held annually
at the Tangle Wood Festival in Massachusetts .
contract to RCA Victor, Lanza interrupted a recording career
to join the services. After his leave in 1945, he married
Betty Hicks, moved to New York and started a lucky career,
replacing Jan Peerce in a radio transmission, during summer.
Thanks to a rich mentor, Sam Weiler, he continued perfecting
his voice under the celebrated teacher Enrico Rosati and great
Maestro Grant Garnell. This led him to a series of successful
exhibitions and recitals especially at the Grant Park in Chicago
activities became frantic as he appeared as a singer in a
TV series sponsored by the famous producer Louis B. Mayer.
The stress he was put through grew daily. After his debut
in ‘That Midnight Kiss', the next film was ‘The
Toast of New Orleans' in 1950, where he sang the famous and
popular ‘Be My Love'.
childhood years, Lanza had idolized Caruso and emotionally
insisted that his next film be on his idol's life. ‘The
Great Caruso' was made in 1951 and gave Lanza the opportunity
to sing 15 of Caruso's arias. The success was such that the
nickname ‘Caruso's heir' echoed everywhere. The sale
of his records went through the roof.
Teatro alla Scala, Milan, wanted to contract him for Tosca
in the 1952 inaugural operatic season, so did Covent Garden
for Otello in 1960 and Teatro dell'Opera di Roma for Pagliacci
in the same year. During the early 50s, Lanza was heavily
engaged in making films, concert tours and declined the Milan
's offer, to the best of our knowledge.
Forty five years after his sudden death on 7 October 1959,
due to a fatal slimming cure in Rome, Mario Lanza is forever
venerated by a limitless number of enthusiastic fans. Fan
clubs and web sites have emerged in many countries: England,
Germany, United States, Hungary,
New Zealand, Australia and even Russia.
Lanza is unique for pathos and emotional involvement in all
categories of the musical form: ballad, song, operetta and
grand opera. Mother Nature sensationally provided him with
an extraordinary voice, a human machine capable of emitting
sound effortlessly, supported by an exquisite colour, extension
and powerful drive. The timbre has the particular gift of
reaching the listener's heart and involving him completely
great vocal characteristic is the uniform sound emitted with
the five vowels in any note of the pentagram. Such effect
is noticeable when Lanza sings in English, his adopted tongue.
Overall, his Italian diction is almost perfect but at times
the tendency to double the consonants is there as with all
singers of Anglo-Saxon origin. He is capable of elevating
a high C by a semitone with natural ease. The squillo is pure
silver, brilliant and penetrating.
notable vocal characteristic is passing from one vocal register
to another very smoothly. The people, who listened to this
unique and splendid singer live, recall having heard a tenore
which filled the places where he appeared (there were 18000
spectators at the Hollywood Bowl in 1948), much more beautiful
and ringing than that heard through his films and recordings.
doubt, the technique had improved and the voice matured by
the mid 50s, when Lanza was 35 years of age. He came to the
threshold of becoming an accomplished tenore lirico-drammatico
and taking on the operatic world by storm. A refined approach
to role interpretation and complete vocality for the inhuman
tessitura of Otello were ready for the challenge. His superb
rendition of Niun mi tema in the finale of Otello is indisputably
a proven testimony (Audio 5).
you alone (Geehl) sung by Mario Lanza in 1951
Lord's Prayer (Malotte) sung by Mario Lanza in 1951
donna è mobile (RIGOLETTO) sung by Mario Lanza
armonia (TOSCA) sung by Mario Lanza in 1950
mi tema (OTELLO) sung by Mario Lanza in 1959
photos are published by courtesy of Mario's son Damon Lanza
and Bob Dolfi, Esqs.
I am grateful to Roberto Scandurra for private discussions
on the tenor's vocality.
Lanza's official International web site is
Lanza's official Italian web site is www.mariolanza.it