As Rodney Dangerfield is fond of pointing out, some men just don't get no respect. And such is the case of Mario Lanza, considered by some not only the greatest tenor in history, but also considered one of the greatest purveyors of schmaltz the world over.

During his life time, millions of people looked up to this man, listened to his records, and attended his concerts in droves. Now his most famous work is relegated to selling Perdue chicken. People deride his work as sentimental and overdone. However, these criticisms ignore the very real fact that as a singer and entertainer, Mario Lanza had talent to spare.

Born Alfredo Arnoldo Cocozza in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 31st, 1921, 'Little Freddy' grew up listening to his soprano mother, Mariee Lanza, sing, and his father play Caruso records on the Victrola. By the age of 5, 'Little Freddy' was able to sing along with all of his father's Caruso records. At the age of 16, Alfred announced he wanted to be a singer, much to the delight of his parents. They sacrificed everything they had to send him to singing lessons. When he attended lessons he was discovered by conductor Serge Koussevitsky, who was so impressed by "Little Freddie's" voice that he immediately gave him a full scholarship to the Berkshire School. There, Alfred made his debut in 1942 as Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor. At this point he changed his name to Mario Lanza as a tribute to his mother. Just as his singing career was taking off, he was conscripted into the US Army. He served in Europe until 1945 and was discharged. The sheer talent of his singing was enough that Frank Sinatra, talking to his manager Walter Pidgin one time said "talking about people swooning when I sing, the tables were turned the other day when a young chap came on my set and started to sing. There's no exaggeration in stating that for once in my life I really swooned. I asked him if he wanted to be on my program, but he is not able to accept any contracts right now as he happens to be in the army." Walter Pidgin exclaimed "Where do I find this boy!" to which Sinatra replied "With the Winged Victory Cast. His name is Mario Lanza and he is only twenty-three years old."

Stories claim that when Elvis Presley was in the army he did everything he could to attend the shows of the Winged Victory Cast just to hear Mario Lanza sing.

Upon his discharge in 1945, Mario Lanza married his best friend's sister, Betty Hicks. Enrico Rosati, one of Lanza's voice coaches, recognised his genius and unique talent and in 1946 made intensive preparations for Lanza to sing Verdi's "Requiem" for Arturo Toscanini, but Mario felt he was too young and not yet ready for the role. Mario would sing later for Toscanini who would describe Lanza as "the greatest voice of the 20th Century".

After being discharged from the Army, Mario distinguished himself by working tirelessly, in theatre, in singing, and eventually in movies. Lanza appeared in six programs of "Great Moments In Music" in New York between October 1945 and February 1946, singing arias such as the love duet from Verdi's "Otello". He formed the Bel Canto Trio in July 1947 with Frances Yeend, soprano and George London, baritone. In the next eleven months, the trio gave 84 concerts across the United States, Canada and Mexico. In the meantime, Lanza made his debut at the New Orleans Opera House as Pinkerton in Puccini's "Madame Butterfly".

His 200th concert appearance was in the open air at the Hollywood Bowl on the 28th of August 1947, a day that changes his whole future career. MGM chief Louis B Mayer heard him and soon after signed him to a seven year contract.

Among Mario Lanza's many films were "That Midnight Kiss" (1949) and "The Toast of New Orleans" (1950), which included the song "Be My Love" , which also became his first gold record. His greatest film success, however, was "The Great Caruso" (1951) which made him world famous. He made the legendary "Caruso Concert Tour" in 1951 and "Lanza Fever" swept the whole of America.

"Because You're Mine" (1952) was selected for the Royal Command Film Performance in Britain. Between June 1951 and July 1952, his radio program "The Coca Cola Show" proved extremely popular. Mario recorded the soundtrack for The Student Prince two years before he made the film. In 1955 he filmed "Serenade", his last film made in America.

In May 1957, Mario Lanza moved with his family to Rome where he made two further films "The Seven Hills of Rome" (1957) and "For The First Time" (1958). Whereas in 1949, he had felt that his voice was too immature to open the season at "La Scala" or to join the Metropolitan Opera in New York, he now felt that his voice had matured and was ready for the opera stage. Arrangements were made to complete studio performances of the great operas with Maria Callas. Starting in November in England with the Royal Command Performance, Lanza made extended concert tours in Europe, Royal Albert Hall, Belgium, Holland, France and Germany.

April 13, 1959 was his very last concert, held in Kiel, Germany. Reports said his voice was "darker and richer, and he sang as never before". In the "Triumph March" for the final scene of "For The First Time" he oversang the 260 member Rome Opera House orchestra and chorus. The General Director Ricardo Vitale was deeply impressed and in August 1958 Mario accepted his invitation to open the Rome Opera season in 1960 with "Tosca" . His itinerary for 1960 was already filling up with plans to sing in South Africa, Hungary and Russia. In June 1959 he signed another film contact - "Laugh Clown Laugh" and made several recordings, the very last on 10 September 1959 "The Lord's Prayer" which was never released.

Mario Lanza's last year showed him to be over-extending himself and he was plagued by ill-health and a demanding workload. Overworked and exhausted, he was admitted to the Valle Giulia Clinic in Rome on September 25, 1959. He had shooting pains in his left side, his blood pressure was high, and he was suffering from phlebitis. Dr de la Toore, a heart specialist was called in, but by then Lanza had decided to sign himself out so he could go back to work. On the morning of 7 October, Lanza rang his wife telling her to expect him home, but just after midday he suffered a sudden massive heart attack and died.

Despite this impressive and prolific career, Lanza has started to languish in obscurity, compared to other singers from the same period. He enjoyed a brief resurgence of popularity when the movie Heavenly Creatures was released, but has since faded again into the background of music.

I will admit that compared to other music from the time, Lanza’s music is sentimental, but not in a bad way, and the emotion does not detract from the supreme talent he displayed when singing. I believe that Lanza deserves a listen, and a reevaluation from music critics. Anyone loved by Toscanini, Elvis, and Sinatra has to have real talent that is worth paying attention to.



  • My Song Of Love (Date Unknown)
  • Mario Lanza On Radio: (1980)
  • The Entertainers (1987)
  • You Do Something To Me (1987)
  • Legendary Tenor (1987)
  • A Portrait Of Mario Lanza (1987)
  • Christmas With Mario Lanza (1987)
  • Be My Love (1988)
  • Mario Lanza - Live (1988)
  • Golden Age (1991}
  • Silent Night (1991)
  • The Mario Lanza Story (1991)
  • The Wonderful World Of Mario Lanza (1991)
  • The Great Mario Lanza - Vol 1 (no date)
  • The Great Mario Lanza - Vol 2 (no date)
  • The Collection (1992)
  • O Sole Mio (1992)
  • Ein Liederabend (2 CD'S) (1992)
  • RCA Diamond Series - 16 Top Tracks (1988)
  • The Student Prince/Desert Song (1989)
  • The Great Caruso (And Other Caruso Favorites) (1989)
  • Hollywood Bowl (1989)
  • The Mario Lanza Collection: 3 CD Set (1991)
  • Double Feature Vol 1 - For The First Time/That Midnight Kiss (1991)
  • Il Meglio Di (1992)
  • Ave Maria (1993)
  • The Very Best Of 3 CD SET (1993)
  • Be My Love (1993)
  • O Sole Mio (1993)
  • Don’t Forget Me (1993)
  • Memories: Where It All Began - Gems Of The Past (1945)
  • Great Moments In Music (Issued sometime between 1993 & 1998)
  • O Sole Mio: (1993).
  • Gold (1993)
  • Live From London (1994)
  • The Ultimate Collection (1994)
  • Superstars (1994)
  • In Concert (1994)
  • Collection (1994)
  • Because You’re Mine (1994)
  • The Entertainers (1994)
  • At His Best (1995)
  • You’ll Never Walk Alone (1995)
  • Without A Song (1995)
  • The Greatest Hits Of Mario Lanza (1995)
  • The Loveliest Night Of The Year (1995)
  • Serenade (1995)
  • Penny Newsound (1995)
  • Be My Love - Classic Live Performances (1995)
  • La Donna e Mobile (2 DISCS) (1995)
  • Lanza's Greatest Hits (1995)
  • The Platinum Collection (2 DISCS) (1996)
  • The Concert Collection (Double CD) (1996)
  • In Concert (1996)
  • Penny (2CD'S) (1996)
  • With A Song In My Heart (1996)
  • The Mario Lanza Shows (On The Air) (1996)
  • Be My Love (1996)
  • Classic Opera Highlights (1996)
  • O Sole Mio (1996)
  • Love Songs BY Mario Lanza (1997)
  • Mario Lanza At His Best (1997)
  • The Mario Lanza Collection (1997)
  • My Song Of Love (1997)
  • When Day Is Done (1998)
  • Be My Love: Mario Lanza's Greatest Performances At MGM (1998)
  • Lanza Sings Christmas Carols (1998)
  • The Greatest Hits Of Mario Lanza - Vol II (1998)
  • Mario Lanza In Hollywood (1999)
  • Opera Arias And Duets (1999)
  • Classic Performances (1999)
  • Your Startime (No Label or Issue Date)
  • Historic Radio Broadcast (No Label or Issue Date)
  • The Great Mario Lanza (No Label or Issue Date)
  • Mario Lanza - Will You Remember (No Label or Issue Date)
  • Mario Lanza - The Loveliest Night Of The Year (No Label or Issue Date)
  • The Ultimate Collection (Artist Of The Century) (1999)
  • Remember the Movies (2000)
  • I'll See You In My Dreams (2000)
  • My Romance (2001)
  • Selections 1949 - 1950 (2001)

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