Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy (2nd Edition) ~ by Armando Cesari, Preface by Placido Domingo

Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy (2nd Edition) ~ by Armando Cesari, Preface by Placido Domingo

This biography tells the story of one of the most naturally gifted singers of the 20th century, Mario Lanza. This great performer was destined to become an operatic superstar, but his involvement with Hollywood, and the resultant fame and mass adulation that followed, led him to become increasingly insecure and guilt-ridden for having prostituted his talent commercially. After his meteoric rise to stardom, Lanza ended up both ill and a virtual alcoholic, and due to medical incompetence his life came to a tragic end in a Rome clinic at the age of 38.

The Definitive Biography of Mario Lanza

The book is the result of a lifetime study of Mario Lanza, and of research carried out in the US and Europe over a period of thirty years. During this time most of Lanza’s important associates, fellow artists and personalities of the film and music world were interviewed. Pulling no punches — yet eschewing the sensationalistic aspects of previous Lanza biographies — the book examines and dispels the false myths that emerged during Mario Lanza’s short but turbulent career, and which have lingered to the present day. It is the only accurate and complete biography of Lanza written to date, and will therefore be of interest not only to his admirers, but above all to everyone who desires to read a true account of the singer’s life.

Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy (2nd Edition)

Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy is the seventh title in Baskerville's Great Voices series, chronicling the lives and work of the most accomplished singers in opera.

293 pages + discography + 125 pages of photos

Includes an exclusive music CD featuring recordings of live performances and other rarities from 1945 to 1958

Critical Acclaim for Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy

“Cesari poignantly tells the tragic story of a beautiful voice... writes with great love and includes a CD of selected performances, more than 250 photographs and complete listings of Lanza’s recordings, films and other performances.” – ALA Booklist, Jan. 2004

Preface by Placido Domingo

Any book that sheds light on the phenomenon named Mario Lanza is of importance. I call Mario Lanza a phenomenon advisedly, because his place in music history has always been controversial. Let us ignore the typical Hollywood hype which was inflicted on any star performer under the old studio system. What remains to this day as the essence of his persona is, to my mind, one of the truly great natural tenor voices of the past century — a voice of beauty, passion and power! The voice communicated to millions all over the world and I venture to say that his films did more to lure the general public to the art form of operatic singing than the voice of almost any other performer before his time. Of course the cinematic medium was a prime factor in this achievement, because a film reaches so many millions. BUT, and I spell this “but” with capital letters, that is no guarantee that the public will be spellbound, because there are film performers whom the public simply ignores. There was a visceral quality to the Lanza voice which even to this day — on reviewing the old films or relistening to the old recordings—grabs one with astonishing force.

Many people in the classical music world refused to recognize him and actually belittled not only his impact on the public but his God-given voice. As I write this, I have before me the 1980 edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians. There are five entries under the name of “Lanza” — Francesco Giuseppe Lanza, a composer and singing teacher who lived from 1750 to 1812, and three of his sons, all of them composers and teachers; the fifth entry is Alcides Lanza, Argentinian composer, conductor and pianist who was born in 1928. This is merely one example of him being dismissed by the musicological fraternity. Several years ago I was interviewed on a television program that dealt with Lanza. Afterward I received letters from a number of well-meaning musicologists who took me to task for “defending Mario Lanza.” What these people didn’t recognize, or didn’t want to recognize, is that I made no references to his personal life, his behaviour or his troubles, but purely to his voice — a voice which, incidentally, not only made an impact on me, but also on many of my tenor colleagues, like Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras.

Why was there this antagonism? Was it because some people felt that success had come too easily to him — that he hadn’t “suffered” for his art — or was it jealousy that someone who wasn’t very sophisticated, academically speaking, could become such an effective “pied piper” for leading the uninitiated to the allure of the operatic voice?

As so often happens with time, attitudes change. The fact that we are still interested in his movies and recordings and that this book has been written proves that the persona of Mario Lanza has survived the test of time and that his voice remains a force of nature to this day.

Praise for Mario Lanza

"Yours is a voice such as is heard only once in a hundred years." - Serge Koussevitzky

"You have the greatest given throat ever heard in a young man." - Tito Schipa

"Mario Lanza has the greatest singing instrument ever bestowed on a human being." -George London

"Mario could have sung in any opera house in the world and his career could have been sensational." - Dorothy Kirsten

"I don’t think he realised how good he was." - Giuseppe Di Stefano 

"He had everything that one needs- the voice, the temperament, perfect diction." - Licia Albanese

"Lanza has the finest natural tenor voice I’ve ever heard." - Renata Tebaldi

"In fifty years people will recognise Lanza for the great artist he is." - Lawrence Tibbett (in 1950)

"His voice is phenomenal." - Helen Traubel

"Mario Lanza’s singing was both convincing and full of heart." - Franco Corelli

"He is Caruso’s successor." - Maria Callas

"He had a voice of enormous dramatic impact." - Placido Domingo

"His magnificent voice enriched our lives and introduced us to a wide spectrum of classical and popular music." - José Carreras

"He had a fantastic voice--not just wonderful--a fantastic voice." - Luciano Pavarotti

"We were both surprised by the size of the voice--we were also impressed by Lanza’s innate musicality. No doubt he could have had an outstanding operatic career." - Richard Bonynge and Joan Sutherland

About the Author: Armando Cesari

Armando Cesari was born in Venice, Italy. After migrating to Australia and completing his senior studies Mr. Cesari studied classical singing and voice production and subsequently sang in a number of concerts in Australia.

Mr. Cesari has made a lifelong study of the career of Mario Lanza and is considered a leading authority on the singer. He has contributed to a number of radio and television programs and has written articles on Lanza as well as various opera singers.


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