Mario Lanza

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Mario Lanza , actually Alfred Arnold Cocozza (born January 31, 1921 in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania , † October 7, 1959 in Rome , Italy ) was an Italian-American opera singer ( tenor ) and actor . Thanks to his Hollywood films, Lanza was considered the most famous opera singer in the world in the 1950s .


Cocozza grew up in an Italian-American family. His mother Maria, after whose maiden name he later chose his stage name, was an opera lover. He grew up with the recordings of Enrico Caruso , in the year of his death he was born and who became a great role model for him. At school with no ambition, young Cocozza trained his voice in regular lessons. He had to leave school a few months before he graduated. After spending a few years helping out in his grandfather's grocery store, his vocal talent was discovered and he was awarded a scholarship to the Tanglewood Music Center . There he made his debut in 1942 as Fenton in The Funny Wives of Windsor .

The following military service, in which he was primarily used as a singer, did not lead to an operatic career. First he trained bel canto singing for 15 months with Gigli's teacher Enrico Rosati . Then he went public with a program. For a while Lanza toured clubs with the Canadian bass-baritone George London and the soprano and later singing teacher Frances Yeend (* 1918), with the “Belcanto Trio” primarily performing popular light music and pieces from musicals. In contrast to his two partners, who soon began long and successful singing careers, Lanza did not make the leap onto the stage. Only in 1948 did he appear twice in New Orleans as Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton in the opera Madame Butterfly . It remained his only appearances on a regular opera stage. At this point he already had a contract with Hollywood.

The audience was enthusiastic about Lanza's vocal qualities and his external appearance. Critics also praised his talent, the beauty of his lyrical tenor voice and, last but not least, his perfect diction , but criticized his insufficient vocal training.

The boss of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer , Louis B. Mayer , took Lanza under his wing and produced films and records with him. The first films with Lanza, especially the fictional biopic The Great Caruso from 1951, were great successes. As was later the case with Elvis Presley - whose two-time film partner in the 1950s, Dolores Hart , incidentally was a niece of Lanza - it was rather films with a trivial plot in which the main actor's vocal interludes were the main attraction. He made it onto the front page of Time as a classical tenor and became a comparable pop idol even before Presley. Lanza was the first opera singer who managed to be awarded gold records for both his classical and popular music albums.

With the success, the singer found himself increasingly exposed to criticism and also had to struggle with problems of self-discipline. Extreme mood swings made him feared among colleagues, and before major appearances, Lanza had to undergo rigid weight loss cures again and again. He became an alcoholic and took more pills. In addition, success gradually failed, and his career in the USA stalled.

Lanza avoided going to Italy and landed a few more film hits there in the late 1950s. In 1959, the 38-year-old died in a Roman clinic. A heart attack was given as the official cause of death .

Lanza had been married to Betty Hicks, sister of an Army comrade, since 1945, and had four children, Colleen, Elisa, Damon and Marc. Lanza's wife Betty died in 1960 under the influence of pills and alcohol. Lanza's daughter Colleen, who was the only one of his children to pursue a career as a singer, died in 1997 after a car accident. His youngest son Marc died of a heart attack in 1991 at the age of 37. Son Damon Anthony also died on August 16, 2008 of complications from a heart attack at the age of 55.

Lanza was buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City , California .


Lanza made his first film appearance in 1944 as a member of a choir in the film Winged Victory . Between 1949 and 1959 he worked as an actor in seven films:

Lanza's voice in the German dubbed versions was the actor Axel Monjé in most of the films .

In the film Alt Heidelberg ( The Student Prince ) (1954) Lanza was supposed to play the leading role, but was replaced by Edmund Purdom as actor due to differences with the director Curtis Bernhardt , but he contributed his voice to Purdom's vocal scenes. Strangely enough, Bernhardt was also replaced by Richard Thorpe, with whom Lanza had previously worked successfully in The Great Caruso .

Web links

Commons : Mario Lanza  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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