Born: 31 January 1921
Died: 7 October 1959
To a student of the vocal art, it must have been amusing to listen to the claims and assertions made on behalf of Mario Lanza, the film star tenor of the 1950s. Millions of cinemagoers pronounced him, the greatest tenor in the world.
Just as they had done with Kiepura, 20 years earlier.
Nowadays, like Kiepura he is rarely heard. Unlike Kiepura however, he had no operatic stage reputation whatsoever.
If I remember correctly, he appeared once in New Orleans in La bohème and that’s about it. Nor did he concertise.
German, French, and Russian art songs do not appear to have been in his repertoire.
So, he must be judged as a film star tenor only, and this role he was supreme in his day. He was born of Spanish Italian parents in New York on January the 31st 1922. And his early childhood was fraught with poverty.
His father, a crippled veteran of the First World War, was a Caruso admirer and had many of his records.
In this way, Mario had heard operatic music from childhood, and had learned to sing the popular Arias by listening to the records.
The great conductor, Serge Koussevitzky, was the specific person responsible for Lanzo’s decision to give up delivering furniture and take singing lessons.
There is no point in trying to surmise, how he might have sounded in la Scala, Covent Garden, or the Metropolitan, he never sang in a theatre.
What seems certain, is that his voice was ideal for operetta at least, in the tradition of Lehar, Strauss and Romberg.
So, I have chosen extracts from Sigmund Romberg’s, The Student Prince, one of his most popular ventures