Mario Lanza

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

A new CD release and a special evening of films salute Italian tenor Mario Lanza. As WNYC's Sara Fishko tells us, Lanza’s short career hit notes both very high – and very low. Here is the next Fishko Files…

The new Mario Lanza CD, Mario Lanza: The Toast of Hollywood, is available here.

To check TCM's schedule in your area, visit their website.


When Mario Lanza sang at the Hollywood Bowl in 1947, he was immediately spotted by movie talent scouts. His first two films That Midnight Kiss and The Toast of New Orleans introduced him to the movies. But the film The Great Caruso (clip, above) served as Lanza's breakout role. In playing Enrico Caruso, Lanza got the chance to honor his childhood hero and to inspire many tenors to come.  Yet, the problems and pressures of his sky rocketing fame overtook his career. Lanza died at just 38. Ellisa Lanza Bregman, Lanza's only surviving child, remembers her father and the publicity around his sudden decline.


Above: Mario Lanza sits in an armchair with his young daughters Ellisa (right) and Colleen, and his wife, Betty. 1951.

Ellisa Lanza Bregman

Through his films you could see what type of a man he was. He just loved people, and he trusted people. And that was part of the problem: he trusted too many people. But, I just feel that he had his demons, there’s no question about it -- like we all do, at times. But I think over the years the negative stories about him have been exaggerated. I just say, ‘oh my goodness.’ Some of these things are so untrue -- stories about his weight and this and that. And he went up and down. Which he did, I mean, but he felt better when he sang in the studios and recorded the music. And then when he made the movies he would have to lose the weight -- if he gained 15, 20 pounds. So, it was kind of a yo-yo diet situation there during his filming. Sometimes I cringe when I hear certain things. Because I say, ‘Oh, Gosh, it has been so many years and people still talk about certain things.' They just seem to like the negative aspect. But my feeling is that he’s left the world a beautiful legacy that’s still continuing. And I’m so appreciative, as his daughter, to be able to be able to hear him and see his movies.


For more from the people heard in this piece...

-Visit the The Mario Lanza Institute.

-Read Mark Rotella's book "Amore: The Story of Italian-American Song."

-Listen to Richard Leech's "From the Heart: Italian Arias and Neapolitan Songs."


WNYC Production Credits

Associate Producer: Laura Mayer

Mix Engineer: Wayne Shulmister

WNYC Newsroom Editor: Karen Frillmann

Produced by:

Sara Fishko

Comments [8]

socorro solis from rio vista ca

me and my two buddys in the 1950ts we were lanza fanactics. he was the king to us, and still is.we are in our late seventys,and will always love his talent and peronalty in the movies and records. I still cry with some of the songs that he sings. it broke our hearts when he died.what a loss to his fans. god can have him sing to him all he wants now.

Dec. 29 2014 04:44 PM
Derek McGovern from Busan, South Korea

Nicely done! May I just correct one enduring myth, however: your closing comment that Mario Lanza was never an opera singer. In fact, he was. In August 1942, he sang two performances as Fenton in a staged production of Otto Nicolai's comic opera The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Berkshire Music Festival in Tanglewood. The producer was famed Met director Herbert Graf, and Lanza won acclaim in both the New York Times and Opera News for his performances. Six years later, he sang the role of Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly twice for the New Orleans Opera Association, and again received excellent reviews for his efforts. More information about these performances can be found at my website "Mario Lanza, Tenor."

Sep. 29 2013 10:22 PM
lac from Vancouver

Questions about Mario Lanza's musical training and myths such as involvement with the Mafia are answered on the biographical website, The site includes essays from site founder, Lanza expert and university professor, Dr. Derek McGovern and from pre-eminent Lanza Biogapher, Armando Cesari (Mario Lanza, An American Tragedy, Routledge, 2004). Photos, audio and video clips, and the opportunity to listen to various Lanza selections and to rate them offer a deep, unbiased look at Lanza's voice and legacy.

Sep. 13 2013 01:31 AM
LAC from Vancouver

The site talks about Lanza's musical training in-depth and explains the myths of the Mafia surrounding Lanza. The site offers a balanced view of the many facets of his incredible voice, its influence and his work through clips, photographs, essays, "quick facts" about Lanza--all worth a visit!

Sep. 12 2013 12:05 PM

I had heard that Mario Lanza had not received vocal training and would make faces when he hit higher notes. Was this the case? (BTW - This was a lovely piece.)

Sep. 12 2013 10:59 AM
HC from NYC

Remember "heavenly creatures" - that movie introduced me to Mario Lanza.

Sep. 12 2013 10:17 AM
Stefanie Walzinger from Freiburg, Germany

Legends are made of true and untrue stories that surround a star. But the thing that really counts when it comes to Mario Lanza, is his unique voice and incredible talent which have made him immortal and still loved by so many admirers.
P.S.:On the Mario Lanza family photo Ellisa Lanza is not the little girl on the left, but on the right.

Sep. 12 2013 06:49 AM
Sanford Rothenberg from Brooklyn

Mario Lanza was an intriguing personality.The lip-synching,and Mafia connection episodes added to his mystique.A friend of mine was having a voice lesson when Lanza came in and auditioned for her voice teacher.Even with the weight fluctuations,stories of womanizing,and other non-musical activities,there was an underlying vocal talent.

Sep. 12 2013 02:39 AM

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