Almost 40 years after his premature death, the mystique of Mario Lanza continues. Celebrated with recent public tributes around the country and reissues of his recordings, Lanza remains a crossover icon embraced by legions of international fans for bridging the gap between popular and classical music.
Author Roland Bessette captures the singer's short, roller-coaster career with its fascinating cast of characters. From the time conductor Serge Koussevitzky swept Lanza off to Tanglewood at age 19, to a Hollywood contract only five years later, Lanza's rise was meteoric. And then it was over.
Although the Metropolitan Opera had been his goal, Lanza died at age 38 having performed in only one opera, Madame Butterfly in New Orleans, but his brilliant voice was preserved for posterity in eight Hollywood films. Lanza was the acknowledged inspiration for heirs like Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras, and many others. Arturo Toscanini credited Lanza with having "the greatest voice of the 20th century." Even as early as the Tanglewood days, New York Times music critic Noel Straus ranked Lanza with the best tenors of the day.
Bessette explores the reasons for such short-lived talent, and in the process gives the reader a view of an extraordinary life and career. The young singer soared swiftly to the heights: an RCA Victor record contract, critically acclaimed singing tours with the Bel Canto Trio, an MGM film contract, the enormous success of The Great Caruso. Yet these highs were followed by turbulent lows - which the author attributes to a bipolar disorder - resulting in dismissal from The Student Prince, a lawsuit with MGM, repeated cancellations stemming from depression and stage fright, and a string of affairs jeopardizing his marriage.
Bessette recounts unblinkingly the contradictory facets of Lanza's personality: the generosity and the boorishness, the passion for life and the self-destructive bouts with alcohol. His compelling Lanza story sheds new light on one of history's great voices, unequaled in its power and immediacy.
(Amadeus). More than 40 years after his premature death, the mystique of Mario Lanza continues. He remains a legendary figure, a crossover icon embraced and remembered by an entire generation for bridging the gap between popular and classical music, the acknowledged inspiration of today's Three Tenors. Bessette tells his story with a novelist's eye for the inherent tragedy of Lanza's brief life, the contradictory facets of his personality, his passion for life, and his self-destructiveness. HARDCOVER.