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Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy By Armando Cesari

Jacket: Hardcover
Pages: 293 pages
Publisher: Baskerville Publishers, Inc.; (February 2004)
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
ISBN: 1880909669

Comments about the book and author: 293 pages + discography + 125 pages of photos. Includes an exclusive Audio CD featuring recordings of live performances and other rarities from 1945 to 1958.

About the Author: 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. (taken from the publisher's website)

Review: This is a well-told story which I think will appeal to both the general reader and the music enthusiast whom are curious about human behavior and consequences of bad decisions.

The tragedy of the title includes many things: squandering a natural tenor voice not heard in 100 years; poor judge of people who he selected to manage, train and promote his career; excessive eating and drinking resulting in crash diets to lose 50 to 90 pounds when preparing for his film and concert work; disregard of his health that contributed to his death at 39 years old; the death of his wife five months after his own death; and the death of two of his four children, one in an auto accident, the other of a heart attack at 37.

Recognized by many respected music critics and musicians, Mario Lanza had an extraordinary tenor voice that with proper training could have had an outstanding career in opera and the concert stage. The author walks the reader through Lanza’s path from an essentially raw singer who became a top-grossing world-wide star of mediocre film, recordings and concerts, nevertheless, appealed to a large number of people in part to his personality, charm and good-looks. “Yet, as much as Lanza enjoyed his success and financial rewards that come with it, he had not forsaken his ambition to be a great opera singer” explains Cesari.

But it was not meant to be. It was generally accepted that Lanza lacked the discipline and confidence to make the most of his voice and to achieve his ambition to sing opera.

What Lanza did achieve was to expose opera and classical music to Americans through his films and pop concerts, singing arias and scenes from a variety of operas. Superstars such as Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo, by their own admission, and a generation of prospective singers, were influenced by Lanza. The preface to the book was written by Domingo.

The book contains some 70 pages of photos, a CD disk of Lanza’s singing and good annotation for further references. The photos include Lanza from six months old through his World War II service, his parents, grandparents, birthday parties of his children as well as the publicity photos for his films and concerts. The family photos were the most poignant knowing how his life turned out. All this adds to a well-told story.

— Reviewed by: Ross Dagata


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