Mario Lanza, An Opera Legend

Mario Lanza, An Opera Legend, Abruzzo, Italian american, italian culture, italian heritage, italian american, italian news, italian traditions

Mario Lanza


Dear Readers,
Abruzzesi e Molisani Club officers and members throughout the U.S.A. should note that a great activity for their calendar would be a Mario Lanza themed event because both of Mario Lanza’s parents had “roots” in Abruzzi and Mario had a January birthdate. At your meeting, lunch or dinner you could show a DVD of his films, plan a lecture on his career or play some of his music.
Mario’s father, Antonio Cocozza, came to America at the age of 12, from Filignano, Italy. He served in the U.S. Army in World War I and received a medical discharge after being wounded in Argonne forest. He married Maria Lanza (ten years his junior), whose father Salvatore Lanza had come to Philadelphia from Tocco da Casdauria, in the Abruzzi region of Italy, to open a family grocery store, imported food business.
Their only child Alfredo (later Mario) was born in 1921, the year that legendary tenor Enrico Caruso died.
Mario Lanza was born January 31, 1921, and left us at the young age of 38 in 1959, but his memory and music continues to live on in the heart of fans, in over 20 countries throughout the world.
American fans are number one, followed by England, New Zealand and Australia. Other countries include Italy, South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Holland, Croatia, Peru, Russia, Slovenia, Germany, France, Mexico, Canada and Chile.
M.G.M. starred him in his first film “That Midnight Kiss”.
The handsome singer’s voice was belittled by snob and music critics, but the public knew what they liked and Lanza was it! In addition to “The Great Caruso” (1937) where he recreated the voice of Caruso, his films included “Toast of New Orleans”, “Because You’re Mine”, “Student Prince”, “Serenade” and “Seven Hills of Rome” (1950), a product of his comeback Roman Holiday period.
While in Rome, the Lanza’s, Mario, wife and their four children Colleen, Elisa, Damon and Mark, lived in a palatial villa which had once been presented by Mussolini to Marshall Badaglio. “I’m a movie star and I think I should live like one” said Mario when in a press interview about problems in his Hollywood years.
He said it wasn’t true he never showed up on schedule. “That happened three times in my career. Once when I had business trouble with MGM on the Student Prince when they flattered me by suing me for $15,000,000...another time when I got sick in Las Vegas...and the Hamburg thing. Does Time think a Dead End Kid from North Philadelphia, not yet 33, could have grossed more than $5,250,000 in 5 years and paid Uncle Sam more than $4,000,000 on taxes-clean up to date if he didn’t sing? What do they think, that I am a ventriloquist?”
Mario took the masculine form of his mother’s maiden name Maria Lanza when his career zoomed, but was born Alfredo Arnold Cocozza in Philadelphia, January 31, 1921.
Maria Lanza Cocozza never forgot the day in 1959 when her young son died of a heart attack in Rome.

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