Opera Star Mario Lanza

Celebrities, Celebrity Q&A, People
on December 22, 2002

Please tell me about Mario Lanza, my favorite tenor. Where was he born? How did he die?
—Alice C., Indiana

Lanza was born Alfred Arnold Cocozza in Philadelphia in 1921 to Italian immigrant parents. He started singing along to Enrico Caruso's opera records when he was still a child. At 16, he declared his intention to become a professional singer. His mother, born Maria Lanza, had once dreamed of a singing career and encouraged her talented son to pursue his dream. After years of singing lessons and a scholarship to Berkshire Music School, he made his operatic debut in a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1942, changing his name to Mario Lanza in honor of his mother. His career was put on hold when he entered the service during World War II. During his time in the Army, he sang in shows to entertain the troops and got married soon after leaving the service. He picked up his opera career and was discovered by Hollywood. Appearances in films throughout the 1950s, and the popularity of the song Be My Love from one of those films, gave him worldwide fame. He suffered a massive, fatal heart attack in 1959. He and his wife had four children.