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Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy (Great Voices 7) Hardcover – February 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this newest addition to Bakersville's Great Voices series, Cesari makes the convincing argument that Philadelphia-born Lanza, while one of America's greatest operatic singers, could also have been one of the world's great opera singers, carrying the torch passed on by Enrico Caruso. For Cesari, an Italian-born singer now living in Australia, this work is obviously a labor of love, and his passion comes through in his detailed recounting of Lanza's life. While his admiration for the singer occasionally veers towards the hagiographic, Cesari is careful to analyze Lanza's performances fairly, quoting reporters and reviewers at the time. It was Lanza's meteoric rise in popularity through film, Cesari notes, that drew fire from his most severe critics, who believed that Lanza's voice was too weak for the stage. But as many of the reviews and comments from well-known opera personalities show, this was hardly the case. What makes this book even more appealing (and what justifies its price) is the accompanying CD, which includes many pieces from Lanza's early career.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Touted as the successor to Enrico Caruso, Mario Lanza (1921-59) had a beautiful lirico spinto tenor of wide vocal range and could have become the primo donno of the opera world. But he loved the money he made from movies, recordings, and concerts and, plagued by depression, lacked self-confidence. When depressed, he turned to alcohol and food; later, whenever the film studios wanted him trim, he crash-dieted. That damaged his heart and liver, contributing to his early death. Cesari, who loves Lanza and regrets he never realized his potential, traces the singer's various projects, assessing successes and failures. He includes material gleaned from the news and 30 years' worth of interviews with Lanza's family and friends. Along with interpretive personal commentary, Cesari poignantly tells the tragic story of a beautiful voice and the sick personality behind it. Roland Bessette covered the same life in his 1999 biography, but Cesari writes with greater love and includes a CD of selected performances, more than 250 photographs, and complete listings of Lanza's recordings, films, and other performances. Alan Hirsch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Great Voices (Book 7)
  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Baskerville Publishers (February 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880909669
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880909669
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,174,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By C. M. Sciabarra on August 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Cesari's book is a reclamation project: it is a successful attempt to reclaim Lanza's artistic legacy in a world that clings furiously to a false dichotomy between art and entertainment. It was an implicit acceptance of this conventional dualism that tore Mario Lanza's soul in two, and that lies at the base of the tragedy that Cesari describes. Despite unfulfilled promise, Lanza made an indelible mark on music, becoming, in effect, one of the first great "crossover" artists, who has inspired generations of singers, across genres, challenging the musical snobs of his time who sought to denigrate his remarkable achievements. Bravo to Cesari, and to the subject of his biography.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Derek McGovern on February 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The definitive book about the legendary tenor Mario Lanza has been written. Anyone wanting to understand the successes and torments of the life of this American icon must read Armando Cesari's excellent biography." So wrote Dr. Lawrence Galante, Associate Professor at SUNY.

I heartily concur with Dr. Galante. This is the most balanced and well-researched account of Lanza's life yet written. Author Armando Cesari, an expert on singing and opera, has gone further than any previous biographer in uncovering the truth about Lanza the person and the artist. And *what* an artist! "Only a great heart can sing the way that Lanza sang," the Maltese tenor Oreste Kirkop once observed, echoing the words of the great baritone Lawrence Tibbett, who had earlier hailed Lanza's "natural zest and unbelievable diction." Although the longhairs have panned him as "a movie singer," Tibbett publicly declared in 1950, Lanza is "the greatest musical talent of America in our century. A man who is bringing great music to the kids, the farms, the ghettos, and the palaces." In 50 years, he concluded, "people will recognize Lanza for the great artist he is."

Sympathetic to Lanza, but at the same time frank about his shortcomings, Mr. Cesari is also the first biographer in over 40 years to possess the credentials necessary to give the tenor his full musical due.

The CD of rare live and home recordings that accompanies the book is a marvellous addition to a great biography. I should, however, declare my partiality here. It was I who wrote the liner notes for these items, something that I was honoured to do after realising the scale of Mr. Cesari's achievement here.

The book also includes a staggering 270 photos, many of which have never been published before.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Having read a number of biographies on Mario Lanza, ranging from ludicrous to fairly competent, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to discover that this is one of those rare occasions where an author has done justice to his subject. Mr. Cesari brilliantly tells the tragic story of Mario Lanza and in so doing dispels the falsehoods and myths that have been perpetuated over the years. It is a well balanced account of this "bigger than life personality" warts and all. What emerges is a touching portrait of an incredibly gifted, but flawed human being who lived almost his entire life guilt ridden for having attained world renown with his movies and recordings at the expense of an operatic career. As a reader one immediately becomes involved with the subject and wishes one could have been there to guide Lanza into making the right choices where his career was concerned. I found the final chapters, incredibly moving. Mr.Cesari lifelong study of his subject is evident in his detailed description and analysis of the ill fated singer's life. Furthermore, and vitally important, the author discusses the musical aspects of Lanza's career competently and finally sets the record straight in revaluating Lanza and rightly places him among the great voices of the century. The book is beautifully presented, it contains a CD of rare live performances together with excellent informative notes by Derek Mc Govern. It also has a complete discography and a total of 270 photos.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Michael McAdam on February 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As one who has read many, many biographies on the "Stars", I found Armando Cesari's tragic life story of my favourite tenor compelling reading. I waited a long time to read an account which did not overly-glorify and expound upon Lanza's excesses...again! Everyone who was remotely interested in Lanza while growing up in the fifties and knew how to read a newspaper or magazine, had already read the juicy titbits of Mario's very public life on a daily basis. Some of the other biographies on this singer have leaned heavily for information upon these stories (and, they are "stories" subject to all the flowering-up and exagerrations which keep these tomes on the best-seller lists.). Some of the accounts have been from well-meaning, but knowledge-shy Lanza "historians" (Mannering), from over-the-top, tall-tale-spinning cronies (Robinson) or last and certainly least, from a mean-spirited, non-musical individual whose vocation "supposedly" lent credence to the veracity of his written invective (Bessette). This book by a vocalist, music teacher and now, credible and talented author is none of the above. Mr Cesari has done himself proud in these pages.
While I find some things here which bother me they are not related to the written content but are more in the 'housekeeping' realm. i.e: lack of mention of the Preface by highly respected Opera star Placido Domingo on the front cover, lack of Chapter listings for quick reference etc. The few niggling typos I did encounter, which did not detract from the impact of the narrative, would be those of the publisher's data-entry person I would suspect? I am sure most of these things will be corrected during a second printing.
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