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Mario Lanza: Singing to the Gods (American Made Music Series) Hardcover – July 5, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Mannering succeeds triumphantly in bringing to life the man and his music. More important, he makes you want to listen again and again to the recordings and marvel again at the enormous talent Lanza possessed while also shedding a tear at what might have been.”

Opera Now

“How desperately the world needed this biography . . . an important work that will help to further and refine, and even become a part of Mario Lanza’s incredible legacy.”

―Richard Leech, tenor

“Anyone who wants to know about the life and times of Mario Lanza need go no further than this book.”

―from the foreword by Ellisa Lanza Bregman, daughter of Mario Lanza

From the Publisher

This biography of the Italian-American tenor, star of "The Great Caruso" and inspiration to the Three Tenors:

*Brings American readers a superb biography on Lanza written by the world's leading expert on the man and his music

*Features new photographs and information not available elsewhere due to the author's access to the Lanza family


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Product Details

  • Series: American Made Music Series
  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi; 1st American Ed edition (July 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578067413
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578067411
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,636,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David E. Weaver on September 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When I read Derek Mannering's first book, MARIO LANZA - A BIOGRAPHY, in 1993, I knew then that this was the best work written to date on the great tenor who was my boyhood idol and musical inspiration. Yet that was only the beginning: since then, Mannering has produced two other first-rate books, SINGING TO THE GODS and MARIO LANZA - A LIFE IN PICTURES (both published in the UK), that have been even better than his first effort. He has also in those years become BMG's primary consultant on the release of new Mario Lanza CDs, resulting in Lanza's return to the best-seller lists in the UK, even hitting #1 with THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION -- a remarkable feat for a singer who died five decades ago.

Now, happily, the first-ever American edition of MARIO LANZA - SINGING TO THE GODS has been published by University Press of Mississippi. Not merely a copy of Mannering's book produced for the UK, this new, updated edition includes never-before-released material in the way of photos and interviews, including several poignant reminisces of Lanza's niece, actress Dolores Hart, who retired from the screen more than 40 years ago to become a nun, Mother Dolores. As in his previous works, Mannering has had the blessings and cooperation of two very important people in Mario Lanza's life - his best friend and trainer, Terry Robinson, and Lanza's only surviving daughter, Elissa Lanza Bregman, who wrote the book's heartfelt Foreword.

Always written in a lively and entertaining style, the strength of Derek Mannering's books lies in the fact that he focuses on Mario Lanza's incredible talent, and how he used that talent -- thru films, radio, television, concerts and recordings -- to bring the world of opera and great music to the average person.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mario Lanza's rise to stardom could not have happened ten years earlier, or ten years later, than it did. The repressive atmosphere of the post-WWII period saw a shift from the soothing crooning of Sinatra and Crosby to the era of the "big belters" of pop, such as Frankie Laine and, a bit later, Johnnie Ray. Mario Lanza was unique in that he straddled the pop and classical markets with his powerful and emotive voice, and connected with the inner desire for passion that the era attempted to suppress. Gifted singer, movie star and, yes, sex symbol: even Caruso never made as much of an impact on American popular culture as did Lanza. The author of this book provides none of this context in his drab retelling of Lanza's career path.

At the very least, the meteoric career of the troubled tenor was colorful, but the colorless, pedestrian prose of Mannering reads like an album's liner notes. At no point did I get a real feeling for Lanza, the man. An endorsement from Lanza'a daughter is actually a red flag; the seamier side of Lanza's well-documented personality gets short shrift here. We see Lanza destroying himself; the author gives us precious little by way of explanation as to what inner demons drove him to self-destruct.

Put simply, the material cries out for a writer whose prose style (and research skills) could capture the nuances of the era and the soaring highs and crushing lows of Lanza's short but blazing career. The author fails on both fronts.

Additionally, the book seems to have scarcely been proofed; one can not read more than two or three pages without encountering an egregious typo (i.e. "the Metropolital Opera") or an incomplete sentence. After a few chapters, one becomes very annoyed that the editors could not perform this most basic function.
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Format: Hardcover
Derek Mannering's new biography of the American tenor Mario Lanza seeks an admirable middle ground between idolatry and spite. For in the past we have had biographies dictated by either camp. Some people castigate Lanza for his failure to pursue a career in the great opera houses (as far as we know, he played twice in Madame Butterfly and that's it). Whereas others, the idolators, say that he never made a mistake. (You should hear Derek Mannering on the subject of Lanza'a "disgraceful" 1959 STUDENT PRINCE!) And while we're on the subject, Derek Mannering really, really, seriously hates the "pseudo-rock") "Pineapple Pickers," which I consider one of Lanza's best upbeat tunes and far better than much of what Elvis wound up singing in his movies. Let's have more tracks like "Pineapple Pickers" and less painful numbers such as "Drink, Drink, Drink" if you ask me.

Mannering carefully shows us how Lanza became a movie star--almost through a series of divinely inspired accidents it seems, while skimping a little bit on the childhood in Philadelphia which other writers have written tomes about. All the while we imagine that Lanza's childhood did hold something traumatic in it, otherwise he would have been beter equipped to withstand the disaster of success! As Joe Pasternak, the MGM producer, says (page 71), "Success is harder to take then failure." Well, that may not be true for all men and women, but it seems to have been true for Mario Lanza.

Derek Mannering is forthright about Lanza's various addictions--for example, he describes a late life discovery of Campari that persisted despite taking a regular course of Antabuse (pills that supposedly make you ghastly sick if you take a drink).
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