Derek McGovern recently invited members of our forum to submit essays on Mario Lanza. This set me pondering what I could write that might be of interest to our forum members, and to anyone else reading this essay. Rather than thinking about Derek's challenge, I just began to write, and out came my remembrances concerning Lanza.
Looking back on my own life, I can say that I have loved Mario Lanza's voice since I was a very young person in the 1950s. I would repeatedly hear his records being played on the family phonograph, which was in our living room. Weekends were especially musical, as my Dad would begin playing his music on Saturday afternoon and into the late evening hours.
Usually at these times, I would already be in bed and could hear the music as I lay in a near-sleep mode, all the while letting the music play into me—ears and heart. There were Strauss waltzes, a soprano voice that I knew as Miliza Korjus, Gershwin music, and then, of course, the most wondrous voice of them all: that of Mario Lanza.
As his voice resonated through the house and my body—along with the 'Dad' smell of pipe tobacco or even a cigar—I felt comfort, safety, and at the same time a heightened sense of amazement and wonder at the sheer beauty of The Voice. These images, sounds, and smells come to me now from so many decades ago. It is akin to hitting the 'restore' button on the computer and being immediately taken back to another time.
I also recall, with such a sense of an immediate yesterday, my Mom and Dad taking me to see The Great Caruso and the 1938 Strauss biopic The Great Waltz.
These were life-changing events of my childhood.
During the same period, I was awakened to a love of baseball and hockey, once again because of my Dad. He took me to see my first professional ball game at the Toronto's old Exhibition Stadium on the shores of Lake Ontario, and my first NHL hockey game, which I saw at Maple Leaf Gardens in downtown Toronto. At the age of ten, I also started to play baseball in a league, continuing till I was seventeen, and this sport remains my favourite both to watch and play. I tried my hand at hockey too, and was not very good, I have to admit. During my high school days, I also tried football, but my light weight didn't serve me well in this sport.
These events—all milestones in a young boy's life—carried on into my adulthood, continuing to this very day, and becoming part of the foundation of my adult life. I must not forget my dear mother's influence in other areas of my life either. She and my father were two major figures in my life, and, together with all these experiences, helped pave the way for this man to become a person of passion in all that consists of his life today.
Now, dear readers, I must get back to Mario Lanza, and what he did to be an influence in my life—continuing to this day, as I approach seventy.
I have never been a student of music per se, nor can I read a musical note, but I can appreciate a great singing voice when I hear one.
Hearing Mario as a youngster registered in my mind a "gold standard" of the greatest voice I had ever heard, and one that remains so to this day. What he instilled in me was an appreciation of the beauty of a voice, together with the sheer power, wonderful musicality, and clear diction and pronunciation of that voice—qualities that, to my ears, have never been surpassed. He sang with courage—unafraid—and with passion. He sang with a voice that must have come from his entire being.