My history hero: Mario Lanza (1921-59)

Tenor Russell Watson explains why he admires a 20th-century musician...

Mario Lanza c1950. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the January 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine 

Mario Lanza was a tenor, actor and Hollywood star. Born Alfredo Arnoldo Cocozza in Philadelphia, he was introduced to classical music by his parents – Italian immigrants – while he was still a child. After singing at the Hollywood Bowl in 1947, he signed a film contract with MGM and went on to star in a number of hit films, most famously The Great Caruso (1951). The volatile, hard-living Lanza struggled with his weight throughout his life. He died at the age of 38 following a heart attack.

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