Articulate

S6 E11 | FULL EPISODE

Mario Lanza at 100

On this Articulate exclusive concert show celebrating Mario Lanza’s centenary, tenor Stephen Costello reflects on the life and work of the beloved singer and Hollywood star.

AIRED: January 29, 2021 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

- [Announcer] "Articulate" with Jim Cotter

is made possible with generous funding

from the Neubauer Family Foundation.

- [Jim] These days, when we think of stars

who have had success in music and in film and television,

you maybe think of Will Smith or Justin Timberlake,

but these are in the main singers who act,

and their two skills rarely intersect,

but almost a century ago, from the 1930s on,

there emerged a special breed of performer,

the singing actor.

Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr.,

Julie Andrews, Elvis Presley, and Barbara Streisand

were both big draws at the box office and at the jukebox,

but in their midst was an anomaly,

a global superstar who was also one of the greatest

operatic voices of all time.

♪ Be my love

♪ For no one else can end

On this episode of "Articulate,"

we commemorate the 100th birthday of Mario Lanza,

his centenary, in the company of Met Opera tenor,

Lanza's fellow Philadelphian Stephen Costello,

and Lanza's daughter, Elissa Lanza Bregman.

♪ The way you've filled my dreams ♪

Mario Lanza was born Alfredo Arnold Cocozza

in Philadelphia on January 31st, 1921

to Maria and Antonio, both immigrants from Southern Italy.

Growing up in a row home in South Philadelphia,

the young Mario became obsessed with the recordings

of one of the greatest singers of all time, Enrico Caruso.

(singing in foreign language)

The young Mario was constantly

trying out arias around the house,

and his opera-loving family

were impressed with what they heard.

- When they discovered that he could sing,

my grandmother went and she had two jobs

to support his singing lessons.

- [Jim] Now, a century later,

Lanza continues to be an inspiration

for both aspiring and for highly accomplished singers,

among them, Met Opera tenor Stephen Costello,

who to this day sees his fellow Philadelphian

as something of a trailblazer.

- The first time I heard Mario Lanza,

it was the voice that attracted me to it,

and it was unbelievable.

It's unbelievable to have,

to be a tenor, aspiring to be an operatic tenor,

and then have such an incredible operatic tenor

come from your hometown, you know?

It's not every day you have a connection like that.

(jazzy music)

♪ With a song in my heart

♪ I behold your adorable face

♪ Just a song at the start

♪ But it soon is a hymn to your grace ♪

♪ When the music swells

♪ I'm touching you hand

♪ It tells that you're standing near and ♪

♪ At the sound of your voice

♪ Heaven opens its portals to me ♪

♪ Nothing to but rejoice

♪ That a song such as ours came to be ♪

♪ And I always knew

♪ I would live life through

♪ With a song in my heart for you ♪

(sweet string music)

♪ When the music swells

♪ I'm touching you hand

♪ It tells that you're standing near and ♪

♪ At the sound of your voice

♪ Heaven opens its portals to me ♪

♪ Nothing to help but rejoice

♪ That a song such as ours came to be ♪

♪ And I always knew

♪ I would live life through

♪ With a song in my heart for you ♪

Oh, the voice was completely unique.

To me, It's like what you would hear from like

all the old like Italian lounge singers,

for instance, right?

But it also had this operatic sound, this big, robust sound,

but it was just smooth, and it's just, it's so gorgeous,

it's so unbelievable, and it's distinct,

it's like when you hear it,

you can, it's, that's Mario Lanza.

- I believe people love my father

because he exuded honesty, truth,

a love of what he was doing.

When he sang, he believed every word of that song,

and he gave it his all.

People even today love his voice.

They marvel and they,

if only, you know, what might've been.

Who knows?

But in 10 years of his short career,

he's still enduring, you know, he's still here.

♪ Be my love

♪ For no one else

♪ Can end this yearning

♪ This need that you and you alone create ♪

♪ Just fill my arms

♪ The way you fill my dreams

♪ The dreams that you inspire

♪ With every sweet desire

♪ Be my love

♪ And with your kisses

♪ Set me burning

♪ One kiss is all I need

♪ To seal my fate

♪ And hand in hand

♪ We'll find love's promised land ♪

♪ There'll be no one but you for me ♪

♪ Eternally

♪ If you will be

♪ My love

(romantic music)

♪ And hand in hand

♪ We'll find love's promised land ♪

♪ There'll be no one but you for me ♪

♪ Eternally

♪ If you will be

♪ My love

- [Jim] "Be My Love" was Mario Lanza's first big hit.

He sang it in a duet with Kathryn Grayson

in the MGM film "The Toast of New Orleans" in 1950,

and his solo recording of the song got to number one

on the Billboard charts,

selling more than 2 million copies later that year.

The song was instrumental in making Lanza

a worldwide star on television, radio,

and the silver screen.

- He was a film star to most people.

And when you associate in that time,

like, who were the other film singers?

Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, people like that, you know,

So it was,

he was probably the first crossover star,

if you think about it.

He was the first one to bridge the gap between

pop culture and classical music.

(gentle music)

♪ Overhead the moon is beaming

♪ White as blossoms on the bough ♪

♪ Nothing is heard

♪ But the song of a bird

♪ Filling all the air with dreaming ♪

♪ Could my heart but still it's beating ♪

♪ Only you can tell it how

♪ Beloved

♪ From your window give me greetings ♪

♪ Hear my eternal vow

♪ Soft in the trees lie the echo of my longing ♪

♪ While all around you my dreams of rapture throng ♪

♪ My hope, my joy, my soul, my dear ♪

♪ Your heart must tell you that I am near ♪

♪ Lean from above while I pour out my love ♪

♪ For you know to my life you are dear ♪

The one thing I have to say about singing

different genres of music is you never sing it

in anything less than your voice, right?

So you wouldn't change your technique,

you wouldn't change your style to sing MGM standards

to classical music, right?

And that's the one thing that he didn't do,

which I liked about Mario Lanza,

was he never sang anything with less than his voice.

So it may seem too operatic to people,

but, to me, I thought it was just beautiful.

♪ I walk with God

♪ From this day on

♪ His helping hand

♪ I lean upon

I was a cantor in church for

the four years I was there,

two masses every Sunday,

and "I'll Walk With God"

was one of the songs that I sang all the time.

♪ I'll walk with God

♪ From this day on

♪ His helping hand

♪ I lean upon

♪ This is my prayer

♪ My humble plea

♪ May the lord

♪ Be ever with me

♪ There is no death

♪ Though eyes grow dim

♪ There is no fear

♪ When I'm near to him

♪ I'll lean on him forever

♪ And he'll forsake me never

♪ He will not fail me

♪ As long as my faith is strong ♪

♪ Whatever road I may walk along ♪

♪ I'll walk with God

♪ I'll take his hand

♪ I'll talk with God

♪ He'll understand

♪ I'll pray to him

♪ Each day to him

♪ And he'll hear the words

♪ That I say

♪ His hand will guide

♪ My throne and rod

♪ And I'll never walk alone

♪ While I walk

♪ With God

- [Jim] Today within the opera world,

Mario Lanza is still hailed

as one of the greatest voices ever.

Two of the Three Tenors,

the late Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras,

are on record as saying that seeing a Mario Lanza film

was what prompted them to dedicate their lives to singing.

Yet Lanza would become such a huge global star

that he himself rarely set foot on an opera stage.

- You know, he's a wild card, 'cause he did so much.

He didn't do operas, but he did arias,

and he sang, even in his 30s,

he sang some of the Verdi arias

as well as some of the greats, you know?

Yeah, we did, we lost him too early, for sure.

But, did we lose the voice too early?

I'm not so sure.

I think that yes, it would have gotten better,

it would've been neat to see if the voice had gotten darker,

if the voice had gotten heavier,

but he covered such a plethora of music,

he covered so many genres, covered so many arias

that he left us with such a great catalog of music.

- [Jim] Mario Lanza could make any song his own.

Take for example "You'll Never Walk Alone,"

from 1945's Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Carousel."

The song would become a standard,

and be recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash,

and more recently, Marcus Mumford and Lana Del Ray.

It's also become an anthem for many soccer fans,

especially those of Liverpool F.C.

♪ Walk alone

♪ You'll never walk

But, says Stephen Costello,

no one has ever sung it like Mario.

- There's something about the way

Mario Lanza sings "You'll Never Walk Alone,"

it's just the way that they sing it full, operatically,

and with a lot of heart and a lot of passion,

and it just really is moving.

(tense music)

♪ When you walk through a storm ♪

♪ Hold your head up high

♪ And don't be afraid

♪ Of the dark

♪ At the end of a storm

♪ Is a golden sky

♪ And the sweet silver song

♪ Of a lark

(sweet music)

♪ When you walk through the storm ♪

♪ Hold your head up high

♪ And don't be afraid

♪ Of the dark

♪ At the end of the storm

♪ Is a golden sky

♪ And the sweet silver song

♪ Of a lark

♪ Walk on through the wind

♪ Walk on through the rain

♪ Though your dreams be tossed and blown ♪

♪ Walk on, walk on

♪ With hope in your heart

♪ And you'll never walk alone

♪ You'll never walk

♪ Alone

- My father today

would probably be very surprised

about his continuing legacy.

I don't know if he ever expected

the fame that he still,

or that is still continuing today.

Quite honestly, I'm surprised, as a family,

we of course love our father and we love his music,

but I am just thrilled,

and so happy that it is continuing,

and my feeling is, is that it will continue.

- I think it's important to keep a legacy like that alive,

because the voice is just so unique.

I mean, it's one of those voices

that's like one in a million.

(gentle music)

♪ Without a song

♪ The day would never end

♪ Without a song

♪ The road would never bend

♪ When things go wrong

♪ A man ain't got a friend

♪ Without a song

♪ That field of corn

♪ Would never see a plow

♪ That field of corn

♪ Would be deserted now

♪ A man is born

♪ But he's no good no how

♪ Without a song

♪ I've got my trouble and woe

♪ But sure as I know

♪ The Jordan will roll

♪ I'll get along

♪ As long as a song

♪ Is strong in my soul

♪ I'll never know

♪ What makes the rain to fall

♪ I'll never know

♪ What makes the grass grow tall ♪

♪ I only know

♪ There ain't no love at all

♪ Without a song

♪ I got my trouble and woe

♪ But sure as I know

♪ The Jordan will roll

♪ I'll get along

♪ As long as a song

♪ Is strong in my soul

♪ I'll never know

♪ What makes the rain to fall

♪ I'll never know

♪ What makes the grass grow tall ♪

♪ I only know

♪ There ain't no love at all

♪ Without a song

(peaceful music)

- [Jim] For more "Articulate," find us on social media,

or on our website, articulateshow.org.

On the next "Articulate," in the late 1800s,

the first automobile was invented for function,

to improve human transportation.

Since then style and substance have been competing factors

in the success of the car,

challenging aesthetics to keep up

with changing technologies.

Today, cars are part of our larger identity as a whole,

and as individuals.

I'm Jim Cotter.

Join us for the next "Articulate."

(lively music)

- [Announcer] "Articulate" with Jim Cotter is made possible

with generous funding from the Neubauer Family Foundation.

(lively music)

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