An Opera Singer
For All Ears
By Number Six
This review is from - The One Tenor (Kindle
I need to state from the beginning, my understanding,
affinity for, and therefore genuine appreciation of opera is very limited.
I am a part of the vast majority of music listeners who are best described
as an admittedly unsophisticated follower of “popular” music. It’s not
that I don’t see the importance of musical sophistication. I value the
classical training which has provided the discipline for some of the
greatest artists of every musical genre outside of classical music,
and opera training for some of the greatest vocalists outside classical
My awareness of Mario Lanza, I am embarrassed to say, was limited to
his popular music “crossover” material. I did not initially realize
that Mr. Lanza had been far more than “opera trained”, but rather, he
was a veritable opera GIANT. While not necessarily having an “ear” for
opera, other than as a “flavor” rather than a “main ingredient” in the
music I commonly listen to, I felt compelled to not only give opera
music a good listen, but to try and understand the music intellectually.
Mario Lanza, and the recent book by Mr. Lindsay Perigo about Mr. Lanza,
“The One Tenor”, became my foray into one of the last types of music
I had left to personally explore.
I wanted to do more than just listen to Mario Lanza, I wanted to understand
how he was an artist and as a person, to put a human experience on music
which I have until recently considered somewhat “otherworldly” for lack
of a better expression. From what surprisingly little I knew about Mr.
Lanza, I knew there had to be more to Mario Lanza’s artistry than the
vocal acrobatics of the highest caliber which I had typically associated
with opera music. I knew “The One Tenor” was likely the kind of opera
singer who would move people to tears from all walks of life: from the
sophisticate, to the simple, and inclusive of Godfather-esque hardened
gangsters who are want to express any emotion apart from the boundless
passion expressed by the subject of Mr. Perigo’s book.
I sought out Mario Lanza for these reasons, and perhaps because his
crossover appeal belies a universal expressiveness that could easily
be found in his traditional opera work, and indeed this was confirmed
both by my listening (thank you, YouTube) and by the amazing account
of his life and work in “The One Tenor.” I also had a feeling Mario
Lanza was a little bit dangerous, in a ultra-charismatic sense, which
was also confirmed in Mr. Perigo’s book (interesting to note that ‘Perigo’
in Portuguese means ‘danger’).
Lindsay Perigo literally places you in the artist’s head while remaining
objective enough not to make assumptions. Alfred Arnold Cocozza, the
artist who later became Mario Lanza, jumps off the pages of the book
and into the mind of the reader. From the fist pages I came to agree
with the author’s idolization of his subject, while at the same time
the author pulls no punches regarding the controversies regarding some
of Mario’s addictive behaviors.
Appropriately, Mr. Perigo even adds some modern scientific insight into
Mario’s more eccentric and arguably destructive habits, as juxtaposed
by his overpowering talent, charm, and warmth. I cannot help but wonder
how many great artists (in jazz, Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday come
to mind) also represent a common thread in the narrative Lindsay Perigo
unfolds. Even if opera music does not capture your imagination, Mario
Lanza as an artist and all of his passionate experiences in his all-too-brief
life, is a riveting read.
Opera music is no less “otherworldly” to me than before I plunged into
“The One Tenor,” but it is now for me also very passionately human,
which is the most benevolent gift offered by Mr. Perigo, whose work
provides a clear backdrop for what the listener is hearing when their
ears are digesting “Madama Butterfly” or “The Great Caurso.”
For opera and in particular Mario Lanza fans, “The One Tenor” is an
essential read. For the opera-curious, particularly those who are looking
to understand the inner workings of a uniquely powerful and historic
musical artist, Mr. Perigo’s work is just as much required reading.
I highly recommend “The One Tenor” for those who love music and those
who against all obstacles internal and external, passionately perform
music with reckless abandon.