- The following was written by Paul a few months before
he went into the hospital. It was published in the April issue of "The
Legacy of Mario Lanza " newsletter. He was a man of great courage
and truly loved Mario. I think Paul's own words are a fitting tribute
to him. Terry Velda told me that he was very pleased to see this article
in print and I know that he would also be pleased that it was posted
on the Lanza web sites... -Bill
- My Life With Mario Lanza
- By Paul Velda
- This may sound like a strange title for this article,
but I do feel quite justified in using it as I do think I have spent my
life with Mario. Certainly if there had been no Mario, my life would have
been quite different. I'm certain of that. But allow me to start at the
beginning of my "life"
- I am old enough to recall Mario arriving on the music
scene in the very early fifties just as I was leaving school. I have always
been musical and my favourites then were Jolson, Laine, Mitchell, Stafford,
and such like. I knew and sang all their hit songs. Suddenly on a late
night record show came this voice; this unimaginable sound. I was taken
to another world. I had never heard anything so wonderful. I had just
been born. That's the effect he had on me as that incomparable sound burned
into my fourteen year old soul and stayed there. I had a good friend with
similar musical tastes and the next day we talked all day about this magnificent
singer we both had heard. The following day we went to our local record
store and the lady (who of course knew of Mario) played Be My Love Tina
Lina, (which I adored), and Celeste Aida for us.
- This was my first real listen to an operatic aria and
I must say I was not too happy with it! But over the next few days, I
decided I loved Mario's voice so much I would try and buy everything I
could possibly get which included several arias. Needless to say, I soon
became entranced with opera and around this time I bought the two Chenier
arias, which I had never heard before in my life, and nearly drove the
household crazy as I played them over and over again. I adored the Improviso.
The Great Caruso had just been released and it seemed that everyone had
Mario mania. I was totally besotted with him. I adored him.
- Because You're Mine was released and I think I loved
him more at that time then any other. And though I love his voice now,
at that time I thought of him so much and could hear him inside my head
all day long. As the years rolled by, I started work. I was still crazy
about his voice. Some of the old chaps where I worked said Gigli was
far better than Mario. I got very uptight at this and really fell out
with them. I read where he had bad trouble with his studio and I was very
worried about this, but the Student Prince songs arrived which certainly
reduced my anxiety.
- In 1958 he did a concert tour of Europe which of course,
took in the UK. I nearly missed getting a ticket, but to my joy of joys
I did get one and prepared for what I knew would be the greatest day
of my life, and it was! I took a day off my work (I was threatened with
the sack, but did not care) and traveled to the big city of Manchester.
On reaching the Kings Hall, I found I had a very good seat very close
to the stage and when he walked out with Callinicos, I went light headed
and almost passed out! He sang magnificently. I was so proud of him and
so proud to be there as I knew that none of the critics would be able
to say he had sung badly because he sang superbly and did not disappoint
in the slightest. I would have loved to try and see him afterwards, but
the train I had to catch was the last one back from Manchester. I ran
to the station and just about caught it. I was on my own in the compartment
and as the train pulled out, I pulled up my overcoat collar and relived
every moment of the concert and my tears were pretty close. At my work
the next day they all came to ask me about him. I was so pleased to tell
them all about it. I could not stop thinking about it for weeks. I felt
so lucky to have seen him.
- I got married in 1959 and soon a baby was on the way.
My wife was not a great fan by any means. She tolerated him for my sake,
but did not interfere too much. The baby arrived on the 5th of October.
I was just getting used to having a son when my whole world collapsed
around me. I could not believe it. To say I was devastated was to put
it mildly. I asked my wife if we could name the boy after Mario. She looked
a little apprehensive, but she was OK with giving him the second Christian
name of Mario. But the following day she said there were plenty of Mario's,
but only one Lanza so he got the second Christian name of Lanza. I thought
this was tremendous coming from a twenty three year old girl who was not
really a fan and again my tears were fairly close. Very unfortunately
she passed away three years later.
- At this time I toyed with the notion of having a tattoo
for him, but it was a year before I had my upper left arm permanently
tattooed with "LANZA FOREVER" for all to see. I married again
in the late sixties, and in 1992 as a wedding anniversary surprise present
my wife decided we would go to America for the first time to the Mario
Lanza Ball. Imagine my excitement! We spent a week in New York where we
saw Pavarotti in Tosca at the Met then on to Philadelphia for a week and
my first Ball. It was all so magical. Over the years we have managed to
get to six Balls with lovely trips to New York where we saw Domingo several
times, Walkure (superb) Fedora plus other great singers. Because of Mario
my love of opera knows no bounds. Then in 1994 we went to New Orleans
and I got into the auditorium where Mario sang his Madama Butterfly but
unfortunately we were about a month late as the place was being torn
apart by building contractors. We then carried on to Los Angeles and had
the great pleasure of lunch and a day with Mario's eldest daughter Colleen.
I also got to sing with her. What a bundle of fun she was. Later in the
week we had lunch with his other daughter Elissa and Terry Robinson at
her house . It was around this time that a new star for Mario was unveiled
in Palm Springs which we saw. Our last trip to the US was in January 2005
when the Metropolitan Opera Guild honored Mario with a tribute for him
at Alice Tully Hall. It was a surprise trip which my wife secretly organized.
This was a wonderful event with lots of celebrities from Mario's life
- Now, in more recent times we have CD's and DVD's of him
which are beautiful to hear and see. My email address is a further tribute
to him. (email@example.com)
- All these marvelous things would not have happened without
Mario. I am delighted to say it has been a wonderful life with MARIO LANZA!
- I would like to thank Paul for this heartfelt and moving
article. He is a devoted fan and has promoted Mario for many years. Paul
is also a very gifted performer with a fine tenor voice. The photo below
is from the 2003 Mario Lanza Pre-Ball Dinner. -Bill Ronayne