Building a career on “A voice blessed by God”
While in New York for test recordings with RCA, Mario made a living by giving the occasional concert and singing on the radio. He knew he had a great tenor voice, and felt in his heart of hearts he was destined to be the American Caruso. But he was a young man who loved the good life, somewhat brash and undisciplined. His voice needed to be tamed – and he knew it. As luck would have it, he was introduced to Sam Weiler, a wealthy real estate businessman and philanthropist who once dreamed of becoming a great tenor himself. He would become Mario’s mentor, patron and business manager. Weiler sent off the young tenor to study with Enrico Rosati, who had taught the Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli – thought to be the great Caruso’s successor at the MET. On hearing Mario sing, Rosati is reported to have exclaimed, “You’re the one I’ve been waiting for. You have a voice blessed by God!” Mario studied with Rosati for a year and then signed up with Columbia Artists which was planning a concert tour of the United States, Canada and Mexico, in which Mario Lanza was to be the tenor of a singing trio.
The Bel canto Trio Concert Tour
On Mario Lanza’s recommendation, his Army pal George London* became the third member of the trio. At about the same time he was also Rosati’s student. From July 1947 to May 1948, they sang opera arias to popular acclaim in cities in the Eastern and Midwestern US, Canada and Mexico. But everywhere they went, it was Lanza who was the star of the show. The concert at the Grant Park Festival in Chicago was most memorable, packing in over 120,000 on two evening performances. The event is still written about even today.
The tour was briefly interrupted in August when Lanza was invited to sing at the Hollywood Bowl. Needless to say, it was a resounding success. Hollywood moguls and celebrities were in the audience. Within days, MGM offered Mario Lanza a contract, hopeful – if not certain – that they had
“a singing Clark Gable.”
*London would later become a renowned bass-baritone singer at the MET. Today there is a George London Foundation which grants one of the prestigious music awards given annually to a talented young opera singer.