So, what about his contribution to MUSIC?
His albums were all best sellers. “Be My Love” sold more than any recording artist had ever sold for RCA Red-Seal; and “Loveliest Day of the Year” came a close second – for which RCA awarded him Gold Records. His “Great Caruso” album sold over 1million copies, the most ever for an album of operatic songs.
Of course popular tastes have since changed, and Mario Lanza is long gone. But he and his music did not recede into oblivion. His fans never stopped listening and so his legacy lives on in his songs. Radio stations regularly broadcast Lanza programs, evoking memories of his popular Coca-Cola radio broadcasts of the 1950s; and recording companies continually release digitally remastered Lanza recordings on Compact Disc (there were several new releases in 1998 alone, and Sony Masterworks has released a 2-CD album in August 2013). In the last decade, according to BMG/RCA-Victor, more than 350,000 Lanza CD albums have been sold. NOT BAD for a singer who passed away four decades ago. (Click HERE for a partial Mario Lanza discography.)
Indeed, the singer with the magnificent voice has made a comeback. Turner Classic Movie / Rhino Movie Music, perhaps sensing a rekindled interest in the most popular singer and movie idol of the 1950s, just this October released a CD album of excerpts from the soundtrack recordings of Lanza’s MGM movies – Be My Love: Mario Lanza’s Greatest Performances at MGM. (See discography.) It is the first available soundtrack recording ever. Lanza’s contract with RCA prevented MGM from releasing soundtrack albums, and so the recordings languished in studio vaults for years – Lanza made separate studio recordings of the songs he sang in the movies on the RCA-Victor label. If sales are good, there will be more soundtrack releases. Thus, in death as he did in life, Mario Lanza fills the coffers of his old movie and recording studios (or their new incarnations – Turner Entertainment in MGM’s case and BMG in the case of RCA Victor)
what better indicator than this could there be of Mario Lanza’s immeasurable contribution to popular music?
But… that’s pop music. How about his contribution to OPERA?