Setting the record straight……..
It is said that Cristian Lanza’s father was the singer Rico Lanza (15 Sept 1945 - 15 Oct 2005), who claimed to be Mario Lanza’s illegitimate son.
The following information on Rico Lanza is based on two German newspaper articles, the one printed in the 1970s, the other one in 2005.
Rico was born in Naples as Federico Camera.
Around 1970, hoping for a better life, Rico and his wife Rita (son Cristian is two years old at this time) decide to leave their residence in Rome and move to Weilerswist (20 kilometers away from Cologne), Germany, where he works as a truck driver (cement mixer truck).
Rico’s mother, Ary Camera, had already passed away, having left a lot of debts (due to a few stays in hospitals) which Rico hoped to pay off by working in Germany. According to Rico Lanza, his mother had a love affair with Mario Lanza during Mario’s army times in Texas (his name then was Alfred Cocozza!) which resulted in Mario fathering a child, its name: Federico Camera.
As it happened, one day, Rico was discovered by a local banker in a bar, when just out of fun playing the piano and singing a song ("O sole mio," what else?!!). Rico was signed for contract by the WDR (a German radio and TV station) to record 4 songs (his first song was titled “Serenata”), and also for a 4-year-contract by the record label Electrola. This brought him to the attention of some opera experts, among them professor Rolf Liebermann, then impresario of the Hamburg State Opera. After an audition Liebermann arranged for him a two-year scholarship of the “Förderkreis of the Hamburger Staatsoper), which was combined with a financial monthly support donated by a patron of the arts from Hamburg.
Liebermann commented in 1971: “We will have him trained at the Hamburg State Opera for one year, and another year probably in America, maybe at the Metropolitan Opera. “
Rico’s voice teacher was Dietger Jacob who said about Rico: “An incredible talent who makes fast progress. A lot can be expected from him.”
By the meantime, Rico had given up his job as a truck driver and earned some extra money by singing in discos or at local events.
Rico’s recordings that I am aware of are (singles 7”):
Solare/Canzone d’amore (Columbia, 1971) Serenata/Buona sera, Serafina (Columbia, 1971) Mama Dolores (Columbia/Emi Electrola, 1973) Sag Ja zu mir (Speak Softly Love), Theme Song from “The Godfather” (Columbia/Emi, 1972) Donna Maria/Adios Conchita (Emi, Columbia, 1973)
It appears that Rico indeed studied music for at least one year, and then he disappeared suddenly after having caused some trouble. There was talk about a love affair with a rich business woman and great embezzlement that Rico was accused for. He fled to Rome and would only re-appear in 1982 after the problems had been settled by agreement of all parties involved.
Yet, Rico failed to resume his career and eventually returned to Italy, working in a pizzeria and at a pasta-producing company. In 1996 Rico returned to Weilerswist where all had started years ago. I understand friends supported him financially to enable him to record a CD (yet, I could not find any evidence of the existence of such an album!). Rico appeared at some local TV and radio stations, but due to all the scandals that surrounded him he was rejected by most of the TV/radio stations. Rico then run a restaurant in Eschweiler (near Aachen) for a short while, which gave him the opportunity to entertain the guests with his singing. Yet, he was only moderately successful.
Apparently, Rico went to South Africa and later would return to Germany to buy a castle in the eastern part of Germany.
Rico Lanza died in 2005 in Lichtenbusch, Belgium, at the age of 60 having suffered a heart attack. He never was able to prove the claim of being Mario’s illegitimate son.
Cristian Lanza is a tenor, born in Rome probably in the late 1960s, and gives concerts, with the main focus on German venues. He and his management are based in Eschweiler, the place where Rico once run a restaurant. In 2012 Cristian recorded his first album, “Emozione Italiana.” Newspapers and his management always promote his concerts by calling him “Mario Lanza’s grandson.” Not much information can be found about Cristian’s life, he keeps his age and details about his family background as a complete secret.
Photos of Rico Lanza can be found on the web. Just google his name. On you-tube you might find some videos too. Incidentally, it appears that the Rico/Cristian Lanza story has nothing to do with the “prostitutes story” that occasionally circulates in the Lanza world. This story-if it happened at all- only occurred in the late 1950s … Another time, another story …….
If it's of any interest, when Lanza performed in Erie in 1945, he stayed at my grandfather's home. Family lore has it that Lanza was a very gregarious house guest, who kept everyone up late with stories and conversation.