Robert Merrill on Mario Lanza

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Tony Partington

Feb 7, 2024, 3:24:43 PMFeb 7
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hello Folks,

This may be old news to some, but I had not read Robert Merrill's autobiography (sort of), ONCE MORE FROM THE TOP. Published in 1965, Merrill does mention Mario and I think, all considered, sums him up pretty accurately. Merrill was nobody's fool. He was a Brooklyn boy who ultimately had to decide between baseball and opera. Fortunate for us he made the choice he did. I would have loved to have heard Lanza and Merrill in the duet "Si pel ciel"! 

Anyway, here are scans of the two pages of Merrill's book Mario is mentioned on. Interesting I think.


RM on ML (2).jpg
RM on ML (1).jpg

Derek McGovern

Feb 7, 2024, 10:02:22 PMFeb 7
to Mario Lanza, Tenor
Hi Tony: Thanks for sharing those pages. Merrill also writes about Mario in his later book, Between Acts...

I feel that Merrill shortchanges Mario a bit here. Calling him "a peasant" is unfair and reeks of snobbishness. It's also a different assessment from, say, that of conductor John Green or FTFT screenwriter Andrew Solt, who found Mario "highly intelligent and very fast and funny."  

Merrill also downplays his and Margolis' reaction to Mario's voice here, as "impressed" is quite an understatement compared with the account he gives in Between Acts:

"What a gift he had! He could have been at home in any opera house in the world. . . . Margolis, a better judge than I, seemed confident that Lanza might have become another Caruso."

My other issue with what Merrill writes here is that he gives ammunition to Mario's detractors with his claim that he was disinclined to polish his singing. He completely overlooks the 15 months of dedicated voice study that Mario had with Rosati from 1946 to 1947 (and which he was surely aware of), plus the fact that Mario worked with coaches throughout his adult life, most notably perhaps with Giacomo Spadoni from 1948 to 1957, but even quite diligently in the last 18 months or so of his life.

Merrill clearly liked Mario, but I feel that he could have chosen his words better!


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