Lis­ten­ing to the great Amer­i­can tenor was a part of Mark Vin­cent’s child­hood, and now the Syd­ney singer has drawn on the leg­end’s ca­reer to cre­ate his lat­est al­bum, writes Matthew West­wood

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Profile - A Trib­ute to Mario Lanza

The opera world has at least two kinds of lin­eage that con­nect the singers of the past with those of the fu­ture. One is ped­a­gog­i­cal: a golden chain of teach­ers and stu­dents that links, for ex­am­ple, the doyenne of teach­ers, Mathilde March­esi, with Nel­lie Melba and later gen­er­a­tions in­clud­ing Joan Suther­land.

The other is a form of trans­mit­ted charisma by which great singers of yes­ter­year in­spire new fol­low­ers via record­ings and film. You can draw a link from En­rico Caruso, one of the first su­per­stars of recorded mu­sic, to Mario Lanza, the glam­orous Amer­i­can tenor who played him in 1951’s The Great Caruso.

Lanza and that hugely pop­u­lar movie would in turn in­spire later gen­er­a­tions in­clud­ing Placido Domingo, Jose Car­reras and An­drea Bo­celli and, later still, young singers such as Syd­ney’s Mark Vin­cent.

You may re­mem­ber Vin­cent as the 15-yearold who sang Nes­sun dorma, and tri­umphed, on the tele­vised con­test Aus­tralia’s Got Tal­ent in 2009. Now 23, he’s al­ready the vet­eran of seven stu­dio al­bums and is about to re­lease an eighth, A Trib­ute to Mario Lanza.

Record­ings by Lanza were part of his grow­ing up in an Ital­ian fam­ily in Syd­ney’s Suther­land Shire, but it was his sing­ing teacher who said to him: “Look, Lu­ciano Pavarotti is amaz­ing, but you have to lis­ten to Mario Lanza.” Soon he was watch­ing The Great Caruso and get­ting ideas about the singer he would like to be.

“He could sing, ob­vi­ously, he looked great on cam­era, and he could act,” Vin­cent says. “He was a Hol­ly­wood phe­nom­e­non.

“I said to my fam­ily, ‘Hope­fully, one day I can fol­low in his foot­steps.’ And af­ter watch­ing that film, I started re­search­ing all about him, lis­ten­ing to more of his reper­toire, and liv­ing and breathing his mu­sic.”

Born in Philadel­phia, Lanza had a bud­ding opera ca­reer that was in­ter­rupted by World War II and then by his greater suc­cess as a con- cert artist and screen star. He was spot­ted sing­ing at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl and was signed by MGM for the stu­dio’s 1949 mu­si­cal That Mid­night Kiss.

Through the next decade, be­fore his un­timely death at just 38, he ap­peared in films in­clud­ing Ser­e­nade, The Student Prince and Be­cause You’re Mine, with their sound­tracks of pop­u­lar arias and songs.

Vin­cent has drawn on Lanza’s song­book for his al­bum, and ad­mits it was dif­fi­cult to cull a list of more than 50 num­bers down to 12.

It in­cludes the Puc­cini arias E luce­van le stelle from Tosca, which Lanza sang in The Great Caruso, and Nes­sun dorma from Ser­e­nade. The open­ing track, Be­cause You’re Mine, is a “vir­tual duet” in which Vin­cent sings with Lanza.

The al­bum chan­nels Lanza’s spirit, but is not a ven­tril­o­quist’s act. Vin­cent says he sings as him­self, while also re­spect­ing the in­tegrity of the mu­sic. ( Nes­sun dorma, though, is what he calls a “disco ver­sion”, an ex­tended play in which he gets to sing the cli­max twice.)

“Re­mem­ber, these songs are clas­sics that peo­ple know,” he says.

“So I didn’t want to play too much with them, but I still wanted to make these songs my own … the al­bum wasn’t rushed, it took a lot of time and ef­fort to make sure it was the right sound, the right ap­proach.”

Vin­cent cred­its his mi­grant grand­fa­ther,


Bruno Ric­cio, as his life’s in­spi­ra­tion. Young Mark worked week­ends at Bruno and his grand­mother An­gela’s Ital­ian restau­rant, and one day his grand­fa­ther over­heard him sing­ing the An­drea Bo­celli-Sarah Bright­man hit Time to Say Good­bye.

“My grand­mother came out and he said, ‘An­gela, our grand­son can sing, he has a beau­ti­ful voice.’ He sup­ported my ca­reer from that very mo­ment.”

Vin­cent made his stage de­but at 21 in the mu­si­cal Dirty Danc­ing, and is cur­rently on tour in Bris­bane with Opera Aus­tralia’s pro­duc­tion of My Fair Lady, sing­ing On the Street Where You Live in eight shows a week.

He loves mu­si­cal theatre — es­pe­cially the big ro­man­tic shows The Phan­tom of the Opera and Les Mis­er­ables — and the big ro­man­tic op­eras of Puc­cini, which he hopes to sing one day.

“They are my dream roles,” he says. “I have al­ways wanted to be in Tosca, Tu­ran­dot and La Bo­heme, they are my top three favourite op­eras of all time.”

Lanza, he points out, was an opera singer be­fore he was a movie star. But Lanza had to make a choice be­tween the al­lure of Hol­ly­wood and the de­mands of the opera house. Just be­fore his death he was plan­ning a re­turn to opera as Canio in Pagli­acci.

Vin­cent may face sim­i­lar choices. Lyn­don Ter­racini, OA’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, says he has “cer­tainly got po­ten­tial” for an opera ca­reer, but will have to de­cide whether to com­mit to the rig­or­ous train­ing re­quired, or to con­tinue as a pop­u­lar cross­over artist.

The boy tenor reck­ons he’s got time on his side.

“I think opera is def­i­nitely later in my ca­reer, when I’m the right age,” he says. “With roles like the lead in Tu­ran­dot, they’re big arias, and if you look at the lead­ing men, they’re at least in their 30s.” Mu­sic on April 14. is re­leased by Sony

Ris­ing opera star Mark Vin­cent

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