Mario Lanza's birthplace is on Christian Street in Philadelphia. The future singer.actor was born here, as Alfred Cocozza, on January 31, 1921. His parents, Antonio Cocozza and Maria Lanza, were Italian immigrants who instilled an appreciate of music in their young son. He began appearing in local opera productions for the YMCA Opera Company in his teens. He caught the attention of Boston Symphony conductor Serge Koussevitzky who helped arrange a full scholarship for Alfred to the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Massachusetts. His opera debut was at the Berkshire Music Festival on August 7, 1942 in The Merry Wives Of Windsor. Around this time he changed his name to Mario Lanza, as a tribute to his mother. Touring soon followed, then a time in the service during World War II, and eventually a contract with MGM in the late 40's.