Powerful tenor Mario Lanza (born Alfred Coccozza) studied singing from childhood, and in 1942 gained an audition with conductor Serge Koussevitzky; as a result, he won a scholarship and appeared at the Berkshire Summer Festival in Tanglewood. He was soon signed to a concert tour contract by Columbia, but the tour was interrupted by his World War II service. After his discharge, MGM signed him to a film contract and he starred in a number of tailor-made musical vehicles, beginning with That Midnight Kiss (1949). For several years he was greatly popular; his muscular appearance and powerful voice won many fans, and his rise was rapid. However, personal problems and his struggle with obesity led to a dramatic, quick decline in his career. By the late-'50s he was appearing only in minor films. He died at 38 from a heart attack.