On October 18, 1810 the parish priest Don Antonio Cao recorded the baptism of Giovanni Matteo, born the day before, legitimate son of the Illustrious Signor Cavaliere Don in the register of the Cathedral of Cagliari. Stefano De Candia from Alghero (Captain and Assistant to His Royal Highness) and Donna Caterina Grixoni from Ozieri . Mario De Candia - destined to become one of the great tenors of the nineteenth century - was born instead 28 years later on the stage of the theater in Rue Lepelletier, in Paris, after the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer had convinced him to make his debut as the protagonist of his opera "Robert le Diable".
De Candia had fled to Paris, abandoning a military career undertaken by family tradition, after having earned a reputation as a rebel and subversive. At the age of 12, at the Military College of Turin, Giovanni Matteo had Camillo Benso di Cavour and Alfonso Della Marmora as fellow students. At 19, transferred to Genoa with the rank of second lieutenant, he met Giuseppe Mazzini and Giacomo Ruffini and approached republican ideals. The calls and threats of his father were useless and - after having seen many of his companions end up in prison - he left his uniform and embarked in Genoa on a fishing boat bound for France. An adventurous escape, first to Marseille and then in 1836 to Paris, where he was welcomed by the community of Italian political exiles.
The penniless young deserter befriended the Marquis De Brême and the princes of Belgiojoso. In the living room of the Belgiojoso house we discussed politics but it was also possible to meet many protagonists of Parisian cultural life: Chopin, Liszt, Rossini and Bellini together with Balzac, George Sand, the two Dumas, father and son.
For some time Giovanni Matteo got by giving fencing and riding lessons, then on a trip to London he tried to enlist in the English army, finally returned to Paris, still penniless . He arrived at the singing by chance, prompted by friends who - enthusiastic about his private performances - predicted sure success. From knight to opera singer: a difficult step for a noble, even if a fugitive. But Giovanni Matteo De Candia - out of need rather than conviction - accepted the challenge and began studying for the stage. In order not to further dishonor the family, he chose the artistic name of Mario and in a letter promised his mother that he would never sing in Italy.