- Category : Singer - Classical
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Split - Small (6)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Planning 1
Enrico Caruso (February 27 (sometimes 25 depending sources), 1873 – August 2, 1921) was an Italian opera singer and one of the most famous tenors in history. Caruso was also the most popular singer in any genre in the first twenty years of the twentieth century and one of the pioneers of recorded music.
Caruso's popular recordings and his extraordinary voice, known for its range, power, and beauty, made him one of the best-known stars of his time.
During his career, Enrico Caruso made over 260 recordings and made millions of dollars from the sale of his 78 rpm records. While Caruso sang at many of the world's great opera houses including La Scala in Milan and Covent Garden in London, he is best known as the leading tenor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City for 17 years. Conductor Arturo Toscanini, who conducted some of the operas that Caruso sang in at the Met, considered him one of the greatest artists he had ever worked with.
Caruso was baptized in the Church of San Giovanni e Paolo on February 26, 1873, having been born in Naples, Italy, one day earlier. He began his career in Naples in 1894. The first major role that he created was Loris in Giordano's Fedora, at the Teatro Lirico in Milan, on November 17, 1898. At that same theater, on November 6, 1902, he created the role of Maurizio in Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur.
In 1903, with the help of his agent, the banker Pasquale Simonelli, he went to New York City, and, on November 23 of that year, he made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera as the Duke of Mantua in new production of Verdi's Rigoletto. The following year Caruso began his lifelong association with the Victor Talking-Machine Company; his star relationships with both the Metropolitan and Victor would last until 1920. Caruso himself commissioned Tiffany & Co. to produce a 24 kt. gold medal with his profile, as a memento (PER RICORDO) for his friends of his Metropolitan performances.
In April 1906, Caruso and members of the Metropolitan Opera Company came to San Francisco to give a series of performances at the Tivoli Opera House. The night after Caruso's performance in Carmen, the tenor was awakened in the early morning in his Palace Hotel suite by a strong jolt. San Francisco had been hit by a major earthquake, which led to a series of fires that eventually destroyed most of the city. The Metropolitan lost all of the sets and costumes it had brought. Clutching an autographed photo of President Theodore Roosevelt, Caruso made an effort to get out of the city, first by boat and then by train, and vowed never to return to San Francisco; he kept his word.
On December 10, 1910, he starred at the Met as Dick Johnson in the world premiere of Puccini's La Fanciulla del West. On December 11, 1920, during the performance of L'Elisir d'Amore by Donizetti he sufferred a hemorrhage and because of that, after act I of that opera, the audience was dismissed. After that incident he gave only three more performances at the Met, his last one was as Eléazar in Halévy's La Juive on December 24, 1920.
In 1918 Caruso married Dorothy Park Benjamin, who was then aged 25, the daughter of an old-established New York family. They had one daughter, Gloria. Dorothy published a book about Caruso in 1945, which includes many of his letters to her.
Caruso died in 1921 in Naples, at age 48, the cause of Enrico's death was Peritonitis, due to the bursting of an abscess. He is buried in Naples.
Caruso was portrayed by Mario Lanza in a highly fictionalized Hollywood motion picture, The Great Caruso, in 1951.
In 1987, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Caruso was one of seventeen children born to the same parents and the one of three to survive infancy. When he was 18, he used fees earned by singing at an Italian resort to buy his first pair of shoes. He is pictured wearing a bedsheet, draped like a toga, in his first publicity photograph because his only shirt was in the laundry.
Caruso's birthplace in Naples, 7 Via San Giovanella agli Ottocalli, still stands next to the church where he was baptized. His remains were interred in a mausoleum at the cemetery of Santa Maria del Pianto
During a performance in Naples, early in his career, Caruso was booed by the audience because he ignored the custom of hiring a claque to cheer for him. Afterwards, he said he would never again go to Naples to sing, but "only to eat spaghetti."
Caruso performed in Carmen in San Francisco in front of thousands the night before the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Caruso was staying at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco when the earthquake struck. His eyewitness account can be seen here.
Since his death, numerous compilation albums of his work have been created. Certain recordings of his were predominantly used in Woody Allen's Match Point. His recording of O Paradiso is a key part of the play "Awake and Sing" by Clifford Odets.
At a performance of Puccini's La Boheme, the basso onstage lost his voice and Caruso reputedly began to sing his aria "Vecchia zimarra" while the basso mouthed the song. His performance was so appreciated he even went to record it but later asked for it to be destroyed. This recording was recovered and has had several incarnations on LP, including a recital disc published by Club 99 in the 1970s (CL99-60).
According to the website Daily Rotten, on November 16, 1906, Caruso was "charged with an indecent act committed in the monkey house of New York's Central Park Zoo. He was initially accused of pinching a woman's derriere, causing outrage amongst New York high society. The actual story as told by biographer Stanley Jackson is much grimmer . The incident may have been part of an extortion racket. The woman's name was initially given as Hannah Graham, but the name, and her address, proved to be false. Newspapers talked up the incident as they would a scandal involving the Kennedy family or Paris Hilton today. The accusations escalated until Caruso was being accused of child voyeurism.
Caruso must have had problems with very high notes. In his recordings of the tenor's aria in Act I of La Boheme, the high C is replaced by high B, while in Faust he sings the high C in falsetto style, in contrast to Jussi Bjorling and others.
Caruso also had a repertoire of some 521 songs, ranging from classical to traditional Italian folk songs and popular songs of the day. The most often purchased song by Caruso at itunes is the Neapolitan sailor's song Santa Lucia and the universally famous song 'O Sole Mio.
Caruso was one of the first star vocalists to make numerous recordings. He and the disc phonograph did much to promote each other in the first two decades of the 20th century. His 1907 recording of Vesti la giubba from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci was the world's first gramophone record to sell a million copies. Many of Caruso's recordings have remained in print since their original issue a century ago.
His first recordings, made in 1902, were for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company. He began recording exclusively for the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1904. While most of his early recordings were made in typically cramped studios in New York and Camden, New Jersey, Victor began to occasionally record Caruso in the old Trinity Church in Camden, which could accommodate a larger orchestra. His final recordings were made in September 1920 and the last two selections were excerpts from the Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle. Caruso's conductors in his recordings included Walter B. Rogers and Joseph Pasternack.
RCA, which purchased the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1929, later took some of the old discs and over-dubbed them with a modern orchestra. Several previously unreleased Caruso discs continued to appear as late as 1973. In 1950, RCA reissued some of the fuller-sounding recordings on vinyl 78-rpm discs. Then, as LPs became popular, many of the recordings were electronically enhanced for release on LP. Researchers at the University of Utah utilized the first digital reprocessing techniques to reissue most of Caruso's Victor recordings, beginning in 1976. Complete sets of all of Caruso's recordings have been issued on CD by RCA, Pearl and Naxos, each using different mastering techniques.