Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Enrico Caruso

On February 25, 1873 Enrico Caruso was born. Third of seven children produced by Anna Caruso, he was christened Errico. Guglielmo Vergine, with whom he began lessons at the age of 16 suggested the name Enrico, the name he would later adopt. Caruso's father, Marcellino, was a mechanic and foundry worker. His father thought his son should adopt the same trade. Caruso worked alongside his father at a factory in Naples for a time. He sang in his church choir, and his voice showed enough promise for him to contemplate a possible career in music. Caruso was encouraged in his musical ambitions by his mother. He worked as a street singer in Naples and performed at cafes and soirees. 

At the age of 22, Caruso made his professional stage debut in serious music. The date was March 15, 1895 at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples. A string of further engagements in provincial opera houses followed. At an early performance in Naples, he was booed by the audience. This incident hurt Caruso's pride. He never appeared again on stage in his native city, stating later that he would return "only to eat spaghetti."

On April 11, 1902 he was engaged by the Gramophone & Typewriter Company to make his first recordings for a fee of 100 pounds sterling. In 1903 Caruso traveled to New York City to take up a contract with the Metropolitan Opera. Caruso's debut at the Met was in a new production of Rigoletto. A few months later, he signed with the Victor Talking Machine Company, and made his first American record on February 1, 1904, Questa O Quella from Verdi's Rigoletto. Caruso was the first gramophone star to sell more than a million copies with his 1907 recording of 'Vesti la giubba' from the opera 'Pagliacci' by Ruggero Leoncavallo.

Caruso was present in San Francisco 1906 the day of the great earthquake. He had appeared in Carmen at the Mission Opera House a few hours before the disaster. He is quoted as saying: "I wake up about 5 o’clock, feeling my bed rocking as though I am in a ship on the ocean, and for a moment I think I am dreaming that I am crossing the water on my way to my beautiful country. And so I take no notice for the moment, and then, as the rocking continues, I get up and go to the window, raise the shade and look out. And what I see makes me tremble with fear. I see the buildings toppling over, big pieces of masonry falling, and from the street below I hear the cries and screams of men and women and children."

Caruso had a repertory of more than 500 songs. They ranged from classical compositions to traditional Italian melodies and popular tunes of the day. On July 11, 1918 Caruso recorded George M. Cohan's WWI patreotic song Over There. Enrico Caruso was a loved performer and was considered the greatest tenor of all times. Part of his success can be attributed to the fact that he was the first opera singer to make a record. At forty-eight years old, Enrico developed a lung problem and had to undergo an operation. He decided to return to Italy for the treatment and to visit his hometown. He made it as far as Sorrento, where he died before being able to get to Rome for his next doctor’s visit.

Over There - Enrico Caruso
Enrico Caruso - Vesti La Giubba (Remastered)  

O Sole Mio   1916

Torna a Surriento

La Bohème: Che Gelida Manina (1906)

Enrico Caruso High C - Faust (Gounod)   1906

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