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Sunday, 19 January 2014

Enrico Caruso

Enrico Caruso was born in Naples, Italy on February 25, 1873. He was the 18th of 21 children, only three of whom lived beyond infancy.

The family was poor. As a boy, Caruso worked in a machine shop and ironworks. Determined to be a singer, he sang in churches and on street corners to earn money for lessons. When he was called into the army, a high officer was so impressed by Caruso's powerful yet melodic voice that he released him to continue studying.

 In 1894 Caruso made his formal debut in Naples in an unsuccessful opera, L'Amico Francesco.

National acclaim came in 1898 when Caruso created the role of Loris in Umberto Giordano's Fedora.

Caruso became one of the first great singers to make phonograph records, when in 1902 he was engaged by the Gramophone & Typewriter Company to record ten arias in a Milan hotel room, for a fee of £100. These 10 discs swiftly became best-sellers and his fame spread across Europe and America.

Caruso's 1904 recording of "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci was the first sound recording to sell a million copies. This was at a time when it was cheaper to buy tickets to see the tenor live.

In November 1906, Caruso was charged with an indecent act allegedly committed in the monkey house of New York's Central Park Zoo. The police accused him of pinching the bottom of a married woman. Caruso claimed a monkey did the bottom-pinching. He was found guilty as charged, however, and fined 10 dollars, although suspicions linger that he may have been entrapped by the victim and the arresting officer. The leaders of New York's opera-going high society were outraged initially by the incident, which received widespread newspaper coverage, but they soon forgot about it and continued to attend Caruso's Met performances.

Enrico Caruso, c. 1907

Caruso appeared in nearly every country of Europe and North and South America. He sang chiefly in French and Italian, but he also learned seven other languages.

The most famous of nearly 70 roles that Caruso sang were the clown in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Rodolfo in Puccini's La Boheme.

Caruso participated in the first public radio broadcast to be transmitted in the USA when he was heard live from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in 1910.

Caruso practiced in the bath, while accompanied by a pianist in a nearby room. He took two baths a day.

Caruso and Roy Orbison were the only 20th century tenors capable of hitting e over high c.

He was talented at drawing caricatures and published many of them.

Caruso signing his autograph; he was obliging with fans

Caruso had four sons with the Italian soprano Ada Giochetti, of whom two lived.

Towards the end of the First World War, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso met and wooed a New York socialite, Dorothy Benjamin (1893–1955). In spite of the disapproval of Dorothy's patent lawyer father, the couple wed on August 18, 1918. They had one daughter, Gloria Caruso (1919–1999).

Caruso was a heavy smoker of strong Egyptian cigarettes. This habit, combined with a lack of exercise and the punishing schedule of performances that Caruso willingly undertook season after season at the Met, may have contributed to the persistent ill-health which afflicted the last 12 months of his life.

Caruso died in Naples on August 2, 1921 of pleurisy. Following the loss of her husband, Dorothy wrote two biographies on Caruso, published in 1928 and 1945.

Sources Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc, Wikipedia 

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