Sunday, August 9, 2009

ENRICO CARUSO - O Sole Mio and La donna e mobile)

A voice of the century - ENRICO CARUSO!!

Enrico Caruso sang at most of the world's foremost opera houses, including La Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in London and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, he is best known for being the leading tenor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City for 17 consecutive years. His total Met appearances exceeded 800.

Both Caruso's vocal technique and his virile style of singing were without precedent. They combined like no other the best aspects of the 19th-century tradition of elegant bel canto vocalism with the ardent delivery and big, exciting tenor sound demanded by 20th century composers of verismo opera such as Puccini, Leoncavallo, Mascagni and Giordano. Regarded as a good and attentive musician by his colleagues, he was able to invest his interpretations with an exceptional degree of emotional force without becoming lachrymose or 'hammy'. Judging by contemporary reviews of his Met performances he was an enthusiastic and sincere actor, too, if not always a subtle one.

Enrico Caruso sings O sole mio:

In the book "Caruso's Method of Voice Production" by Dr. P. Mario Marafioti wrote: "Caruso was not a tenor, not a baritone, not a basso; he was a singer who had the vocal characteristics of all three combined. He had a voice which did not recognize scholastic, conventional classifications of registers, and ignored all limitations in its range. He sang the words for themselves for their significance feeling and meaning them. Hence the pathos of his voice, and his superb enunciation, which made the audience understand and feel every word he was singing."

Enrico Caruso sings La donna e mobile:

Excerpts from Wikipedia entry on the great Enrico Caruso:

Life and career

Enrico Caruso came from a poor background. He was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church of San Giovanni e Paolo, Naples, on February 26, 1873, having been born in his mother and father's adjoining flat one day earlier. He was called "Errico" in accordance with the Neapolitan dialect and was known affectionately as "Erri" by his family and friends; but he would adopt the more formal Italian version of his given name, "Enrico", for theatrical purposes.

Caruso was the third of seven children born to the same parents and one of only three to survive infancy. There is an often repeated story of Caruso having had 17 or 18 siblings who died in infancy. The biographers Francis Robinson and Pierre Key both included the story but genealogical research conducted by family friend Guido D'Onofrio has suggested it is false. According to Caruso's son Enrico, Jr., Caruso himself and his brother Giovanni may have been the source of the exaggerated number.[5] Caruso's widow Dorothy also included the story in her book about her late husband. She quotes the tenor as follows about his mother, Anna Caruso (nee Baldini): "She had twenty-one children. Twenty boys and one girl -- too many. I am number nineteen boy."

His father, Marcellino Caruso, was a mechanic, and initially his family thought he should follow the same trade. At the age of 11 he was apprenticed to an engineer named Palmieri, who made fountains. (Whenever visiting Naples in future years, he liked to point out a public fountain that he had helped to install when young.) Caruso also worked alongside his father at the Meuricoffre factory. Under the tutelage of a penmanship teacher from his public school, he learned to write in clear, beautiful script and became a skilled draftsman.[7] During this time, he was also singing in church choirs and planned an alternative career in music, which his mother encouraged.

He took singing lessons with Guglielmo Vergine and Vincenzo Lombardi, and performed in cafes and as a street singer to earn much-needed cash. (When he was 18, Caruso used the fees he earned by singing at an Italian resort to buy his first pair of non-secondhand shoes, while his first publicity photograph, taken during this period, depicts him wearing a bedsheet draped like a toga, because his only dress shirt was in the laundry.)

Caruso made his professional debut in serious music on March 15, 1895, at the Teatro Nuovo, Naples, in a now forgotten opera by Domenico Morelli. At an early performance in Naples he was booed by the audience because he ignored the custom of hiring a claque to cheer for him. 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".

The young tenor worked assiduously to improve his voice production, eliminating a tendency to crack on high notes. He performed in a succession of provincial venues during the second half of the 1890s before graduating to La Scala in December 1900. Non-Italian audiences in Monte Carlo, Warsaw and Buenos Aires also had an opportunity to hear him sing during this youthful phase of his career and, in 1899-1900, he performed in Russia at the Mariinsky theatre in Saint Petersburg and the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow with a visiting troupe of top-class Italian singers.

The first major role that Caruso 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. (He had also hoped to create the part of Cavaradossi in Puccini's Tosca at the Rome Opera in 1900 but the composer, after deliberating hard, chose an older and more experienced tenor instead.)

Caruso remained at La Scala until 1902. He had yet to turn 30 and his voice was still maturing when, in April of that year, he was engaged by the Gramophone & Typewriter Company to make his first recordings, in a Milan hotel room, for a fee of 100 pounds sterling. These discs helped to spread his fame in the English-speaking world (they would also give a significant commercial boost to the fledgling record industry), and he was able to make a highly successful British debut at London's Royal Opera House on May 14 that same year. He then travelled to New York City to take up a contract with the Metropolitan Opera. (His London operatic season had been followed, incidentally, by a sequence of engagements in Italy, Portugal and South America.)

Caruso's Metropolitan Opera contract was negotiated by his agent, the banker/impresario Pasquale Simonelli. On November 23, 1903, Caruso debuted at the Met as the Duke of Mantua in a new production of Verdi's Rigoletto. A few months later, he began a lifelong association with the Victor Talking-Machine Company. He made his first American discs on February 1, 1904, having signed a lucrative contract with Victor. Thenceforth, his stellar recording career would run in tandem with his equally stellar Met career, the one bolstering the other, until death intervened in 1921.

Caruso purchased the Villa Bellosguardo, a palatial country house near Florence, in 1904. The villa became his retreat away from the pressures of the operatic stage and the grind of travel. Caruso's preferred address in New York City was a suite at Manhattan's Knickerbocker Hotel. (The Knickerbocker was erected in 1906 on the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street.) New York came to mean so much to Caruso, he at one stage commissioned the city's best jewellers, Tiffany & Co., to strike a commemorative medal made out of 24-carat gold. He presented the medal, which was adorned with the tenor's profile, to Simonelli as a souvenir of his many acclaimed performances at the Met.

By no means, however, was Caruso's post-1903 career confined exclusively to New York. He performed often in other American cities and continued to sing widely in Europe, appearing again at Covent Garden in 1904-07 and 1913-14 and also thrilling audiences in France, Belgium, Monaco, Austria and Germany prior to the outbreak of World War One. In 1917 he toured South America and, two years later, gave performances in Mexico City.

In 1906, Caruso and other prominent Met artists came to San Francisco to participate in a series of performances at the Tivoli Opera House. Following his appearance as Don Jose in Carmen, he was awakened at 5:13 a.m. on April 18 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 destroyed most of the city. The Met lost all of the sets and costumes that it had brought on tour. Clutching an autographed photo of President Theodore Roosevelt as a talisman, Caruso made an effort to flee the city, first by boat and then by train. He vowed never to return to San Francisco; he kept his word.

Caruso became embroiled in a scandal in November 1906, when he was charged with an indecent act committed in the monkey house of New York's Central Park Zoo. Police accused him of pinching the bottom of a woman described by press reporters as being "pretty and plump". Caruso claimed that 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 alleged victim and the arresting officer. Members of New York's opera-going high society were outraged initially by the incident, but they soon forgave Caruso and continued to patronise his Met performances.

On December 10, 1910, Caruso starred at the Met as Dick Johnson in the world premiere of Puccini's La fanciulla del West. Puccini had written the music for the principal tenor's role in the opera with Caruso's voice specifically in mind. (He sang opposite two of the Met's other star singers at Fanciulla's premiere: the dramatic soprano Emmy Destinn and the Neapolitan baritone Pasquale Amato.) In 1917, Caruso was elected an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the national fraternity for men involved in music, by the fraternity's Alpha chapter at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. That same year, America entered World War One. Caruso did useful charity work during the conflict, raising money for war-related patriotic causes by giving concerts and participating in Liberty Bond drives.

Caruso wed in 1918. His 25-year-old bride, Dorothy Park Benjamin, was the product of a respected New York family. They had one daughter, Gloria Caruso (born 1919). Dorothy published two books about Caruso, one in 1928, the other in 1945, which include many of his touching letters to her. Prior to his marriage to Dorothy Benjamin, Caruso had been romantically tied to an Italian soprano, Ada Giachetti, a few years older than he. Though already married, Giachetti bore Caruso four sons during their liaison, which lasted from 1897 to 1908. Two of these offspring survived infancy: Rodolfo Caruso (born 1898) and singer/actor Enrico Caruso, Jr. (1904). Ada had left her husband and an existing son to cohabit with the tenor. Giachetti's relationship with Caruso broke down after 11 years and her subsequent attempts to sue him for damages were dismissed by the courts.

Privately, Caruso was a jovial if somewhat sensitive person who put a lot of hard work into perfecting his art and mastering new roles. He dressed fastidiously, took two baths a day, and liked good food and convivial company. He sketched for relaxation and the quality of his numerous surviving caricatures suggest that he could have made an alternative living as a professional cartoonist. Dorothy Caruso said that by the time she knew him, her husband's favorite hobby was compiling scrapbooks. He also collected postage stamps, coins, antiques and small art objects, taking pleasure in their beauty. Caruso was a heavy smoker of strong Egyptian cigarettes. This deleterious habit, along with a lack of healthy exercise and the punishing schedule of performances that Caruso willingly undertook each season at the Met, may have contributed to his fatal final illness.

Premature death

During September 1920, Caruso recorded several discs for Victor at Camden's Trinity Church, including sacred music by Rossini; these recordings were to be his last. According to Caruso's wife Dorothy, his state of health began a distinct downward spiral in late 1920 while on a lengthy North American tour. He manifested the symptoms of what appeared to be a heavy dose of bronchitis but his condition worsened just before Christmas, and he began experiencing persistent pain in his left side. Caruso's doctor, Philip Horowitz, who usually treated him for migraine headaches using a kind of primitive TENS unit, diagnosed "intercostal neuralgia" and pronounced him fit to appear on stage, although the pain continued to impede his singing.

On December 11, 1920, during a performance of L'elisir d'amore by Donizetti at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, he had suffered a throat haemorrhage and the audience was dismissed at the end of Act 1. Following this incident, a clearly unwell Caruso gave only three more performances at the Met, the final one being in the role of Eléazar in Halévy's La Juive, on Christmas Eve 1920. (Appearing in the cast that night was the Australian-born coloratura soprano, Evelyn Scotney, who had sung with Caruso a number of times before.

Caruso's health deteriorated further during the new year due to what was now diagnosed as purulent pleurisy and empyema. He experienced episodes of intense pain and underwent seven surgical procedures to drain fluid from his chest and lungs.

He returned to Naples to recuperate from the most serious of his operations, during which part of a rib had been removed. According to Mrs Caruso, he seemed to be recovering, but he allowed himself to be examined by an unhygenic local doctor and his condition worsened dramatically after that. [17][18] The Bastianelli brothers, eminent doctors with a clinic in Rome, recommended that his left kidney be removed. He was on his way to Rome when he stopped over and died in the Vesuvio Hotel in Naples, a few minutes after 9:00 a.m. local time, on August 2, 1921. The Bastianellis attributed the most likely cause of death to peritonitis arising from a burst subrenal abscess.

The King of Italy opened the Royal Basilica of the Church of San Francisco di Paola for the funeral, which was attended by thousands of people. His embalmed body was preserved in a glass sarcophagus at Del Pianto Cemetery in Naples for his fans to view. [21] A few years later, however, Mrs. Caruso had his remains sealed permanently in an ornate stone tomb.