Enrico Caruso, 2023
This Week in Classical Music: February 20, 2023. Caruso. To our shock, we realized that we’ve by no means written about Enrico Caruso, in all probability the best tenor of all time. (Come to suppose of it, we’ve by no means written about Beniamino Gigli both – we’ll definitely must do it on his birthday, which is available in a month). Caruso was born in Naples on February 25th of 1873, so we’re celebrating not simply any anniversary, however his 150th!
Caruso’s household was poor and had little formal schooling. As a boy, he had a pleasant however small voice, and one in every of his vocal lecturers, upon first listening to him, pronounced that his voice was “too small and sounded just like the wind whistling by way of the home windows.“ As a result of he had little formal vocal coaching, his profession had a bumpy begin. Caruso had strained excessive notes and sounded extra like a baritone than a tenor. His look at La Scala throughout the 1900–01 season in La bohème with Arturo Toscanini was not a hit. Understanding how sensible Caruso’s higher register was as soon as he had totally developed his voice, it’s tough to think about his early struggles.
Caruso sang at a number of premieres: in 1897 in Milan, the title function in Francesco Cilea’s L’arlesiana, and in 1902 on the premiere of Adriana Lecouvreur, additionally by Cilea. It appears that evidently someplace round 1902 Caruso gained full management of his voice and from that time on went from one triumph to a different, singing in Italy, then on the Convent Backyard, and later on the Met. What was once problematic had by then was a bonus: to cite Grove Music Dictionary, “the distinctive enchantment of his voice was, in truth, primarily based on the fusion of a baritone’s full, burnished timbre with a tenor’s easy, silken end, by turns sensible and affecting.”
The Met grew to become Caruso’s important stage: he sang 850 performances there and created 38 roles, some legendary, reminiscent of Canio in Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci, Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème and Cavaradossi in Tosca, and Radames in Verdi’s Aida. A novel side of Caruso’s profession was his relationship with the nascent recording business. In 1903 he signed a contract with the Victor Speaking Machine Firm and later with the associated Gramophone Firm. Throughout his time, all recordings had been made acoustically, with the tenor singing right into a metallic horn (the electrical recording was invented round 1925, after Caruso’s dying). The information contained simply 4 ½ minutes of music, which restricted the repertoire Caruso may report (typically music was edited to suit a report). And naturally, these weren’t high-fidelity information, they distorted the timber of Caruso’s voice and misplaced some overtones. Nonetheless, they proved to be tremendously in style, serving to each the business and the singer. It was mentioned that Caruso made the gramophone, and it made him.
Throughout his profession, Caruso partnered with one of the best singers of his technology, reminiscent of Nellie Melba, Amelita Galli-Curci, and Luisa Tetrazzini. He toured, triumphantly, throughout Europe and South America. Sadly, his profession was brief. In September of 1920, he fell sick with an undetermined inside ache; finally received higher however the December 11th efficiency of L’elisir d’amore needed to be canceled after the primary act, as Caruso suffered throat bleeding. It was later decided that he had pleurisy. His lungs had been drained, and he began recuperating. Caruso returned to Naples in Could of 1921, which in all probability was a mistake: his care there was insufficient, and he died on August 2nd of 1921.
With all of the deficiencies of the outdated recording, we nonetheless can take pleasure in Caruso’s magnificent voice. Listed here are a number of of them. Se quel guerrier io fossi! Celeste Aida, from Act 1 of Verdi’s Aida; Una furtiva lagrima, from Act 2 of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore; La donna è cell from Act 3 of Verdi’s Rigoletto; Ella mi fu Rapita…parmi veder le lagrime, from Act 2 of the identical opera; Addio alla madre, from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana; and Vesti la giubba from Act 1 of I Pagliacci by Leoncavallo.