August 13, 1921
Page 3
The Beloved Tenor: A Budget of Anecdotes

AMONG the mourners who watched in silent grief the passing of Naples’ greatest son, attended with observances rare even when the potentate has lain upon the catafalque, have been those who, not always with dry eyes, recalled some incident, some scene, in Caruso’s life. There are brief tales which have their movement in colorful environment; short stories, consisting of a quip, a flash, an evidence of the naïve wisdom which illumines the way of the great. There are accounts of these personal idiosyncrasies which added piquancy to the character of Caruso. There are, too, those recent statements of the wounded hero, returned Ulysses-like to the shores of his youth, which breathe a touching faith in the certainty of future voyages. All these—the matter of a literature yet unpenned—summon back momentarily from the untraveled country the sunny, simple and great figure of a beloved artist. * * *
CARUSO WAS MANNA to the newspaper man. He was always good for a story, and every reporter relished the assignment to meet the vessel on which the tenor would arrive in this country after his periodic absences. Caruso would be found amid his valets and trunks, bright and smiling at the sight of his interviewers. He would invariably bring out a fund of new stories to regale the reporters, and there was always something in his remarks that would make good copy. * * *
A PROPOS OF THE “favorite role,” which usually resolves itself into the question of the most successful rôle, Caruso declared that he had no such predilection. Unlike Dalmores (who declared that he liked them all), the Italian tenor once wrote dryly to Maurice Halperson, the New York critic, that he was “fond of none of them”—least of all, of that he was just about to sing! * * *
THE SINGER WAS rather proud of his magnificent jewelry. Indeed it was an essential detail in the picture of the great Caruso of a few years ago, as he sauntered on Fifth Avenue or Broadway, carefully tailored and, at one period, wearing an inseparable green Fedora hat. One night when he was wearing his emeralds at the opera, Edward L. Bernays remarked that the stones were as fine as those of the once-famous “Diamond” Jim Brady. “They are better,” replied Caruso earnestly, “much better!” * * *
A LITTLE MORE than a year ago, burglars entered the Caruso mansion at East Hampton, L. I., and escaped with jewels valued at close to half a million dollars. Mrs. Caruso in great trepidation cabled to her husband, who was then singing in Havana. By return cable came the tenor’s response: “Never mind; we’ll get some new ones.” * * * v
DR. WILLIAM LLOYD, a London throat specialist, who treated Caruso, said that, while he demanded huge fees for his concerts, he cared very little for money. “I have known him refuse $10,000 to sing at a Sunday afternoon concert in Albert Hall with the remark, ‘I am too tired.’ Again I made him an offer of $20,000 on behalf of Sir Oswald Stoll to sing in London, but he refused. ‘Too much money,’ he said, and waved the offer aside.”
CARUSO TOOK PLEASURE in his rôle of Nemorino in “L’Elisir d’Amore,” revived at the Metropolitan in January, 1917. It provided opportunity for his engaging mischief. His singing of the well-known aria, “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” always brought ecstatic applause. To cries for repetition he would be impervious. He remained sitting motionless on the curb of the village “well” whither the “business” of the opera called him. On one occasion he explained in English that Gatti did not permit encores to be given! After this interpolation the piece proceeded. * * *
ALBERT REISS, the tenor, used to tell about an occasion when Caruso jokingly consented to sing for him the Serenade offstage of Peppe in “Pagliacci.” Reiss said that there was always a notable lack of applause when he himself gave it, and he wished to see whether it was because he was singing it badly. The superb presentation Caruso gave it aroused not a bit more enthusiasm—an illustration of what lurks in a name. At another time, when de Segurola was having some difficulty with his part in “Bohème” because of an indisposition, Caruso stood near him in the wings and sang the “Coat Song,” while the basso contributed the action of the part. * * *
WHEN HE WAS TWELVE years old, because of a difference with his schoolmistress, Caruso was removed from school and apprenticed to an engineer. The drudgery of bending over a draughtsman’s board, he confessed in later life, was very distasteful to him. He wanted to go to sea, and passed his happiest time in moments on the wharves of Naples, looking out over the blue water that was to bear him to future conquests! But it was from the draughtsman’s board that he acquired the technique that afterwards served him in producing those clever caricatures with which he amused himself and his friends. * * *
CONFIDENT he was on the road to recovery, he spoke gaily to newspapermen at Sorrento only a week before his death. He was questioned regarding an Egyptian cigarette that he was smoking, and responded: “Of course I smoke. What! Do you think I am sick? Every morning I have my sun bath, and every afternoon my massage. In a week or so I shall begin setting-up exercises, but I am not quite up to it at present. In the afternoon I also do my correspondence, and in the evening, if there is nothing on at the little village theater here in Sorrento, I go to bed early. Quite a normal life, you see. Doctor? I have no doctor. I take care of myself, or rather Mrs. Caruso and my valet take perfect care of me.” * * *
“ONE NIGHT I dreamed I was dead,” he told the interviewers, recounting an experience of last winter. “It was when my illness was at its height. I seemed to be buried and, strangely enough, could at the same time see my bas-relief carved on the top of my tombstone. It seemed so calm and peaceful to be dead—no more suffering. I woke up to find Mrs. Caruso looking anxiously into my face. I told her that one experience beyond the grave would be sufficient for me for some time, and from that moment I have been improving.” * * *
CARUSO WAS FASTIDIOUS in the matter of hotel accommodations, and this may have accounted in part for his early disinclination to make recital tours. Upon one occasion the suite reserved for him disclosed nothing more commodious than a so-called “three-quarter” bed. “I will have a double bed!” cried the singer, “and, what is more, I wish three mattresses and fifteen pillows.” These were provided. * * *
DURING THE WAR, the tenor was most influential in lending aid to the cause of the Allies. On one occasion, returning from a concert tour, he greeted his secretary with the demand, “Have you bought the war bonds for me?” Upon being told that these had been purchased to the amount of $10,000, the great tenor said, “That is fine.” At a War Relief Bazaar for his own countrymen, in 1916, he auctioned off sketches he had made, some of them bringing $1,000. In 1918, Caruso announced that he would send his autograph to anyone who sent a stamped and addressed envelope to his secretary. “But,” he added, “you must also send a nice present for the Red Cross, or you won’t hear from me!”
A SHARP BARGAIN was not out of the province of the singer. During his recent convalescence in Sorrento, he delighted in visiting shops and joking with the proprietors. A yachting cap which pleased him was priced at 100 lire. “I’m not an Englishman or an American! Have you forgotten I’m a Neapolitan?” he replied. “Here's twenty lire.” In the end, the storekeeper capitulated. * * *
THE COUNTRY LIFE always appealed to him. Among the estates he left is the large one, “Bellosguardo,” near Florence, upon which are great vineyards and orchards, as well as fields of grain. (There are also marble fountains and groves inhabited by nightingales.) His knowledge of details of agriculture was very accurate. And his native Napoli always remained in memory as the land in which he wanted to breathe his last. Even just before his death, he was planning a happy excursion to the country. “I want to do a little work with a shovel,” he explained, “and set a good example to the folk!” * * *
THE TENOR WAS devoted to his two sons, and in particular supervised their education very carefully. During the war, he was notified of the enlistment of the elder son, whom he had named Rodolfo, after the character in “Bohème,” a congenial rôle. He had been studying for a naval career at Leghorn, Italy. “Perhaps my other boy will be a warrior soon,” said Caruso seriously, in an interview given at the time. “He is a Boy Scout now. Who can tell?” * * *
CARUSO NEVER WORE a laundered collar because they chafed his neck, according to Constantin J. Sperco, a New York importer, and a close friend of the singer. His collars were made to order at $1.25 each. He had hundreds of neckties, none of which cost less than $8. His wardrobe was lavish, and was one of the things upon which he prided himself. * * *
CARUSO was among those who suffered inconvenience in the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. The artist was singing with an opera company there, and was staying at the old Palace Hotel at the time. The quake occurred in the early morning. Caruso, clad in pajamas, made his escape from the building, after rescuing first a photograph of William McKinley, inscribed by that President especially for him. This was his chief treasure, it seemed. There had been mutual admiration between the two men before the tragic end of McKinley. * * *
ON A SHOPPING TOUR, Caruso once expressed a desire for a particular brand of toilet water, according to an anecdote recalled by Mr. Bernays. He found, upon inquiry, that only very small bottles were at that time in stock. Not at all perturbed, he requested a gallon which was wrapped up with some difficulty. The tenor took his dignified departure, with a great parcel. * * *
CARUSO’S “ATTACK” was tremendous, especially in his “middle” period. He often recounted stories of his early vocal training in Italy, and used to tell how he had acquired his robust style of vocalism. It appears that the great conductor Lombardi told him shortly after his début that he must think of himself, when before an audience, as a toreador, confronting the natural skepticism of his listeners with an onslaught of tone! This advice, he said, he always remembered. * * *
A DEEP-SEATED SYMPATHY for the poor was a characteristic of the tenor. On his return to America after his Neapolitan villa had been sacked, he remarked, “Oh, they were not Reds; just poor people. They came to the gate and told my farmer they were hungry. He gave them some wine and something to eat. Then they told everybody in Naples, and a mob came back—hundreds of them. But this time they didn’t wait for the farmer. No, they didn’t steal. They just took away all the wine. I suppose it was all right; they liked my wine.”
DESPITE HIS NONCHALANCE in regard to danger, Caruso was said to have been mortally afraid of draughts. Upon one occasion; a sudden gust of air in a public dining-room, when a window behind the singer’s chair was opened, sent him without preliminary upon his knees under the table! Perhaps he had many singing engagements to fulfill at the time; at least, he could not be persuaded to come forth before the threatening breeze had been stopped. Arising, he smiled blandly upon the amazed elite! * * *
PUBLIC INTEREST naturally resulted in many calculated encounters and requests. On a Western concert tour, a serious individual in a slouch hat, it is said, confronted him upon his return to a hotel where he was staying. This person bore a long and carefully indicted list of “encores” which the great Enrico was not to fail in delivering at a forthcoming concert. They included many outrageously popular ballads. The stranger exclaimed that he had invested in ten dollars’ worth of tickets, and wished to make sure of the quality of the entertainment! * * *
ONE DAY the representative of a voice-reproducing company called on the singer to offer him a new exclusive contract. “Twenty-five thousand dollars just for a new contract,” mused Caruso. “And will you let me write my own contract? No? Well, see this contract.” Caruso pulled over a piece of paper and wrote: “For the rest of his life Caruso sings only for you.”
“That wouldn’t be a legal contract,” said the representative. “It’s indeterminate.”
“Then fifty years,” said Caruso.
“Twenty-five would be better,” replied the representative.”
“All right, twenty-five years,” replied Caruso, “and never mind bringing that $25,000 check. Caruso has confidence in you.” * * *
THE TENOR SUFFERED attention at various times from fanatics. Several years ago a person signing himself, “A Friend,” modestly asked him for $10,000, in letters sent daily for two weeks. The arrangements for accepting this wee gift were most elaborate. Caruso was directed to go to Jamaica, L.I. some morning at three o’clock, bringing the money, and to proceed with it through the town until some one greeted him with the words, “I am the man.” Otherwise, he was to be killed. It is said that the tenor paid little attention to the blackmailer’s eloquence! * * *
A STUDENT RECALLS an interesting; glimpse of Caruso’s most human; side. Serving one evening as super “for a lark,” when the Metropolitan company presented “Faust” in Philadelphia, this student happened to stand backstage under the window of the philosopher’s study. Suddenly the face of Caruso was thrust forth, to gaze ostensibly on earth’s beauties once more before suicide. In a pause between superb song, the tenor gratefully drained a flagon of beer proffered by one of the chorus, who had been commissioned to bring refreshment at this very juncture!
Nothing Expressed Carusos Genial Laughing Nature Better Than His Cartoons. He Delighted to Employ His Skillful Pencil in Caricatures of His Friends. He Had a Quick and Humorous Eye and the Drawings Here Reproduced by Courtesy of Marziale Sisca, President of “La Follia di New York,” from a Book Devoted to This Phase of Caruso’s Activities, Show What a Fantastic Line He Sometimes Described. In No.1 He Gives an Odd Impression of the Faithful William J. Guard, Press Representative of the Metropolitan. Nos. 2 and 3 Are Snapshots at Royalty with Astigmatic Lens: Alfonso of Spain and the Late Czar Nicholas II. No. 4 Is Mascagni; No. 5, a Self-Portrait; No. 6, Toscanini; No. 7, Richard Strauss; No. 8, Gatti-Casazza Addressing His “Children”; No. 9, Alessandro Bonci; No. 10, Charpentier; No. 11, Caruso and Farrar at Rehearsal, and No. 12, Giorgio Polacco


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