August 6, 1921
Page 2
Once Called “The Broken Tenor,” Caruso Leapt to Operatic Fame

ENRICO CARUSO, the greatest tenor of his day and one of the greatest singers of all time, was born in Naples, Feb. 25, 1873. His father, Marcellino Caruso, was a well-to-do mechanic who knew nothing about music. He was persuaded by the parish priest, however, to let Enrico sing in the choir, which he did until his alto voice began to change into a tenor. It was when about eighteen years of age that the celebrity to be really discovered his voice.
“I used to go down to the seashore every day during the summer with my companions to enjoy a cool bath,” said the tenor, on one occasion. “And at that time, wherever I walked, I was always · singing. If anyone chose to listen to me, all the better; if not, I sang just the same! I can honestly say that in those days I sang with every pore in my body. A young fellow about my own age once spoke to me and asked me why I did not learn to sing, as I had a real tenor voice and could go on the stage and make a fortune. Up to that time I had not thought of it, but the idea pleased me and I willingly accepted the invitation of the stranger, who introduced himself to me as Edoardo Missiano, to go with him to the singing teacher, Guglielmo Vergine at the Naples Conservatory.
Sings for Teacher at Conservatory
“MAESTRO VERGINE was not especially impressed. He said I had a voice ‘of a sort’ but that it was ‘like the gold in the bed of the Tiber, hardly worth drawing out.’ Missiano, however, had taken a fancy to my voice and induced Vergine to hear me again which he agreed to do in five days, but I was forbidden to sing at all during that time.
“When I went again I sang the aria from ‘The Pearl Fishers’ and the Siciliana from ‘Cavalleria,’ then at the height of its popularity. Vergine said: ‘Missiano, I believe that after all you have brought me the right thing. The young man has material but his tone is shrill and whistling. At any rate, I will see what I can do with him.’ And so, I became a free pupil of Vergine who was my first teacher.”
Soon after this, Caruso was called to military service and one of his officers, hearing him sing while at work polishing harness, interested a talented amateur musician in him. In the meantime his mother had died and his father remarried. The boy’s stepmother realized the possibilities of his voice and persuaded his father to try and obtain his release from the army, which he succeeded in doing by having his younger brother take his place. Enrico was thus able to continue his studies with Vergine after an ‘interval of a year and a half, and six months later, in 1894, he made his debut in “L’Amico Francesco” at the Nuova Theater in Naples, but without creating any particular impression, good or bad. For singing the rôle four times he received $40, a pair of shoes, a suit of fleshings and a neckerchief. He was, however, engaged for the opera at Caserta, near Naples, and made his first appearance with the company in April, 1895, in “Faust.” Again he failed to make any particular impression, but the following year he sang at the Fondo Theater in Naples in “Traviata,” “Favorita” and “Gioconda” with some success.
Reverses Opinion of Voice
IN 1896, the opera house at Salerno decided to open their season with “I Puritani,” and Lombardi, the great teacher of singing, was engaged as conductor. Their tenor fell ill at the last moment, and Lombardi, who had heard of Caruso, suggested him. The directors laughed. “The broken tenor!” they said, for Caruso had earned that sobriquet after one of his failures. Lombardi, however, sent for Caruso and after hearing him sing, offered him the engagement. Other engagements followed in other of the smaller Italian cities, and in 1898 he was invited by the publisher, Sonzogno, to sing the rôle of Marcello in Leoncavallo’s “Bohème” at the Teatro Lirico in Milan. He refused at first, as he felt the part did not suit him, but finally sang it on Nov. 8, 1898, and awakened the next morning to find that he had at last achieved a great success. In 1899 he sang at the Carlo Felice in Genoa, in the next two seasons in Petrograci, and from 1899 to 1903 in Buenos Aires.
During the carnival in 1901 he was again at Milan, this time at La Scala, where he sang in Puccini’s “Bohème” and leading rôles in other operas, creating those in Mascagni’s “Le Maschere” and, the fo1lowing year, Franchetti’s “Germania”—he afterwards sang it at the Metropolitan—also in Cilea’s “Adrienne Lecouvreur.” He sang with Melba at Monte Carlo, where he was engaged for four seasons.
On May 14, 1902, he was first heard at Covent Garden, London, and appeared there each succeeding season until 1907, the management at that time declining to re-engage him as they · felt that his fee was excessive. He was heard in the British capital, however, in concerts and private entertainments.
Debut at Metropolitan
CARUSO’S American engagement was delayed through the death of Maurice Grau, who had signed a contract with him. Heinrich Conried, who succeeded Grau at the·helm of the Metropolitan, had never heard the tenor and did not care to take up the contract. It was said, however, that all the Italian friends of Conried in New York told him that Caruso was the greatest living Italian tenor, and, on the strength of their advice, the contract was signed and Caruso made his American debut at the Metropolitan on Nov. 23, 1903, as the Duke in “Rigoletto.”
The phenomenal success he achieved from his first appearance in New York, in spite of certain vocal failings that were commented upon by various critics, never wavered until his last appearance in “La Juive” on Christmas Eve, 1920, when he sang for the last time. There were two intervals in his career, one in 1909, and another in 1911, when he was forced to withdraw from the company during the season and go to Europe for treatment of a more or less serious kind, but in each case the treatment was successful and his voice was unimpaired even by several very delicate throat operations. His répertoire included more than forty operas, many of his rôles being “creations.” At the Metropolitan he sang in the first performances of Puccini’s “Girl of the Golden West,” and Charpentier’s “Julien.”
Three Operatic Periods
HIS career at the Metropolitan falls into three periods, the first of more or less lyric rôles, the middle period when he began to add more dramatic ones, and the third, when his chief successes were in purely dramatic parts. Some few rôles, such as Canio in “Pagliacci,” lasted through all three periods. In the first, some of his principal successes were in “Pagliacci,” “Aida,” “Bohème” and “Rigoletto.” In the middle period, in “Gioconda,” “Armide,” “The Masked Ball,” “The Huguenots,” and “Manon.” The great successes of his final years were “Samson,” “Le Prophète” and “La Juive.” In sixteen years at the Metropolitan he sang 549 times, making fifty-one appearances ·in the 1907-08 season alone.
On Aug. 20, 1918, Caruso was married to Dorothy Park Benjamin of New York, in the Marble Collegiate Church of that city. The marriage had been contemplated for some time but parental opposition delayed it. Mrs. Caruso became a member of the Roman Catholic Church in March, 1919, and the couple were remarried by the ritual of that faith in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, on March 14, 1919. There was an estrangement between Mrs. Caruso and her family, following the marriage, but it has been stated the breach was healed at the time of the birth of their child Gloria on Dec. 18, 1919.
Caruso’s fees as a singer equaled if they did not surpass those of any singer in any era. On two tours to Mexico City he was paid $7,500 a performance, and in Havana in 1919, he made ten appearances at $10,000 each. He was offered $12,000 an appearance to go to Peru but the engagement was never closed. His royalties from his phonograph records have amounted for a number of years to about $100,000 a year.


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