Thursday, August 02, 2007

REMEMBERING ENRICO CARUSO


On this day in 1921, we lost one of he greatest opera singers of all time, Enrico Caruso who died at the tender age of forty-eight of pleuresy. What a tragedy! My father was an avid Enrico Caruso fan and would listen to recordings of his voice on so many evenings back home in San Gabriel, California. H would go into his bedroom, put on one of Caruso's recordings and simply slip away into another world where all of troubles simply disappeared. It was his "peaceful time" Caruso was of course in San Francisco the night before the famous quake there in 1906 singing "Carmen" and thought God had sent the earthquake because He was displeased with what Caruso sang the night berfore. He vowed he would never return to San Francisco and he never did! Some interesting trvia about him: Caruso was one of seven children born to the same parents and the one of three to survive infancy. When he was 18, he used fees earned by singing at an Italian resort to buy his first pair of shoes. He is pictured wearing a bedsheet, draped like a toga, in his first publicity photograph because his only shirt was in the laundry. Caruso's birthplace in Naples, 7 Via San Giovanella agli Ottocalli, still stands next to the church where he was baptized. His remains were interred in a mausoleum at the cemetery of Santa Maria del Pianto During a performance in Naples, early in his career, Caruso was booed by the audience because he ignored the custom of hiring a claque to cheer for him. Afterwards, he said he would never again go to Naples to sing, but "only to eat spaghetti His recording of O Paradiso is a key part of the play "Awake and Sing" by Clifford Odets. At a performance of Puccini's La Boheme, the basso onstage lost his voice and Caruso reputedly began to sing his aria "Vecchia zimarra" while the basso mouthed the song. His performance was so appreciated he even went to record it but later asked for it to be destroyed. This recording was recovered and has had several incarnations on LP, including a recital disc published by Club 99 in the 1970s (CL99-60). According to the website Daily Rotten, on November 16, 1906, Caruso was "charged with an indecent act committed in the monkey house of New York's Central Park Zoo. He was initially accused of pinching a woman's derriere, causing outrage amongst New York high society. The actual story as told by biographer Stanley Jackson is much grimmer The incident may have been part of an extortion racket. The woman's name was initially given as Hannah Graham, but the name, and her address, proved to be false. Newspapers talked up the incident as they would a scandal involving the Kennedy family or Paris Hilton today. The accusations escalated until Caruso was being accused of child voyeurism.Caruso must have had problems with very high notes. In his recordings of the tenor's aria in Act I of La Boheme, the high C is replaced by high B, while in Faust he sings the high C in falsetto style, in contrast to Jussi Bjorling and others. And this one really slayed me! Bob Dylan in a 1965 interview with Time Magazine claimed he was just as good a singer as Caruso.Boy isn't that just like the tangerine saying he was just as good as the entire orchard!

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