Enrico Caruso was born in Naples Italy in 1873 into a working class neighborhood. His father was a mechanic who expected his son to follow his trade. His mother objected and he was sent to be educated where his clear angelic voice was discovered in a church choir, and his singing career was born.
Whether or not you are Italian or an opera buff, the name of Enrico Caruso is instantly recognized as an international opera superstar. Caruso grew up in the poor streets of Naples where opportunity was hard to come by. He made what he could to help his family survive with a voice that would carry him to all the great opera houses. Caruso would meet the kings and queens of the world during his long career. He even received an Italian Knighthood and accolades from Popes and many other world leaders.
After many successes at all the great European opera houses like “La Scala” in Milan, “Covent Garden” in England, he met the great opera composer Puccini in 1897, who asked him, “Who sent you to me, God?” He was instantly cast as Rodolfo in La Boheme and later he even named his son Rodolfo after that role.
While listening to his gramophone recording of “La Juive” (The Jewess) by Eugène Scribe, a French composer in French, as the voice Rabbi Eliezer, comes across with an acting skill unknown by opera singers of that time. Before he sang the role he went into synagogues and studied the rituals and feel of Jewish life and took the music and librettos to heart. He raised the singing and acting into the new and unknown level and heights that still influence opera singing today.
Caruso’s adopted City of New York worshipped him as an international star where his dominance of opera at the Metropolitan Opera House was supreme. With the invention of the gramophone, his voice was broadcast to an audience of millions far beyond the accommodations of the largest opera houses. When he came to Boston, his popularity and wealth were showcased with his-own personal railroad car landing alongside the then most luxurious Lenox Hotel where he rented an entire floor in 1907.
In the North End of Boston, folklore has it that when cashing a check, he had no identification, and so he started singing as proof and his check was cashed. Visiting Mexico City, the demand was so great that his concert had to be moved to a bullfight ring to accommodate the enormous throng of ordinary people waiting to hear him sing.
His health worsened in his later career, and he was sickened for months until finally rallying and singing again for two years. On August 8, 1921, after the second bout with pleurisy, the Great Caruso succumbed at the Vesuvius Hotel in Naples. His power, color, timbre, everything he had, was silenced and the Great Caruso was dead.