pars media // films // Belcanto - The Tenors of the 78 Era // 1 Caruso (1873-1921)

scene: A gathering of older New York Italians in Luigi Rossi’s store, Grand Street, Litle Italy. Caruso had become the figure of identification for Italian immigrants in New York at the beginning of the century.

music: Meyerbeer, Verdi, Donizetti, Cardillo, Halévy, Leoncavallo

analysis: Una furtiva lagrima (L’Elisir d’amore, Donizetti), 1904

Quotes from the film's exposition...
Caruso was trained in the old school of belcanto, singing on the breath. He used that technique even up to his last recordings but fused it with the expressive gestures of verismo. Aesthetically, it was bold - but brillantly bold. (Kesting)
Caruso was critisized in Naples for being in essence a vulgar singer because he did not do the diminuendos of, say, Fernando de Lucia. Caruso provides many thrills. But on balance his effect on singing was to make it less expressive, less interesting certainly from a musical point of view because Caruso tended to sing at full volume most of the time. (Zucker)

...from its confrontation...
Fred Gaisberg travelled to the Continent to record great singers. In Milan, "Caruso poured the liquid gold of his voice onto the wax cylinders which we couldn't change as fast as he sang". He sang ten arias in half an hour and picked up hundred pounds. Three months later the company had made 15.000 pounds. (Kesting) Once he came to the Met this was his opera company. If you think in terms of todays singers - they don't devote themselves to one company. They fly everywhere. Caruso came to New York in October, usually, he stayed until the end of April and he averaged more than fifty performances a season. (Tuggle)

...and from its resolution
The great success of Caruso led the tenor voice to become a media phenomenon, as René Leibowitz once wrote. So Caruso, who had had such extraordinary success on stage and had outshone all his contemporaries, was the singer to imitate. In the Twenties, Caruso's Canio aria was imitated for the Caruso sob, not for his phrasing. (Kesting) Caruso is the archetype tenor. (Scott) When you were in the audience you became part of Caruso. You felt that you were inside his body. It was a subnormal voice. It would open up after you thought it was finished. That was Caruso's voice. (Sisca)