About Errico Caruso
Enrico Caruso (February 25, 1873 – August 2, 1921) was an Italian tenor. He sang to great acclaim at the major opera houses of Europe and North and South America. Caruso also made approximately 290 commercial recordings of his voice, beginning as early as 1902 in Italy and continuing from 1904 until 1920 in the United States. All of his known surviving recordings are available today on remastered CDs.
Caruso's 25-year career, stretching from 1895 to 1920, included 863 appearances at the New York Metropolitan Opera before he died from an infection at the age of 48. His fame has lasted to the present day despite the limited marketing and promotional vehicles available during Caruso's era. (He was, nonetheless, a client of Edward Bernays, during the latter's tenure as a press agent in the United States.) Publicity in Caruso's time relied on newspapers, particularly wire services, along with magazines, photography and relatively instantaneous communication via the telephone and the telegraph, to spread a message and raise a performer's profile.
Caruso biographers Pierre Key, Bruno Zirato and Stanley Jackson attribute Caruso's fame not only to his voice and musicianship but also to a keen business sense and an enthusiastic embrace of commercial sound recording, then in its infancy. Many well-known opera singers of Caruso's time rejected the phonograph (or gramophone) due to the low fidelity of early discs. Their voices have been lost as a result. But other singers, including Adelina Patti, Francesco Tamagno and Nellie Melba, exploited the new technology once they became aware of the financial returns that Caruso was reaping from his initial recording sessions.
Caruso made more than 260 extant recordings in America for the Victor Talking Machine Company (later RCA Victor) from 1904 to 1920, and he earned millions of dollars in royalties from the retail sales of the resulting 78-rpm discs. (Previously, in Italy in 1902–1903, he had cut five batches of records for the Gramophone & Typewriter Company, the Zonophone label and Pathé Records.) He was also heard live from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in the first public radio broadcast in 1910.
There is a visual record of Caruso, too. He appeared in newsreels, a short experimental film made by Thomas Edison, and two commercial motion pictures. For Edison, in 1911, Caruso portrayed the role of Edgardo in a filmed scene from Donizetti's opera Lucia di Lammermoor. In 1918, he appeared in a dual role in the American silent film My Cousin for Paramount Pictures. This movie included a sequence of him on stage performing the aria "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci. The following year Caruso played a character called Cosimo in another movie, The Splendid Romance. Producer Jesse Lasky paid Caruso $100,000 to appear in these two efforts but they both flopped at the box office.
While Caruso sang at opera theatres that included La Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in London and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, he is best known for being the leading tenor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City for 18 consecutive seasons.
Caruso's voice extended up to high C in its prime. He sang a broad spectrum of roles in the Italian and French repertoires, ranging from lyric, to spinto, to dramatic parts.
Enrico Caruso came from a poor but not destitute background. Born in Naples in the Via San Giovannello agli Ottocalli 7 on February 25, 1873, he was baptised the next day in the adjacent Roman Catholic Church of San Giovanni e Paolo. Called Errico in accordance with the Neapolitan dialect, Caruso was nicknamed "Erri" by his family and friends; but he would later adopt the formal Italian version of his given name, Enrico. This name change came at the suggestion of a singing teacher, Guglielmo Vergine, with whom he began lessons at the age of 16.
Caruso was the third of seven children born to the same parents, and one of only three to survive infancy. There is an often repeated story of Caruso having had 17 or 18 siblings who died in infancy. Two of his biographers, Francis Robinson and Pierre Key, mentioned the tale in their books but genealogical research conducted by Caruso family friend Guido D'Onofrio has suggested it is false. According to Caruso's son Enrico, Jr., Caruso himself and his brother Giovanni may have been the source of the exaggerated number. Caruso's widow Dorothy also included the story in a memoir that she wrote about her late husband. She quotes the tenor as follows in relation to his mother, Anna Caruso (née Baldini): "She had twenty-one children. Twenty boys and one girl – too many. I am number nineteen boy."
Caruso's father, Marcellino, was a mechanic with a steady job. Initially, Marcellino thought that his son should adopt the same trade and at the age of 11, the boy was apprenticed to a mechanical engineer named Palmieri who constructed public water fountains. (Whenever visiting Naples in future years, Caruso liked to point out a fountain that he had helped to install.) Caruso later worked alongside his father at the Meuricoffre factory in Naples. At his mother's insistence, he also attended school for a time, receiving a basic education under the tutelage of a local priest. He learned to write in a handsome script and studied technical draftsmanship. During this period he sang in his church choir, and his voice showed enough promise for him to contemplate a possible adult career in music.
Caruso was encouraged in his early musical ambitions by his mother, who died in 1888. In order to raise much needed cash for his family, he found supplementary work as a street singer in Naples and performed at cafes and soirees. Aged 18, he used the fees that he had earned by singing at an Italian resort to buy his first pair of new shoes. His progress as a paid entertainer was interrupted, however, by 45 days of compulsory military service. He completed this in 1894, resuming his voice lessons with Vergine upon discharge from the army.
At the age of 22, Caruso made his professional stage debut in serious music. The date was March 15, 1895; the venue was the Teatro Nuovo in Naples; and the work in which he appeared was a now-forgotten opera, L'Amico Francesco, by the amateur composer Domenico Morelli. A string of further engagements in provincial opera houses ensued, and he received instruction from the conductor and voice teacher Vincenzo Lombardi that improved his high notes and polished his style. Two other prominent Neapolitan singers taught by Lombardi were the baritone Pasquale Amato, who would go on to partner Caruso frequently at the Met, and the tenor Fernando De Lucia, who would also appear at the Met and later sing at Caruso's funeral.
Money continued to be in short supply for the young Caruso. One of his first publicity photographs, taken on a visit to Sicily in 1896, depicts him wearing a bedspread draped like a toga since his sole dress shirt was away being laundered. At a notorious early performance in Naples, he was booed by the audience because he failed to pay a claque to cheer for him. This incident hurt Caruso's pride. He never appeared again on stage in his native city, stating later that he would return "only to eat spaghetti".
During the final few years of the 19th century, Caruso performed at a succession of theatres throughout Italy until, in 1900, he was rewarded with a contract to sing at La Scala, the country's number one opera house. His La Scala debut occurred on December 26 of that year, in the part of Rodolfo in Giacomo Puccini's La bohème, with Arturo Toscanini conducting. Foreign audiences in Monte Carlo, Warsaw and Buenos Aires also heard Caruso sing during this pivotal phase of his career and, in 1899–1900, he had appeared before the Tsar and the Russian aristocracy at the Mariinsky theatre in Saint Petersburg and the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow as part of a visiting troupe of top-class Italian singers.
The first major operatic role that Caruso was given the responsibility of creating was Loris in Umberto Giordano's Fedora, at the Teatro Lirico, Milan, on November 17, 1898. At that same theater, on November 6, 1902, he would create the role of Maurizio in Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur. (Puccini considered casting the young Caruso in the role of Cavaradossi in Tosca at its premiere in 1900, but ultimately chose the older and more established Emilio De Marchi instead.)
Caruso took part in a "grand concert" at La Scala in February 1901 that Toscanini had organised to mark the recent death of Giuseppe Verdi. Among those appearing with him at the concert were two other leading Italian tenors of the day, Francesco Tamagno (the creator of Verdi's Otello) and Giuseppe Borgatti (the creator of Giordano's Andrea Chénier). He embarked on his last series of La Scala performances in March 1902, creating the principal tenor part in Germania by Alberto Franchetti. A month later, he was engaged by the Gramophone & Typewriter Company to make his first group of acoustic recordings, in a Milan hotel room, for a fee of 100 pounds sterling. These 10 discs swiftly became best-sellers. Among other things, they helped to spread 29-year-old Caruso's fame throughout the English-speaking world. The management of London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, duly signed him for a season of appearances in eight different operas ranging from Aida by Verdi to Don Giovanni by Mozart. His successful debut at Covent Garden occurred on May 14, 1902, as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi's Rigoletto. Covent Garden's highest-paid diva, Nellie Melba, partnered him as Gilda. They would sing together often during the early 1900s.
The following year, Caruso travelled to New York City to take up a contract with the Metropolitan Opera. (The gap between his London and New York engagements was filled by a sequence of operatic performances in Italy, Portugal and South America.) Caruso's Met contract had been negotiated by his agent, the banker/impresario Pasquale Simonelli. Caruso debuted at the Met in a new production of Rigoletto on November 23, 1903. This time, Marcella Sembrich sang opposite him as Gilda. A few months later, he began a lifelong association with the Victor Talking-Machine Company. He made his first American discs on February 1, 1904, having signed a lucrative financial deal with Victor. Thereafter, his recording career ran in tandem with his Met career, the one bolstering the other, until he died in 1921.
Caruso purchased the Villa Bellosguardo, a palatial country house near Florence, in 1904. The villa became his retreat away from the pressures of the operatic stage and the grind of travel. Caruso's preferred address in New York City was a suite at Manhattan's Knickerbocker Hotel. (The Knickerbocker was erected in 1906 on the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street.) New York came to mean so much to Caruso, he at one stage commissioned the city's best jewellers, Tiffany & Co., to strike a commemorative medal made out of 24-carat gold. He presented the medal, which was adorned with the tenor's profile, to Simonelli as a souvenir of his many performances at the Met.
Caruso's post-1903 career was not confined to New York. He gave recitals and operatic performances in a large number of cities across the United States and Canada and continued to sing widely in Europe, appearing again at Covent Garden in 1904–07 and 1913–14 and also in France, Belgium, Monaco, Austria, Hungary and Germany prior to the outbreak of World War I. At one point, Melba asked him to join her on a tour of Australia but he declined because of the amount of time such a trip would entail.
Eight years before the beginning of World War I, Caruso and other prominent Met artists had gone to San Francisco to participate in a series of performances at the Grand Opera House. Following his appearance as Don Jose in Carmen, he was awakened at 5:13 a.m. on April 18, 1906, in his Palace Hotel suite by a strong jolt. San Francisco had been hit by a major earthquake, which led to a series of fires that destroyed most of the city. The Met lost all the sets and costumes that it had brought on tour. Clutching an autographed photo of President Theodore Roosevelt as a talisman, Caruso made an ultimately successful effort to flee the stricken city, first by boat and then by train. He vowed never to return to San Francisco; he kept his word.
In November 1906, Caruso was charged with an indecent act allegedly committed in the monkey house of New York's Central Park Zoo. The police accused him of pinching the bottom of a married woman. Caruso claimed a monkey did the bottom-pinching. He was found guilty as charged, however, and fined 10 dollars, although suspicions linger that he may have been entrapped by the victim and the arresting officer. The leaders of New York's opera-going high society were outraged initially by the incident, which received widespread newspaper coverage; but they soon forgave Caruso and continued to patronise his Met performances. Caruso's fan base at the Met was not restricted, however, to America's wealthiest stratum of citizens. Members of the country's middle classes also flocked to hear him sing in person or buy copies of his recordings, while he enjoyed a passionate following among New York's 500,000 Italian immigrants.
Caruso starred at the Met as Dick Johnson in the world premiere of Puccini's La fanciulla del West on December 10, 1910. The composer had written the music for the lead role with Caruso's voice specifically in mind. Caruso appeared opposite two of the Met's other elite singers, baritone Pasquale Amato and Czech soprano Emmy Destinn. Toscanini, now the Met's principal conductor, controlled proceedings from the orchestra pit.
From 1916 onwards, Caruso began adding heroic parts such as Samson, John of Leyden and Eleazar to his repertoire, while he planned to tackle Otello (the most demanding role written by Verdi for the tenor voice) at the Met during 1921.
Caruso toured the nations of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in 1917; two years later, he performed in Mexico City. In 1920, he was paid the then enormous sum of 10,000 American dollars a night to sing in Havana, Cuba, according to biographer Michael Scott in his book The Great Caruso (Hamish Hamilton, London, 1988; page 181).
America had entered World War One in 1917, sending troops to Europe. Caruso did charity work during the conflict, raising money for war-related patriotic causes by giving concerts and participating enthusiastically in Liberty Bond drives. The tenor had shown himself to be a shrewd businessman since arriving in America. He ploughed a sizeable proportion of his earnings from record royalties and singing fees into a range of remunerative investments. Scott says that by the end of the war (in 1918), Caruso's annual income tax bill amounted to 154,000 American dollars (see The Great Caruso, page 168).
Caruso wed on August 20, 1918. His 25-year-old bride, Dorothy Park Benjamin, was the daughter of a wealthy New York patent lawyer who disapproved of Dorothy's choice of husband. Their marriage produced a child, Gloria Caruso (1919–1999). Dorothy lived until 1955 and wrote two books about Caruso, whom she had called "Rico" in private life. One of these books was published in 1928, the other in 1945. They included many of his touching letters to her.
Prior to his marriage, Caruso had been romantically tied to an Italian soprano, Ada Giachetti, who was a few years older than he. Though already married, Giachetti bore Caruso four sons during their liaison, which lasted from 1897 to 1908. Two survived infancy: Rodolfo Caruso (born 1898) and singer/actor Enrico Caruso, Jr. (1904). Ada had left her husband, manufacturer Gino Botti, and an existing son to cohabit with the tenor. Fans speculate, based on information in the biography by Michael Scott, that she was his vocal coach as well as his lover. Statements by Enrico Caruso, Jr. in his book tend to substantiate this. Her relationship with Caruso broke down after 11 years and her subsequent attempts to sue him for damages were dismissed by the courts.
A fastidious dresser, Caruso took two baths a day and liked good Italian food and convivial company. He forged a particularly close bond with his Met and Covent Garden colleague Antonio Scotti, an amiable and stylish baritone from Naples (and a fellow Lombardi pupil). Caruso was superstitious and habitually carried good-luck charms with him when he sang. He played cards for relaxation and sketched friends, other singers and musicians. Dorothy Caruso said that by the time she knew him, her husband's favorite hobby was compiling scrapbooks. He also amassed a valuable collection of rare postage stamps, coins, watches and antique snuffboxes. Caruso was a heavy smoker of strong Egyptian cigarettes, too. This deleterious habit, combined with a lack of exercise and the punishing schedule of performances that Caruso willingly undertook season after season at the Met, may have contributed to the persistent ill-health which afflicted the last 12 months of his life.
On September 16, 1920, Caruso attended Victor's prime recording venue, Trinity Church, at Camden, New Jersey, for the final time. He recorded several discs over three days, including the "Domine Deus" and "Crucifixus" from the Petite Messe Solennelle by Rossini. These discs were to be his last. Dorothy Caruso noted that her husband's health began a distinct downward spiral in late 1920 while they were on a lengthy North American tour. He displayed symptoms of what appeared to be a severe episode of bronchitis but his condition worsened just before Christmas, and he began experiencing persistent pain in his left side in addition to his breathing difficulties. Caruso's physician, Philip Horowitz, who usually treated him for migraine headaches with a kind of primitive TENS unit, diagnosed "intercostal neuralgia" and pronounced him fit to appear on stage, although the pain continued to hinder his voice production and movements.
During a performance of L'elisir d'amore by Donizetti at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on December 11, 1920, he suffered a throat haemorrhage and the performance was canceled at the end of Act 1. Following this incident, a clearly unwell Caruso gave only three more performances at the Met, the final one being as Eléazar in Halévy's La Juive, on Christmas Eve 1920. (Also appearing that night was the Australian coloratura soprano, Evelyn Scotney, who had sung with Caruso a number of times.)
Caruso's health deteriorated further during the new year due to what was now diagnosed as purulent pleurisy and empyema. He experienced episodes of intense pain because of the infection and underwent seven surgical procedures to drain fluid from his chest and lungs. He returned to Naples to recuperate from the most serious of the operations, during which part of a rib had been removed. According to Dorothy Caruso, he seemed to be recovering, but allowed himself to be examined by an unhygienic local doctor and his condition worsened dramatically after that. The Bastianelli brothers, eminent medical practitioners with a clinic in Rome, recommended that his left kidney be removed. He was on his way to Rome to see them but, while staying overnight in the Vesuvio Hotel in Naples, he took an alarming turn for the worse and was given morphine to help him sleep.
Caruso died at the hotel a few minutes after 9:00 a.m. local time, on August 2, 1921. He was 48. The Bastianellis attributed the likely cause of death to peritonitis arising from a burst subrenal abscess. The King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, opened the Royal Basilica of the Church of San Francesco di Paola for Caruso's funeral, which was attended by thousands of people. His embalmed body was preserved in a glass sarcophagus at Del Pianto Cemetery in Naples for mourners to view. In 1929, Dorothy Caruso had his remains sealed permanently in an ornate stone tomb.
During his lifetime, Caruso received many orders, decorations, testimonials and other kinds of honours from monarchs, governments and miscellaneous cultural bodies of the various nations in which he sang. He was also the recipient of Italian knighthoods. In 1917, he was elected an honorary member of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the national fraternity for men involved in music, by the fraternity's Alpha chapter of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. One unusual award bestowed on him was that of "Honorary Captain of the New York Police Force". Caruso was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. On February 27 of that same year, the United States Postal Service issued a 22-cent postage stamp in his honor.
Caruso's operatic repertoire consisted mainly of Italian and French works, but in his early career he performed the leading role in Richard Wagner's Lohengrin. Below are the performances by Caruso, in chronological order, of each of the different operas that he undertook on the stage.
L'Amico Francesco (Morelli) – Teatro Nuovo, Napoli, 15 March 1895 (creation of the role)
Faust – Caserta, 28 March 1895
Cavalleria rusticana – Caserta, April 1895
Camoens (Musoni) – Caserta, May 1895
Rigoletto – Napoli, 21 July 1895
La traviata – Napoli, 25 August 1895
Lucia di Lammermoor – Cairo, 30 October 1895
La Gioconda – Cairo, 9 November 1895
Manon Lescaut – Cairo, 15 November 1895
I Capuleti e i Montecchi – Napoli, 7 December 1895
Malia – Trapani, 21 March 1896
La sonnambula – Trapani, 24 March 1896
Marriedda – Napoli, 23 June 1896
I puritani – Salerno, 10 September 1896
La Favorita – Salerno, 22 November 1896
A San Francisco – Salerno, 23 November 1896
Carmen – Salerno, 6 December 1896
Un Dramma in vendemmia – Napoli, 1 February 1897
Celeste – Napoli, 6 March 1897 (creation)
Il Profeta Velato – Salerno, 8 April 1897
La bohème – Livorno, 14 August 1897
La Navarrese – Milano, 3 November 1897
Il Voto – Milano, 10 November 1897 (creation)
L'Arlesiana – Milano, 27 November 1897 (creation)
Pagliacci – Milano, 31 December 1897
La bohème (Leoncavallo) – Genova, 20 January 1898
The Pearl Fishers – Genova, 3 February 1898
Hedda – Milano, 2 April 1898 (Creation)
Mefistofele – Fiume, 4 March 1898
Sapho – Trento, 3? June 1898
Fedora – Milano, 17 November 1898 (creation)
Iris – Buenos Aires, 22 June 1899
La regina di Saba (Goldmark) – Buenos Aires, 4 July 1899
Yupanki – Buenos Aires, 25 July 1899
Aida – St. Petersburg, 3 January 1900
Un ballo in maschera – St. Petersburg, 11 January 1900
Maria di Rohan – St. Petersburg, 2 March 1900
Manon – Buenos Aires, 28 July 1900
Tosca – Treviso, 23 October 1900
Le Maschere – Milano, 17 January 1901 (creation)
L'elisir d'amore – Milano, 17 February 1901
Lohengrin – Buenos Aires, 7 July 1901
Germania – Milano, 11 March 1902 (creation)
Don Giovanni – London, 19 July 1902
Adriana Lecouvreur – Milano, 6 November 1902 (creation)
Lucrezia Borgia – Lisboa, 10 March 1903
Les Huguenots – New York, 3 February 1905
Martha – New York, 9 February 1906
Carmen – San Francisco, 17 April 1906 (the night before the "great earthquake")
Madama Butterfly – London, 26 May 1906
L'Africana – New York, 11 January 1907
Andrea Chénier – London, 20 July 1907
Il trovatore – New York, 26 February 1908
Armide – New York, 14 November 1910
La fanciulla del West – New York, 10 December 1910 (creation)
Julien – New York, 26 December 1914
Samson et Dalila – New York, 24 November 1916
Lodoletta – Buenos Aires, 29 July 1917
Le Prophète – New York, 7 February 1918
L'amore dei tre re – New York, 14 March 1918
La forza del destino – New York, 15 November 1918
La Juive – New York, 22 November 1919.
Note: At the time of his death, Caruso was preparing to perform the title role in Verdi's Otello in an intended Met production. Though he never had an opportunity to undertake the part of Otello on stage, he recorded two extracts from the opera in 1910 and 1914: Otello's aria "Ora e per sempre addio" and the Oath Duet, "Si, pel ciel marmoreo giuro" (with the celebrated baritone Titta Ruffo delivering Iago's music).
Caruso also had a repertory of more than 520 songs. They ranged from classical compositions to traditional Italian melodies and popular tunes of the day, including a few English-language titles such as George M. Cohan's "Over There" and Henry Geehl's "For You Alone".
Caruso possessed a phonogenic voice which was "manly and powerful, yet sweet and lyrical", to quote the singer/author John Potter (see bibliography, below). Not surprisingly, he became one of the first major classical vocalists to make numerous recordings. He and the disc phonograph, known in the United Kingdom as the gramophone, did much to promote each other in the first two decades of the 20th century. His 1907 acoustic recording of "Vesti la giubba" was the first phonograph/gramophone record to sell a million copies. (Caruso's searing rendition of this aria from Pagliacci would inspire popular singer Freddie Mercury to quote its melody in the first section of Queen's hit "It's a Hard Life".) Some of Caruso's recordings have remained continuously available since their original issue around a century ago, and every one of his surviving discs (including unissued takes) has been re-engineered and re-released on CD in recent years. Regrettably, for legal reasons arising from a clash of contracts, he never recorded any of the music written for the character of Dick Johnson in Puccini's La fanciulla del West, which he created in 1910.
Caruso's first recordings, cut on disc in three separate sessions in Milan during April, November and December 1902, were made with piano accompaniments for HMV/EMI's forerunner, the Gramophone & Typewriter Company. In April 1903, he made seven further recordings, also in Milan, for the Anglo-Italian Commerce Company (AICC). These were released on discs bearing the Zonophone seal. Three more Milan recordings for AICC followed in October. This time around, they were released by Pathe Records on cylinders as well as on discs. Then on February 1, 1904, Caruso began recording exclusively for the Victor Talking Machine Company in the United States. While most of Caruso's American recordings would be made in boxy studios in New York and nearby Camden, New Jersey, Victor also recorded him occasionally in Camden's Trinity Church, which could accommodate a larger band of musicians. (In 1904, however, Victor had elected to use Room 826 at Carnegie Hall, New York, as a makeshift recording venue for its initial bundle of Caruso discs.) Caruso's final recording session took place at Camden on September 16, 1920. The last classical items that the doomed tenor recorded consisted, fittingly enough, of the sacred pieces "Domine Deus" and "Crucifixus" from Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle.
Caruso's earliest American records of operatic arias and songs, like their 30 or so Milan-made predecessors, were accompanied by piano. From February 1906, however, so-called 'orchestral' accompaniments became the norm. The regular conductors of these instrumental-backed recording sessions were Walter B. Rogers and Joseph Pasternack. After RCA acquired Victor in 1929, it re-issued some of the old discs with the existing accompaniment over-dubbed by a fuller, more modern sounding, electronically recorded orchestra. (Earlier experiments using this re-dubbing technique, carried out in 1927, had been considered unsatisfactory.) In 1950, RCA re-published a number of the fuller-sounding Caruso recordings on 78-rpm discs made of smooth vinyl instead of brittle and gritty shellac, which was the traditional material used for "78s". Then, as vinyl long-playing discs (LPs) became popular, many of his recordings were electronically enhanced for release on the extended format. Some of these particular recordings, remastered by RCA Victor on the alternative 45-rpm format, were re-released in the early 1950s as companions to the same selections sung in the "Red Seal" series by movie tenor Mario Lanza. In 1951, Lanza had starred in a profitable Hollywood biopic, The Great Caruso, which took numerous liberties with the facts of Caruso's life.
In the 1970s, Thomas G. Stockham of the University of Utah utilised an early digital reprocessing technique called "Soundstream" to remaster Caruso's Victor recordings for RCA, but the results were not entirely successful. Nonetheless, these early digitised efforts were issued in part on LP, beginning in 1976. Twice they were issued complete by RCA on Compact Disc (in 1990 and then in 2004). Other complete sets of Caruso's restored recordings have been issued on CD by the Pearl label and, more recently, in 2000–2004 by Naxos. The 12-disc Naxos set was remastered by the renowned American audio-restoration engineer Ward Marston. Pearl also released in 1993 a CD set devoted to RCA's electrically over-dubbed versions of Caruso's original acoustic discs. RCA has similarly issued three CD sets of Caruso material with modern, digitally recorded orchestral accompaniments added. Caruso's records are now available, too, as digital downloads. His best-selling downloads at iTunes have been the familiar Italian songs "Santa Lucia" and "O Sole Mio".
Note: Caruso died before the introduction of higher fidelity, electrical recording technology (in 1925). All of his recordings were made using the acoustic process, which required the recording artist to sing into a metal horn or funnel which relayed sound directly to a master disc via a stylus. This process captured only a limited range of the overtones and nuances present in the singing voice. In addition, due to the time limits of the process (the duration of a 12-inch 78 rpm disc is about 4:30 minutes at maximum), many of the works that Caruso recorded were edited or sometimes, out of necessity, performed at a faster than usual tempo, as comparisons with the written musical score can attest.
Enrico Caruso's Timeline
February 25, 1873
Naples, Campania, Italy
August 20, 1918
August 2, 1921
Naples, Campania, Italy