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Enrico Caruso (Naples, February 25, 1873-Ib, August 2, 1921) was an Italian tenor, the most popular singer in any genre during the 1920s and one of the pioneers of recorded music. His great sales success and an extraordinary voice, acclaimed for its power, beauty, richness of tone and superlative technique, make him the most famous opera singer of the century XX.
The United States entered the First World War in 1917, sending troops to Europe. Caruso did a great job of charity during the conflict, collecting money for patriotic causes related to the war by giving concerts and enthusiastically participating in Liberty Bond broadcasts. The tenor had proven to be a tough businessman since he came to America. He put a good part of his income for recording rights and singing fees in a series of investments. Biographer Michael Scott writes that by the end of the war in 1918, Caruso’s income taxes amounted to $ 154,000.
Before the First World War, Caruso had been romantically involved with an Italian soprano, Ada Giachetti, who was a few years older than he was, and although she was already married, Giachetti gave Caruso four children during their relationship, it lasted from 1897 to 1908. Two survived childhood: Rodolfo Caruso (1898-1947) and the singer / actor Enrico Caruso, Jr. (1904-1987). Ada had left her husband, the businessman Gino Botti, and another previous son, to go live with the tenor. The information provided in the biography that Scott wrote about Caruso suggests that he was also his vocal teacher as well as his lover.Some statements by Enrico Caruso, Jr. in his book, tend to support this.His relationship with Caruso broke down after eleven years old and they separated. The subsequent demands of Giachetti to sue him for damages were dismissed by the courts.
Towards the end of the war, Caruso met and courted a 25-year-old high society woman, Dorothy Park Benjamin (1893-1955). She was the daughter of a wealthy New York patent attorney. Although Dorothy’s father disapproved, the couple married on August 20, 1918. They had a daughter, Gloria Caruso (1919-1999). Dorothy wrote two biographies of Caruso, which were published in 1928 and 1945. The books include many of Caruso’s letters to his wife.
Caruso bathed twice a day, liked to dress well and good food, besides being a cheerful company. He had an especially close friendship with his partner at the Met and Covent Garden, Antonio Scotti – a very friendly and stylish baritone from Naples. Caruso was superstitious and usually wore a series of amulets with him when he sang. His wife, Dorothy, said that when she met him, her husband’s favorite hobby was collecting scrapbooks. He also amassed a valuable collection of rare postage stamps, coins, watches and antique cigar boxes. Caruso was an inveterate smoker of strong Egyptian cigarettes, too. This habit, combined with the lack of exercise and his intense schedule of performances, season after season at the Met, may have contributed to the persistent ill health that afflicted the tenor in the last year of his life.
Enrico Caruso died in 1921 of a complication of pleurisy, and was buried in Naples. As a curiosity, it is noteworthy that only one film of 1951 has tried to portray his figure in: The great Caruso by Richard Thorpe, in the skin of American actor and singer Mario Lanza, accompanied by Ann Blyth. It supposes a conventional biography but with attractions.
In 1986, Lucio Dalla would write the song Caruso, in honor of Caruso, when he was staying in the room where he is said to have died, telling the story of the past that night; this song was covered by Luciano Pavarotti
Lucia di Lammermoor (1908).
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