Paradoxes of Enrico Caruso: What the legendary tenor was reproached for and what he could not forgive to his native Naples
The name of the legendary Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso is known all over the world – he had a rare voice, sang leading parts in more than 80 operas, released about 260 records and got into the Guinness Book of Records as the first performer in the history of the record, whose record sold a million copies. It is amazing that in his hometown he vowed never to speak and in Naples received recognition only after death …
Enrico Caruso was originally from Naples, but for many years crossed out this city from his memory. He was born into a poor large family. Enrico received 3 classes of primary education in a parish school, where chants were given more attention than sciences. By the age of 14, Caruso had already become the first viola in the church choir, but his father, who worked as a mechanic and a foundry worker, wanted his son to continue his profession, and from the age of 11 he sent him as an apprentice to an engineer who built city fountains.
However, music from a young age became the meaning of his life. Enrique worked as a street singer, gave concerts in Italian resorts, independently studied opera arias and dreamed of a big stage. Caruso’s debut in the Neapolitan theater ended in complete failure – he was booed. This was the first blow that his hometown inflicted on him.
However, failures did not stop him – he continued to take vocal lessons, performed in provincial theaters, and at the age of 27 he signed a contract with the famous Italian opera house La Scala. In European and American capitals, an enthusiastic audience applauded him. Milanese music critics wrote of him as “a firmly defined tenor with a big breath, a juicy, strong voice, a free sound at the top, expressive, full of life and color, charm and drama.” In popularity, only Fedor Chaliapin could compete with him then, who not only performed on the same stage with him, but also became his friend.
Caruso planned to return to Naples as a triumph, a singer recognized throughout the world. He even agreed to perform at home for free. However, cruel disappointment again awaited him – the local aristocrats received him very coolly, because he did not consider it necessary to bow to them before the performance. He was booed at the very beginning of the performance. After that, Caruso vowed not to speak at home. But this was not the last and not the greatest misfortune Naples brought him.
His timbre was so unique that during the life of the singer many legends appeared about his performances. They said that once Caruso took such a high note that he broke a chandelier hanging nearby. This would have been absolutely unbelievable if it had not been for the observations of one American researcher, who recorded so many vibrations per second in the singer’s voice, which, in principle, is quite enough for the window glass to burst. His voice of 2.5 octaves amazed listeners around the world. In Europe he was called the greatest singer, “the king of Belcanto”, “the golden-eyed Orpheus”, “the knight of the opera stage”.
Even as a recognized star in the opera scene, Caruso often heard reproaches and ridicule. They concerned primarily his external data — short stature, “innkeeper’s appearance,” “funny mustache,” “the hands of a blacksmith,” etc. Neapolitans who spoke about him most of all did not spare him: “When he sings, you need to close your eyes and open your ears. ” Other reproaches concerned his acting talent. Some critics called him direct and expressive, while others accused him of a complete lack of acting skills. Perhaps the best answer to this was the words of Fyodor Chaliapin about Caruso: “For those notes, that cantilena, that phrasing that the great singer possesses, you must forgive him everything.”
Today, the Italian public is called opera singers by the most sophisticated, demanding and moody. However, Caruso, as a true Neapolitan, was able to react with humor to criticism. Once during his performance, one of the dissatisfied listeners launched a cabbage into the singer. “I see someone has already lost their head from my singing,” retorted Caruso.