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The Voice of Enrico Caruso, Recordings 1904-1920

Enrico Caruso

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Album Review

Lyric tenor Enrico Caruso was the first singer to become internationally famous through the medium of the phonograph record, even as the phonograph became famous through the medium of Caruso. It was Caruso who cut the first million-selling record (Vesti la Giubba from Pagliacci) in 1902. The entire convoluted history of the recording industry, in fact, leads back to Caruso, he of the warm and passionate voice. Living Era's Tenor of the Century is an excellent sampler of Caruso's Victor recordings made between 1904 and 1920. Note that Living Era did not include Caruso's earliest recordings: not the rare and seldom heard Pathë cylinders of 1898-1899; nor the ten sides cut by the Gramophone and Typewriter Company, Ltd. in a Milan hotel room in 1902; nor the seven Zonophone recordings made under the auspices of the Anglo-Italian Commerce Company in April 1903; nor the three recordings made in October 1903 and subsequently issued on both Pathë cylinders and discs. For the folks at Living Era, the heart of Caruso's recorded legacy begins with his first session for the Victor Talking Machine Company that took place in New York on February 1, 1904, and ends just short of his final recordings made on September 15 and 16, 1920. A reference to the year 1903 posted on the album cover was derived from a speculative discography published during the 1940s and is factually incorrect, as Mi Par d'Udir Ancora, from Bizet's Pearl Fishers, is now known to have been recorded in April of 1904 rather than at some indeterminate point in 1903. All of this technical data aside, Caruso's memory is well served by this double-disc compilation. As his untimely death at the age of 48 occurred several years before the introduction of "the electrical recording process" and a newfangled apparatus known as "the microphone," Caruso's powerful emanations tested the very limits of the acoustic recording medium. He also challenged conventional operatic standards of acceptability. Caruso comes across as astonishingly human; his soul-baring emotive transmission is disarmingly direct and at times almost disturbingly emblematic of the human condition. Caruso's voice is a treasure and a solace. Living Era has done an exceptionally fine job of remastering and reissuing these beautiful recordings made so long ago without losing any of the charm that belongs to antiquated pre-electrical pressings. Anyone hopelessly smitten may opt for Caruso's "complete" recordings reissued in chronological order by the Naxos label or his greatest records impeccably presented throughout the Nimbus Prima Voce series.

Biography

Born: 25 February 1873 in Naples, Italy

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '/0s, '00s, '10s, '20s

Caruso studied with Vergine and under conductor Vincenzo Lombardi. His first success came with his performance of La Gioconda in 1897. After a controversial reception of a performance at the Teatro S Carlo in Naples, Caruso vowed to never sing in Naples again, and he never did. He sang at Covent Garden in London and also at theatres throughout Europe, but he performed most often at the Metropolitan Opera. Incomplete and irregular training caused Caruso to have technical problems early in his career....
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