Enrico Caruso, greatest tenor of 20th century, makes his debut at Metropolitan Opera House.

Acknowledged as the world's greatest twentieth century operatic tenor, Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) was born in Naples, the son of a poor machinist. He was the only one of eighteen children to survive and seemed to be blessed with a natural gifted voice. Although his formal training was irregular, he did study under some of the more important teachers in his vicinity. Caruso scored his first major success professionally in November 1894 in his debut performance in Naples. His performance in "Fedora" in Milan in November 1898 was an electrifying triumph that was followed by invitations to sing at some of the world's outstanding opera houses.

In November 1903 Caruso made his Metropolitan Opera House debut in New York City in Verdi's masterpiece "Rigoletto." He was the Met's featured tenor for the next seventeen years thrilling audiences with his brilliant, sensuous caressing voice and his resplendent acting. "Veste la giubba," from Pagliacci that included his famous sob was one of Caruso's signature arias. The numerous melodies from recordings Caruso made in his prime regularly poured from dozens of music shops in the Little Italies of New York, Brooklyn, and elsewhere. Even though these records failed to do justice to the magnificence of his voice because of primitive recording technology, decades later they continue to be cherished not only by Italian Americans but by lovers of great music in general. The depth of the public adulation for Caruso was so pronounced that he was regarded a legend in his own time, one that led Hollywood to produce "The Great Caruso" starring the sensational Italian American singer Mario Lanza in the title role.

Caruso was only 48 years old when he died in 1921, but remains the standard with which to compare other tenors. There were majestic voices both before and after his career, -- Beniamino Gigli, Franco Corelli, Luciano Pavarotti, and Andrea Bocelli - to name but a few. However, many critics doubt Caruso's lyric quality will ever be repeated.

Contemporary great Luciano Pavarotti
Rising star Andrea Bocelli
Andrea Bocelli

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