Enrico Caruso è stato un tenore italiano e viene considerato come il grande tenore per eccellenza, grazie all'inconfondibile suggestione di uno strumento vocale unico.
Caruso nacque a Napoli, nel quartiere di San Carlo all'Arena, in via Santi Giovanni e Paolo 7, il 25 febbraio del 1873 da genitori originari di Piedimonte d'Alife, in provincia di Terra di Lavoro (confluito nella neo-costituita provincia di Caserta nel 1927 e rinominato, nel 1974, Piedimonte Matese). Il padre, Marcellino Caruso (1840–1908), era un operaio metalmeccanico mentre la madre, Anna Baldini (1838–1888), era una donna delle pulizie. La madre aveva avuto prima di lui 17 figli, tutti morti. Dopo di lui nacquero altri tre fratelli.
Dopo aver frequentato le scuole regolari, a dieci anni andò a lavorare col padre in fonderia, ma sotto l'insistenza della madre si iscrisse a una scuola serale, dove scoprì di essere portato per il disegno: iniziò a elaborare progetti di fontane per l'officina dove lavorava. Nel frattempo qualcosa stava crescendo in lui: la sua voce. Le prime arie d'opera e le prime nozioni di canto gli vennero insegnate dai maestri Schirardi e De Lutio. Nel 1888 la madre morì di tubercolosi e poco tempo dopo il padre si risposò con Maria Castaldi.
Oltre a cantare nel coro della chiesa, Enrico fece qualche apparizione in spettacoli teatrali. La sua voce nel frattempo si era irrobustita e le piccole rappresentazioni cominciarono a non bastargli più. La sua fortuna iniziò quando il baritono Eduardo Missiano, sentendolo cantare ad un funerale, nella chiesa di Sant'Anna alle Paludi una messa di Saverio Mercadante, si entusiasmò a tal punto che lo presentò al maestro Guglielmo Vergine, il quale accettò di dargli lezioni per migliorare la voce, ma pretese da lui il 25% dei suoi compensi con un contratto che sarebbe durato cinque anni.
Nel 1894 Caruso venne chiamato alle armi, ma dopo solo un mese e mezzo, grazie alle leggi in vigore a quel tempo e a un maggiore che era amante della musica, venne congedato e mandato a casa per permettergli di continuare a cantare e a studiare. Dopo le lezioni con il maestro Vergine, Caruso si sentiva ormai pronto all'esordio, ma alle prove per la Mignon di Ambroise Thomas non venne accettato. Esordì il 16 novembre 1894 con una parte ne L'amico Francesco di Domenico Morelli, percependo 80 lire per quattro rappresentazioni (poi ridotte a due a causa dello scarso afflusso di pubblico e nonostante una buona critica).
Iniziò a esibirsi nei teatri di Caserta, Napoli e Salerno, e fece la sua prima esibizione all'estero al Cairo, percependo 600 lire per un mese di lavoro. Nel 1897, a Salerno, Caruso conobbe il direttore d'orchestra Vincenzo Lombardi che gli propose di accompagnarlo nella stagione estiva a Livorno. Qui Caruso conobbe il soprano Ada Botti Giachetti, sposata e madre di un bambino. Con lei ebbe una relazione che durò undici anni, da cui nasceranno due figli: Rodolfo (1898–1951) ed Enrico junior (1904–1987). Ada lo lasciò per fuggire con Romati, il loro autista, con il quale cercò anche di estorcergli denaro. La vicenda finì in un'aula di tribunale con la dichiarazione di colpevolezza per la Giachetti, condannata a tre mesi di reclusione e a 100 lire di multa.
Nel 1898 Caruso esordì al Teatro Lirico di Milano nel ruolo di Loris in Fedora di Umberto Giordano; seguirono poi tournée in Russia, a Lisbona, Roma, Montecarlo e al Covent Garden di Londra dove interpretò il Rigoletto di Giuseppe Verdi; l'anno dopo si esibì a Buenos Aires.
Nel luglio 1899 fu Parpignol nella prima rappresentazione nel Royal Opera House, Covent Garden di Londra di La Bohème di Giacomo Puccini. Nel novembre 1899 nel Teatro Costanzi di Roma interpretò Osaka nella ripresa di Iris di Pietro Mascagni, Enzo nella ripresa di La Gioconda di Amilcare Ponchielli e con Faust in Mefistofele termina nel mese di dicembre.
In December 1900 Caruso sang again at La Scala, on the occasion of the resumption of La Bohème, the opening night of the opera season, directed by Arturo Toscanini and, in 1901 in Naples at the Teatro San Carlo for a fee of 3,000 lire a recital. Here, tradition or perhaps legend has it that during the interpretation of L'elixir d'amore it had its biggest disappointment: its emotion and unspoken insecurity would not have made it better to sing. Strongly disappointed by the reaction of his fellow citizens and the criticism that would have been addressed (centered on the fact that his voice was brought more to the register of baritone rather than that of tenor), would have decided to self-say and never to sing again in his home town.
The chronicles of December 31, 1901 and January 5, 1902 on Il Pungolo, the newspaper that followed the theatrical life of Naples, in fact report the emotion that enshrined the tenor in the first act, broken by the ever increasing applause up to the request of the encore [ 1]. And even better were the replicas. If anything, it would have been the severe but not prejudiced criticism of Saverio Procida always on Il Pungolo to strongly annoy Caruso, to whom the critic rebuked the choice of a repertoire below his vocal and interpretive possibilities. Caruso actually no longer sang in Naples, but in reality he no longer sang in Italy  going to meet his success in the United States and South America.
Also in 1901 he played Florindo in the premiere at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan of Le Maschere by Pietro Mascagni directed by Arturo Toscanini, and the Duke of Mantua in the revival of Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto in the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. In February 1902, in the Salle Garnier of the Théâtre du Casino in Monte Carlo with Nellie Melba, it was Rodolphe in the first performance of La vie de bohème by Giacomo Puccini, and again the duke of Mantua in the revival of Rigoletto.
First singer to record discs
After the Neapolitan episode Caruso tried to take more care of his voice to correct the defects, and to create a repertoire.
On 11 April 1902, in Milan, he recorded ten records with opera arias on behalf of the English record company Gramophone & Typewriter Company. The Neapolitan singer was the first to try his hand at the "new technology", hitherto snubbed by the other singers, with great success. He was the first artist in history to sell more than a million records, with the air Vesti la giubba from the opera Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, engraved in 1907. The single from the Victrola in the version of Caruso was awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award 1975.
In May 1902 he again played the Duke of Mantua in the revival at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London by Rigoletto and in December at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. On 6 November 1902 he was Maurizio in the première in the Milan International Opera House by Adriana Lecouvreur by Francesco Cilea. In January and March 1903 he still performed as Faust in Mefistofele at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome.
Filippo Galante and Enrico Caruso from an autograph postcard of the painter sent to his brother Giuseppe Albino in Tivoli, RM. Angelo Trusiani Collection, Rome
In November 1903 he went to the United States, when he was still with his beloved Ada: the contract with the Metropolitan Theater in New York was obtained thanks to the mediation of the banker Pasquale Simonelli, and his debut took place on November 23 with the Duke of Mantua in the shooting of Rigoletto. The public asked him to repeat The woman is mobile.
After the impasse of the first, it had such a success with the successive representations to become the idol of the melomanis of the time. Also in 1903 at the Metropolitan Opera House was Radamès in Aida, Cavaradossi in Tosca (bissando E lucevan le stelle), Rodolfo in La bohème, Canio in Pagliacci (bissando Vesti la giubba) and Alfredo in La traviata. In January 1904 he interpreted Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor and Nemorino in L'elixir d'amore.
Caruso himself commissioned Tiffany & Co. to produce a 24 carat gold medal with his profile, in memory of his performances at the Metropolitan in New York, to be distributed among his close friends.
Caruso demanded exorbitant engagements, but he was also able to sing for free to cheer the emigrants. There was not only fame in America for Caruso: the tenor also suffered the jealousy and envy of those who made him accuse of sexual harassment to a young unknown and shouted to the scandal for a kiss exchanged on stage with the showgirl Lina Cavalieri. Caruso was sentenced to pay a fine, suffering an injustice and a burning humiliation.
In March 1904, the Duke of Mantua was again in March at the Salle Garnier of the Théâtre du Casino in Monte Carlo di Rigoletto; in April he appeared in the first performance in the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt in Paris with Lina Cavalieri; still at the Met in November 1904 it was Enzo in La Gioconda; in December he played Gennaro in Lucrezia Borgia, bissando Com'è suave, and in February 1905 Raoul de Nangis in Les Huguenots and Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera.
In May 1905 it was Loris Ipanov in the first performance in the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt in Paris of Fedora by Umberto Giordano, again with Lina Cavalieri.
At the Metropolitan in 1905 in November Fernando was in La Favorita; in December Elvino in La sonnambula; in 1906 in Faust in January of the same name; in February Lionel in Martha, repeating M'appari and Don José in Carmen; in December Count Loris Ipanov in Fedora, again with Lina Cavalieri: given the enthusiasm of the public at the end of the second act, Enrico Caruso and Lina Cavalieri repeated the final scene.
In January 1907 he played Maurice in the first performance at Adriana Lecouvreur's French Opera House in New Orleans, with Lina Cavalieri; at the Metropolitan, Vasco de Gama in L'Africaine and Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut with Lina Cavalieri; again at the Met in February it was Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly; in November Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur with Lina Cavalieri; in December Osaka in Iris; in 1908, in March, Manrico in Il trovatore; and in December Turiddu in Cavalleria rusticana, directed by Toscanini.
His recorded version of Celeste Aida in 1908 will be awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award 1993.
The last years
In 1909 Caruso recorded a series of twenty-two Neapolitan songs that also included Core 'ngrato, written by Riccardo Cordiferro and Salvatore Cardillo and inspired by his sentimental affairs after the abandonment by Giachetti. In the same year he was operated in Milan for hypertrophic laryngitis, an intervention that at the moment did not compromise his career, so as to allow him to continue his tours around the world, without neglecting recitals for charity during the war.
In January 1910 Federico was in Germany directed by Toscanini at the Metropolitan; in June, Faust and Othello in the partial shooting at the Théâtre de l'Opéra in Paris by Faust by Charles Gounod, and the 3rd act of Othello by Giuseppe Verdi; in November, Rinaldo in the first performance of Armide by Christoph Willibald Gluck, at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, directed by Arturo Toscanini; December 10th, Dick Johnson in the premiere of La fanciulla del West by Giacomo Puccini.
At the Wiener Staatsoper in 1912 was Gustaf III in Un ballo in maschera, and Mario Cavaradossi in Tosca; in 1913, Des Grieux in Manon (Massenet) directed by Toscanini; in 1914, Julien in the homonymous work by Gustave Charpentier; and in 1915 Samson in Samson et Dalila.
In March 1915, he played Arturo Buklaw in the revival of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Salle Garnier of the Théâtre du Casino in Montecarlo; in April, Canio in the second half of Pagliacci Ruggero Leoncavallo; in 1916, Nadir in Les pêcheurs de perles at the Metropolitan; in 1918, Flammen in Lodoletta, Jean of Leyden in Le prophète with Claudia Muzio, Avito in L'amore dei tre re still with the Muzio, and Don Alvaro in La forza del destino with Rosa Ponselle.
On 28 August 1918 he married Dorothy Benjamin (1893-1955), an American girl from a good family, from whom she had a daughter, Gloria (1919-1999).
In 1919 at the Met he sang in a concert dedicated to his 25 years of career and was Eléazar in La Juive with the Ponselle.
After a long tour in North America, in 1920, the health of the tenor began to worsen. Various hypotheses in this regard: his son Franco, for example, placed the trigger event in an incident occurred during Samson and Delila on December 3, when the tenor was hit on the left side by a column collapsed from the set. The day after, before the performance of Pagliacci, Caruso had an excess of cough and complained of a strong intercostal pain.
On December 11th, the tenor had a strong throat bleeding: the performance was suspended after the first act. On December 24 he made his last appearance at the Met with Eléazar in La Juive: overall Caruso went on stage for 863 performances at the Metropolitan.
Only on Christmas Day, when the pain had become unsustainable, he was diagnosed with infected pleurisy. Operated on December 30th in the left lung, he spent his convalescence in Italy, in Sorrento; here he was joined by the doctor Giuseppe Moscati who was however contacted when there was very little left to do. Transported from Sorrento to Naples, Caruso died there on 2 August 1921, assisted by his wife and by those who loved him at the age of 48. It is said that Lucio Dalla host in the hotel room of Sorrento, where Caruso had spent the last days of his life before moving to Naples, felt so inspired that he composed his famous song "Caruso".
He is buried in Naples, in a private chapel in the cemetery of Santa Maria del Pianto in Via Nuova del Campo (Doganella), a few meters from the tomb of Antonio de Curtis, called Totò.