Enrico Caruso: My Father and My Family (Abr ed) (Opera Biography Series, No 2)
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I found it fascinating, musically, to work with him. Shortly before his own death in , Enrico Jr. The reason most frequently cited in the tabloid press at the time was that his recurring weight problem had made it impossible for him to fit into the costumes of the Prince. Depressed by his dismissal, and with his self-confidence severely undermined, Lanza became a virtual recluse for more than a year, frequently seeking refuge in alcoholic binges. Lanza returned to an active film career in in Serenade , released by Warner Bros. None of it is true! He had the most beautiful lirico spinto voice.
It was a gorgeous, beautiful, powerful voice. I should know because I sang with so many tenors. He had everything that one needs. The voice, the temperament, perfect diction. All he needed was coaching. Everything was so easy for him. He was fantastic! He gave a total of 22 concerts on this tour, receiving mostly positive reviews for his singing. Despite a number of cancellations, which resulted from his failing health during this period, Lanza continued to receive offers for operatic appearances, concerts, and films. In September , he made a number of operatic recordings at the Rome Opera House for the soundtrack of what would turn out to be his final film, For the First Time.
Lanza also received offers to sing in any opera of his choosing from the San Carlo in Naples. At the same time, however, his health continued to decline, with the tenor suffering from a variety of ailments, including phlebitis and acute high blood pressure. His old habits of overeating and crash dieting, coupled with binge drinking, compounded his problems.
In April , Lanza reportedly fell ill, mainly with heart problems, as well as pneumonia. Lanza died of a heart attack at the age of No autopsy was performed. He was survived by his wife and four children. Betty Lanza returned to Hollywood completely devastated. She died five months later of a drug overdose.
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Frank Sinatra sent his condolences by telegram. In son Marc Lanza died of a heart attack. He was 37, a year younger than Mario was when he died. In , daughter Colleen Lanza was run down and killed by a car as she crossed a street. She spent two weeks in the hospital in a coma from which she never recovered. Apparently he had severe diabetes and heart-related problems. I actually owe my love for opera … to a kid from Philadelphia. Lanza was born at Christian Street in South Philadelphia.
The building was demolished on June 29, ; a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker marks the site. At the height of his career, Lanza was voted by exhibitors as being among the most popular stars in the country:. She reprised the role in 30 Perry Mason movies for television — Her film roles included The Window , in which she starred as the mother of a boy who witnesses a murder. The family was of Scots-Irish ancestry. Her performing career began in Chicago, when she started modelling to pay for her education. She continued to make small uncredited appearances in films, until her first credited role alongside Frank Sinatra in Higher and Higher even singing with him in the film.
She seldom appeared in film after this time, but was part of an all-star cast in the movie Airport , playing the wife of an airline pilot played by Dean Martin. Hale was considering retirement from acting when she accepted her best known role as legal secretary Della Street in the television series Perry Mason , starring Raymond Burr as the titular character.
The show ran for nine seasons, from to , with episodes produced. In , Hale and Burr by then the only surviving cast members from the original series reprised their roles for the TV movie Perry Mason Returns. The film was such a ratings hit that a further 29 movies were produced until Hale is thus the only actor to feature in all 30 films. The couple had two daughters, Jodi and Juanita, and a son, actor William Katt.
Williams made guest appearances on four episodes of Perry Mason in the s. Katt played detective Paul Drake, Jr. She also played his mother in the movie Big Wednesday. She died at her home in Sherman Oaks, California, on January 26, , of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was 94 years old.
She was presented with the Golden Boot Award in for her contributions to Western cinema. His father, William Johnston Burr — , was a hardware salesman. When Burr was six, his parents divorced. His father remained in New Westminster. He began his association with the Pasadena Playhouse in We were both in our twenties playing much older men. Those girls would take one look at me and scream and can you blame them? I was drowned, beaten, stabbed and all for my art. But I knew I was horribly overweight. I lacked any kind of self esteem.
At 25 I was playing the fathers of people older than me. As a young man Burr weighed more than lbs. ET January 22 — October 28, Known for his loyalty and consciousness of history, Burr went out of his way to employ his radio colleagues in his television programs. Burr emerged as a prolific television character actor in the s. Over the next month, Burr went on a crash diet. When he returned, he tested as Perry Mason and won the role. The series ran from to Burr received three consecutive Emmy Award nominations and won the award in and for his performance as Perry Mason.
The series has been rerun in syndication ever since, and was released on DVD between and Despite good reviews for Burr, the critical reception was poor, and NBC decided against developing it into a series. It was cancelled after 13 weeks. One last attempt to launch a series followed on CBS. So I said yes to both of them. Many were filmed in and around Denver, Colorado. By , when Burr signed with NBC for another season of Mason films, he was using a wheelchair full-time because of his failing health.
The Return of Ironside aired in May , reuniting the entire original cast of the —75 series. Like many of the Mason movies, it was set and filmed in Denver. Burr said that he weighed Because I like NBC. He had a low basso voice, capable of expressing villainous menace, and commanding power.
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Burr married actress Isabella Ward — on January 10, They met in while Ward was a student at the Pasadena Playhouse, where Burr was teaching. They met again in , when Ward was in California with a short-lived theatre company. The couple lived in a basement apartment in a large house in Hollywood that Burr shared with his mother and grandparents. The marriage ended within months, and Ward returned to her native Delaware. They divorced in , and neither remarried. According to Benevides, they soon became a couple. In , the property was sold.
Other invented biographical details include years of college education at a variety of institutions, being widowed twice, a son who died young, world travel and success in high school athletics. However, multiple sources have reported that no one by that name appears on any of the published passenger manifests from the flight. A son supposedly born during this marriage, Michael Evan, was said to have died of leukemia in at the age of ten.
Another marriage purportedly took place in the early s to a Laura Andrina Morgan—who died of cancer, Burr said, in He was really in love with her, I guess. I think the wives and the loving women, the Natalie Wood thing, were a bit of a cover. Whether or not he had relationships with women, I had no idea. I did know that I had trouble keeping track of whether he was married or not in these stories. Raymond had the ability to mythologize himself, to some extent, and some of his stories about his past … tended to grow as time went by. He was very fond of cooking. He was interested in flying, sailing, and fishing.
Burr developed his interest in cultivating and hybridizing orchids into a business with Benevides. Burr planned to retire there permanently. However, medical problems made that impossible and he sold the property in Burr was a well-known philanthropist.
He gave enormous sums of money, including his salaries from the Perry Mason movies, to charity. He was also known for sharing his wealth with friends. He also donated a large collection of Fijian cowries and cones from his island in Fiji.
In , Sonoma State University awarded Burr an honorary doctorate. Burr also founded and financed the American Fijian Foundation that funded academic research, including efforts to develop a dictionary of the Fijian language. He sometimes organized his own troupe and toured bases both in the U. Returning from Vietnam in , he made a speaking tour of the U. The reception was mixed. Burr had a reputation in Hollywood as a thoughtful, generous man years before much of his more-visible philanthropic work.
In , Ray Collins, who portrayed Lt. During the filming of his last Perry Mason movie in the spring of , Raymond Burr fell ill. It was determined that the cancer had spread to his liver and was at that point inoperable. He was 76 years old. Burr strove for such authenticity in his courtroom characterizations that we regard his passing as though we lost one of our own.
Although Burr had not revealed his homosexuality during his lifetime, it was an open secret and was reported in the press upon his death. Burr bequeathed his estate to Robert Benevides, and excluded all relatives, including a sister, nieces, and nephews. His will was challenged, without success, by the two children of his late brother, James E.
His parents were married in Martin had an older brother named William Alfonso Crocetti — His first language was Italian and he did not speak English until he started school at the age of five. As a teenager, he played the drums as a hobby. The two reportedly charged people to watch them bare-knuckle box each other in their apartment, fighting until one was knocked out.
Martin knocked out King in the first round of an amateur boxing match. They eventually had four children before the marriage ended in Martin worked for various bands throughout the early s, mostly on looks and personality until he developed his own singing style. The audience laughed. The act consisted of Lewis interrupting and heckling Martin while he was trying to sing, with the two ultimately chasing each other around the stage. The secret, both said, is that they ignored the audience and played to each other.
With the assistance of both Lear and Simmons, the two would take their act beyond nightclubs. They also controlled their club, record, radio, and television appearances, and through these they earned millions of dollars. They were friends, as well, with Lewis acting as best man when Martin remarried in He put less enthusiasm into the work, leading to escalating arguments with Lewis.
The act broke up in , ten years to the day from the first teaming. Martin wanted to become a dramatic actor, known for more than slapstick comedy films. By the mids, Martin was a movie, recording, television, and nightclub star. Like Sinatra, he could not read music, but he recorded more than albums and songs. The image of Martin as a Vegas entertainer in a tuxedo has been an enduring one. Martin sang and was one of the smoothest comics in the business, benefiting from the decade of comedy with Lewis. Their appearances were valuable because the city would flood with wealthy gamblers.
Their act always in tuxedo consisted of each singing individual numbers, duets and trios, along with seemingly improvised slapstick and chatter. Sinatra and Martin supported the civil rights movement and refused to perform in clubs that would not allow African-American or Jewish performers. The show exploited his image as a carefree boozer. His TV show was a success. This prompted a battle between Martin and NBC censors, who insisted on more scrutiny of the content.
He later had trouble with NBC for his off-the-cuff use of obscene Italian phrases, which brought complaints from viewers who spoke the language. The show was often in the Top Ten. He was often the first to call it a night, and when not on tour or on a film location, liked to go home to see his wife and children. At his death, Martin was reportedly the single largest minority shareholder of RCA stock. Now comfortable financially, Martin began reducing his schedule. In the roasts, Martin and his panel of pals made fun of a variety of popular entertainment, athletic, and political figures.
In , he filed for divorce from his second wife, Jeanne. Less than a month after his second marriage had dissolved, Martin was 55 when he married year-old Catherine Hawn, on April 25, Hawn had been the receptionist at the chic Gene Shacove hair salon in Beverly Hills.
They divorced November 10, Eventually, Martin reconciled with Jeanne, though they never remarried. Sinatra shocked Lewis by bringing Martin out on stage. Lewis later reported the event was one of the three most memorable of his life. Martin was married three times. Martin and McDonald married in and had four children:. Martin and McDonald divorced in and Dean gained custody of their children. Betty lived out her life in relative obscurity in San Francisco, California.
Their marriage lasted 24 years — and produced three children:. Later, a tour with Davis and Sinatra in , undertaken in part to help Martin recover, sputtered. There he had his final reunion with Lewis on his 72nd birthday. In December , he congratulated Sinatra on his 75th birthday special. The lights of the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor.
An annual Dean Martin Festival celebration is held in Steubenville. Impersonators, friends and family, and entertainers, many of Italian ancestry, appear. It also went to No. Four of his surviving children, Gail, Deana, Ricci and Gina accepted it on his behalf. The undertaking, he knew, would be laborious : securing much data from the countries where he had appeared, then arranging this chronologically with other data. To select what we felt should go to make the text of some forty thousand words had been trying enough.
The singer's appreciation of this deterred him from the more elaborate and painstaking effort ; yet he did not dismiss com- pletely the thought, for, now and again, at some unexpected moment, he would refer to it. No effort is necessary to picture him as he ap- peared the evening we finished the last of these articles. It was Caruso's name day, July He sat in his workroom in a rented villa at Easthampton, Long Island, cutting strips of Manila paper to be made into huge envelopes.
Such work he enjoyed, just as it pleased him to gather the accumulation of newspaper clippings and put them in these home- made receptacles. Afterward he would paste the cuttings, with meticulous care, in scrapbooks. Idle- ness he disliked ; rarely was he satisfied to confine himself to a single task if he could perform simul- taneously another. As he grew older he guarded carefully his time ; there were few waking hours he did not turn to profitable account.
During his final years there was the almost constant com- panionship with Mrs. Caruso, and the eagerly seized playtime moments with Baby Gloria. Caruso was actually present, or near by. That first day, in the singer's Knickerbocker Hotel suite February, , automatically revisualizes itself: a wintry afternoon in New York, as dusk approached, with the narrator modeling on a clay bust of himself as Eleazar in " La Juive " ; Mrs.
Caruso clicking a small typewriter in one corner of the room. These were moments for studying the man, his face, his figure, his habiliments, his inherent sim- plicity. He spoke always with a resonant enough tone, though it was seldom loud or suggestive of a singer, except to music experts aware of the signif- icance of a speaking voice concentrated where nose and forehead join. Caruso's speech was rarely hurried. Deliberation, of a sort which reflected thoroughness, attached to whatever he said and to nearly every movement he made. While seated he had a way of occasionally leaning forward ; massive from the waist up, his high-curved, barrel-like chest indicated its store of breathing space and power.
On this February day Caruso was all but ready for the street ; he need only have exchanged his dark lounging robe for the customary sack coat. As usual, he was immaculate from head to shoes ; the singer particularized in such matters. Surveying one side of Eleazar's nose which had eluded his mod- eling skill, he half-shut his eyes as though preparing for some mental journey. Having diverted his atten- tion from the rebellious bit of clay, he sat with body relaxed, the stick he had been using protruding from the heavy fingers of his right hand. That done, he began puffing, his head tilted to one side, his shoulders showing square and wide and high under the loose folds of his gown.
At that instant he appeared a Somebody. Author- ity which he had been acquiring gradually for years was in those days of his life so natural that in such a situation he seemed splendidly aloof. Even the Caruso voice was subservient to this authority, which made him the singer he could not have become with voice alone, though it were this rather special voice. When Caruso recalled his thoughts to his surround- ings that wintry afternoon, it was with a perceptible flexing of his body. Resuming work upon the im- perfect side of Eleazar's nose he began his narrative.
He was the eighteenth son. It is difficult to reconcile the foregoing dates, and no birth records are available to substantiate them. Caruso and his brother Giovanni speaking on different occasions were in agreement as to the ages of their father and mother ; each stated that there were twenty Caruso boys and one girl. None of the seventeen children had survived infancy, so, as Enrico thrived and approached his third year, a new happiness crept into the Caruso household.
January 8, , gave it a fresh impetus, when Giovanni was brought into the world ; but between him and Enrico another son had come "without the strength to live. She died June 2, , adoring her brother Enrico who, apart from providing for her every comfort, had shown her a constant tenderness throughout her somewhat melancholy life. Anna Caruso had been too ill to nurse her Enrico. In later years Caruso insisted that it was she who had put into him some of her own big- heartedness.
When he was six, and the family moved to Number 54 via San Cosmo e Damiano, Enrico was sent to a kindergarten, where he remained for two years. At the time his father had employment as a mechanic in the factory of a Signor Francesco Meuricoffre, being advanced, about , to superintendent.
In this year his employer gave him the use of a house in Sant' Anna alle Paludi, which belonged to the factory. So once again the Caruso family trans- ferred their belongings, to a more permanent abode ; they remained in it until Enrico Caruso reached manhood and began seriously his professional career. From this home, at the age of eight, the boy Enrico made his first acquaintance with a public school.
No emphasis was put upon it in the narra- tive, although it is on record that he was required to wear a black cap circled with a blue band, a sort of insignia of this school. It is known too that he was industrious : he had an eagerness to learn, and even then he was a most considerate son. For his mother he showed his love in those practical ways not always displayed by children older : he was always ready to help her about the house, to do errands ; and often he hovered beside her bed when she fell ill, for, after the birth of Assunta, Mrs.
Caruso never com- pletely regained her health. If not the actual head of the house, he served somewhat regularly in that capacity. Marcellino Caruso was fond of wine, and his not infrequent absence of evenings put upon Enrico, as eldest child, certain duties. It was inevitable that this companionship should have had its effect upon an impressionable nature. Giovanni Caruso spoke of it when he arrived in New York, from Naples, three months after the death of his brother.
Caruso has told of little things her husband unconsciously let drop which sketched intimate word pictures. An insistence for neatness and order and personal immaculateness, which possessed the tenor during later periods of his life, took root during his child- hood. There was no grumbling at having to carry upstairs pails of water for his bath ; every such opportunity was more than casually welcomed, - one appears to have been made on any pretext pos- sible. To keep himself fresh, his hair brushed, his clothes free from dust and spots these were matters the boy refused to neglect.
And pride was YOUTH 13 stirred in the mother when she gazed on her slender son and beheld his efforts which did her credit. For all his tenderness and devotion, however, the then future great artist was nevertheless a boy ; pretty much all boy, and at times a capricious one. Such manifestations became noticeable soon after he joined a school where boys were trained to sing in church choirs, which was conducted evenings at Number 33 via Postica Maddalena by Father Giuseppe Bronzetti.
Giovanni Gatto, a sort of tutor and brother-in-law to Bronzetti who died in with the devoted Caruso at his bedside , spoke in of incidents touching the little En- rico not long after he entered this school, at the age of six. Gatto one of a considerable num- ber of Italians who later owed many of their life comforts to the singer's bounty had Enrico in charge ; he called him Carusiello.
He remembered well occasions when the youthful singer a moment approaching for him to contribute a contralto solo in some music performance in the church where the sessions were held was as difficult to manage as a prima donna displeased over some magnified trivial- ity. Administering a slap to Enrico his parent said, "Kneel down, and kiss Father Bronzetti's hands and feet! Thereupon he went almost immediately before the people who sat waiting, "to sing like an angel", declared Gatto.
Caruso's first training in singing and music was received from Maestro Alessandro Fasanaro, who discovered his gifts of voice and expressiveness while teaching his pupil his school hymns. It was Fasanaro who encouraged the little dark-skinned lad ; Fasanaro who guided and stimulated him, and by studying his nature appealed to that side of it which could be so easily reached by one willing to exert the patience. A charge of five lire a month was paid, at the beginning, by Mrs. Marcellino Caruso for the privilege of having her son attend the school ; later, as he progressed, Bronzetti refused to take this money.
Punctuality, neatness, and industry carried Enrico along. By hard work he finally became the principal soloist of the chorus. In Naples every church is called upon to par- ticipate in various ceremonies. One of them is a religious procession through the streets, which takes on importance through the joining of choirs from different churches. Father Bronzetti's choir was greatly sought during the period Enrico Caruso served as a member. Maestro Fasanaro, receiving fees from the churches which he visited with his charges, rewarded them with pennies. To his con- tralto soloist, who always attracted the most notice and favor by his singing, Fasanaro was more liberal ; for Carusiello there was generally several lire.
With presents of candy, and sometimes a coin or two from admiring priests, the boy's earnings were YOUTH 15 enough to make him happy. Yet he seldom kept them; "the hole in the Caruso pocket" had de- veloped even thus early. His position in the Bronzetti school appears to have been easily and completely taken. He craved companionship, and won it. He could, and did, invite the affection of his elders because of a char- acter they were unable to resist. He was playful and serious, in turn often unexpectedly so. Gatto tells of suddenly developed moods, when an appear- ance to sing impended, or had passed ; moods which presented the tranquil and lovable Carusiello with an unyielding front, a strange little person, stand- ing firmly upon a dignity that might have been the more amusing but for its disturbing consequences.
On one occasion, returning to Naples from Amalfi, a neighboring town where the choir had gone to sing the Mercadante Mass in the Church of St. Andrea, Enrico declined obstinately to enter a coach with his mentor and his companions ; he would ride on the box with the coachman. And ride he did, until Gatto, observing that his charge had dropped fast asleep and fearing he might fall under the horses, transferred him bodily to the interior of the coach where he continued for the remainder of the journey to slumber placidly.
These evening sessions at the Bronzetti school were fruitful to Carusiello in other respects than music. If Fasanaro and others of the small faculty did their share, there was one of a different calling who must not be overlooked, Giuseppe Spasiano, the penman- ship teacher. No urging was needed to win his interest ; he took to drawing as happily as does the proverbial duck to water. And Spasiano suggested, and corrected, and dropped the necessary words to induce the substitution of pains for speed. Hunched over his desk Carusiello would forget temporarily, at least about music. As he acquired skill Spa- siano gave him manuscripts to copy, which skill highly developed in his mature years came to be of practical use.
For it is a curious fact that Caruso learned the words and notes of his opera roles by copying them. He explained that the process as- sisted materially in impressing them on his memory. The influence of his instructors in this unpreten- tious institution appears to have affected the youth- ful Caruso very positively, in ways that held even after he passed actively out of it, about Before that he had been taught by Alfredo Campanelli and Domenico Amitrano, pianists and coaches in the Bronzetti school ; and by Giovanni Gatto's daughter, Amelia, an excellent musician and pianiste.
There is some hint that she formed for Caruso a violent attachment, though he was much her junior ; but nothing ever came of it. With her the boy studied solfeggi, also solo compositions he was preparing for appearances outside the school. Eager in his pursuit of knowledge of music and singing, Caruso did not hesitate to accept whatever instruction offered, some of it from sources other than were available at Bronzetti's. He had bidden farewell to the public school, turning from teachers and comrades to the mechanical laboratory of Salvatore de Luca.
His wages were two soldi an hour. Schirardi and de Lutio gave the small Caruso advice as to how he should use his voice, and together they taught him some arias from operas. During these days he revealed those industrious leanings which, years later, became almost an ob- session. He would come home, dead tired, from work ; then set himself to some musical task.
First, however, he always made himself clean ; and he has related how, wishing to surprise his mother, he once bought with some treasured pennies a large sheet of stiff white paper, and cut it into a shirt bosom, which he tucked inside his coat. Developing ambition, and setting a higher value upon his services shortly after his eleventh birthday, Caruso suggested to his superior in the de Luca lab- oratory that he be given more money. A refusal was his answer. Was it possible?
Could it be that all his energy and faithfulness were to go unre- warded?
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He stiffened his slender body, and with much seriousness resigned. He took himself then to the establishment of Giuseppe Palmieri, where iron drinking-fountains designed for public use were manufactured. One of these drinking fountains, which he had built, he always visited when, years afterward, he returned during his vacations to Naples. More than one evening found him earning a lira or two for singing a serenade under the window of some Italian maid while her suitor stood near, looking upwards for some recognition of the vocal tribute he had paid to have bestowed.
It was an avoca- tion that generally called forth remonstrances from Carusiello's Bronzetti instructors for taxing his precious voice. Occasionally the enterprising con- tralto would find some small engagement to partic- ipate at a social affair, or in some religious service ; he was born to be an artist and no day's labor at the shop left him lacking in either will or desire to accept with enthusiasm whatever fell in his way.
If Marcellino Caruso manifested no great interest in his son's semi-professional progress, his wife sup- plied enough. But she was wise. The praise a sensitive boy needs to encourage him was never denied. She was generally present, when the oc- casion was one making it proper for her to appear ; afterward Enrico would go to her for his most cher- ished reward.
These were proud moments for both mother and son. She no doubt saw farther into his future than others could have seen. The mater- nal instinct is a wonderous thing. Yet she was care- ful never to say too much ; hers seems to have been a far-seeing course, tempered with judicious restraint.
So the boy, for all his small successes, acquired no egotistical poses. If they perhaps smoldered within him, they were lovingly smothered. The best, and that alone, was nurtured by the woman who had so YOUTH 19 little yet so very much to give this son she had borne. The years were few allowed her for her task ; still, in some ways, they were enough.
The memory of them, and of her, never slipped from the mind of the one who was thus fortunate in the molding his nature then received. Who can estimate what effect it had upon his future work! Caruso undertook once to do so. But words would not come. It came at private hands. Marcellino Caruso during her illnesses, was Enrico's tutor. She was a cultivated woman, strict in the Italian speech. Her set purpose in one direc- tion was to break her pupil of his habit of a too free use of the Neapolitan dialect ; and it was this insist- ence, and the boy's carelessness one evening, that brought him a slap so hard as to end forever his school days.
The railway yards were near. I played there each evening for two weeks, with my boy friends, until time to go home. Soon after he put me at work with him at the Meuricoffre plant. It was at the Bronzetti school, in a work written by Maestri Campanelli and Fasanaro to secure funds for that institution. Con- siderable opposition was offered to the proposal to give an operatic piece in a church, but it was finally overcome. It was quasi-comic and not too difficult for the boys to sing.
Carusiello, being the comedian of the school, was cast for the role of a bidello a sort of janitor don Tommaso. Peppino Villani, the solemnest youth of all, assumed the part of Lulu, a girl. The performance developed into a success ; but it did not foreshadow with accu- racy the future careers of the two young singers who carried off chief honors, though many who were pres- ent ventured predictions.
Years afterward, Villani became one of Italy's most celebrated comedians, while Caruso was engaged oftenest with tragic roles. His time apportioned to work, singing, and play, Caruso followed each with an intensity character- istic. Indifference touched no part of him ; he seems almost never to have approached anything, whether out of necessity or choice, in half-hearted fashion. No regular contributions to the family exchequer, slender though it was, were exacted of him.
His earnings were regarded as his own, and he spent them as he saw fit : for apparel, of which he was 22 ENRICO CARUSO boyishly fond ; the theater ; and, since it was the custom for the Neapolitan boys of his acquaintance to play occasional games of chance, some of his money was lost to luckier playmates. Free-handed and sunny ; respecting with almost stiff-necked rigidity a promise or obligation, he was, for all his temperamental moments, sensitive to the good opinion of others. Shrinking from disputes, Caruso gave evidence all through his youth of that dis- position, so marked in maturity, to avoid the unpleas- ant.
To make and retain friendships, to lend a help- ing hand when he could, or a word of cheer that was his nature ; and, if it was not a consciously courted popularity, he found himself generally invit- ing a welcome wherever he went. Enhancing these qualities were his strain of comedy-making and his voice, a combination rare enough to set him apart from others. As he continued more and more to sing in dif- ferent places his reputation gradually widened.
He grew, after a time, to be known as the little divo, Errico, a name in point of fact, which was his own ; Enrico did not evolve until the tenor became very well known. Although he walked onward in those days, it was for this Italian boy no flowery path ; there were hidden thorns to prick his sensitiveness. No formal declaration of preparing him for a sing- ing career was ever voiced ; no family powpow, no laying of plans, nor house-top shouting. Events shaped the Caruso future, and with them he moved, grateful for what might follow. Mary's month, it is called ; and always is it set apart by the populace to pay homage to the Blessed Virgin.
The music festivals that close these celebrations were pretentious ; there was scarcely a good singer but got his chance. The one which knocked at the Caruso door on June I, , found a boy wavering in a distressed mood, because his mother lay seriously ill. He did not wish to leave her, but she insisted ; and thus urged, though with misgivings, he trudged gloomily to the Church of St.
Severino, there to perform his part in the festival of the Corpus Domini holiday, in which Maestro Amitrano was to conduct the music. He would lift his contralto voice, he argued to himself, pouring forth his heart in thanks for such a mother. In the midst of the service came an interruption.
People who had seen the father emerge weeping from his house came looking for Enrico. Anna Caruso had gone on her final exploration while the son she adored was engaged in the work which she loved best to have him do. II The work at the Meuricoffre plant served well, at this juncture, for a sorrowing boy incapable of find- ing any heart for his cherished song. Serenading could not woo him nor even the church choir. Marcellino Caruso ministered as best he knew how to his brood of three, helped by the manful Enrico.
After a time, the practical side of life persisting, a bit of sunshine appeared. Then, as the weeks slipped by, the natural buoyancy of youth prevailed. Work at Meuricoffre's continued, and, presently, Enrico experienced again the desire to sing. True, his mother was gone, yet she at least no longer suffered ; and had she not taken a deep joy in his music?
So the inevitable happened, bringing the boy, by gradual processes, back to that longing which was his master. Even Marcellino Caruso acqui- esced ; he was not unwilling that his son should indulge his voice. Perhaps he also, by this time, had some premonition of what was to come ; possibly the occasional nightly earnings helped the paternal decision. In the meantime, however, Enrico Caruso's voice had undergone a change from a boyish contralto into a tenor a somewhat thin one, yet, for all that, a tenor.
There being a demand for even thin- voiced tenors, provided they could sing, Enrico knew little idleness. Church music was his recognized forte, and it brought him moderate rewards. The religious festivals came oftener to be attended by the sound of his youthful tenor ; and as he continued to sing the Caruso name was more frequently mentioned.
There were, in the nature of things, transitions in the Caruso family. The need of a mother for his children must have dwelt in the heart of Marcellino Caruso when he journeyed to Aversa, some four months after the death of his wife, to install in a factory owned by a Baron Ricciardi machinery he had purchased from Signor Meuricoffre. H It developed that the lodging secured for Mar- cellino Caruso during his stay in Aversa was in the home of Maria Castaldi. A widow, she apparently found matters of common interest to herself and her temporary widower guest.
And there is every in- dication that the two came without much delay to an understanding, for they were married on Novem- ber 1 8, , within a few weeks after their first meeting. No mother could have been tenderer than this new one which the Church and law gave to the Caruso children, and who was brought into their home within six months after Anna Baldini Caruso had been laid at rest. She was gentle ; she had patience ; and she bestowed upon her small charges an affection which gradually brought to them what they uncon- sciously sought. To Enrico was she especially drawn ; something in his nature seemed to cry out that he needed her most.
For her he was almost a model child ; quite the opposite of Giovanni, whose irresponsible ways were a source of annoyance. It al- ways disturbed him that despite his repeated urging to the contrary she preferred to continue living modestly. Ill The working days of the young Enrico Caruso continued in the Meuricoffre establishment even after it had been partly denuded of its mechanical equipment, for it was a business having several sides. There was one department given over to the manufacture of cotton oil ; another for purifying cream of tartar ; and a third, which was a warehouse.
Raw and finished material, after being inventoried, would be stored in it, and against this merchandise warehouse certificates were issued and deposited with banks as collateral for loans. Business having receded to a threatening point when Enrico Caruso had passed his sixteenth birth- day, and a reduction of the working force becoming necessary, Signor Meuricoffre proposed to the elder Caruso that his son be made a sort of accountant in charge of the records of such materials as might be received for refining purposes, and also of records covering whatever was stored in the warehouse.
Approached in the matter, the boy appeared to doubt his ability to perform duties of such responsi- bility, but his employer soon discovered in his new accountant and receiving clerk abilities of an unusual sort. It was work that called for accuracy, alertness, and a shrewd mind ; and re- quired many hours of each day to complete. There were periods, however, when a lessening of business activities enabled the young singer to accept out-of- town engagements ; and he had his vacation days, also.
It was during one of these recreation terms, in the summer of , that patrons of cafes heard between dances the Caruso voice. One Saturday night the tenor attracted the notice of a man who, as Caruso expressed it, "liked my voice if not my way of using it. Convinced after the eleventh lesson that the "covering" of his high tones in the manner advocated was injuring them, Caruso paused in his vocal studies as suddenly as he had begun them. For one year he continued in his former technical ways ; then came the unexpected.
He had joined forces with a young pianist to enter- tain bathers at the Risorgimento Baths, in via Ca- racciolo, in Naples. He has admitted that those days were pleasant to remember ; that they brought him no real unhappiness. Toward the end of the summer he met Eduardo Missiano, a baritone singer in comfortable circumstances, whose interest in the struggling tenor was to influence so vitally his future career.
Relating his first meeting with Missiano, who was preparing for a career, Caruso said his new acquaintance asked him if he were study- ing. He thought it a small voice which sounded "like the wind whistling through a window. At length Vergine said, "Very well, come back in eight days, and I will hear him again.
This was the "joker" clause in the contract. It would have taken the tenor many times five years in his profession to have fulfilled the terms ; and an Italian court tried for two years to reach a decision. In , when Ca- ruso was singing in Rome, Vergine went to him. A reconciliation was effected, an understanding brought about, and on the payment to Vergine of twenty thousand lire the contract was torn up.
The lessons began shortly after arrangements had been reached, though they were rather unusual lessons. Vergine taught in classes. It was his practice to assemble his pupils in a large room, and then to call on various ones to sing specific technical exercises and arias. He would admonish and approve ; he would call for criticisms from members of the class ; and passing from one pupil to another, each found an opportunity to be heard and enlightened.
Throughout several of these class- lessons Caruso was not surprised at being ignored ; he considered himself as undergoing a preparatory period valuable for what it offered one to hear and observe. But as weeks passed without his being called on to sing, the tenor grew anxious. One day he volunteered to sing some phrases to illustrate a point Vergine had explained generally to the class, where- upon Vergine exclaimed, "What, are you still here? Or it may have been as it doubtless was Vergine's way of protecting his pupil from developing a sus- pected overconfidence.
Permitted, at length, to sing, Caruso found the hand of restraint laid heavily upon any aspirations he may have had to use his full voice.