By far the most famous singer of his day, Caruso (tenor) was born in Naples in 1873 and made his debut there in 1894. He rapidly became widely acclaimed, singing at many of the world's major opera house: though like many of his generation, he sang most often at the Metropolitan Opera House,New York. He first appeared at Covent Garden in 1902. His fame was much increased by his gramophone records, beginning in 1902, which made him the first star of the recording industry. His voice, which had a baritonal quality in addition to a fine lyrical tenor tone, overcame the considerable deficiencies of the early recording system better than most, and it was his recordings more than any others that established the gramophone as something more than a mere toy. His most popular recordings have never been out of print in one form or another (see note below). He died in Naples on August 2, 1921.

'O SOUVERAIN! O JUGE! O PÉRE!' (Le Cid) (Massenet)
HMV 2-03205, recorded 5 November 1916.

Because of the limitations of acoustic recordings most of his records suggest a rather penetrating tone - something which many modern transfers tend to emphasize. This recording - possibly his finest, technically speaking - shows a very warm and smooth tone and demonstrates just why he was the superstar of his day. It was recorded in the USA for Victor, and has been transferred at 76 rpm and has been digitally noise reduced (see the note on the introduction page).

'È SCHERZO, OD È FOLIA' (QUINTET) (Un Ballo in Maschera) (Verdi)
Victor 89076, recorded 3 April, 1914

Although almost all Caruso's records were made in America for Victor, in Europe one normally sees them in the various Gramophone Company versions. Unusually, this one is a Victor original (click here to see the label). Though not quite as good technically as the one above, it still gives a good idea of the voices. The transfer is at 76 rpm and has also been digitally noise reduced.

Originally I had transferred these at 80rpm, the speed given in the Victor catalogues of the period: however the authoritative book by Enrico Caruso Jr. and Andrew Farkas gives 76 rpm so I have adopted this (thanks to Steve Jabloner for drawing my attention to this).

If you would like to download these recordings you can do so from this page.

Opera singers were the pop stars of their era, and one of the tributes paid to the greatest of them was to invent a recipe in their name. I have found two recipes and a cocktail named after Caruso.