Enrico Caruso

Widely considered to be the first international recording star, Enrico Caruso was born in Naples, Italy in 1873. He was raised in a poor family but was encouraged to pursue music by his mother, who died in 1888. He sang in the street to earn money for his family after his mother’s death and, after military service, made his professional stage debut in Naples in 1895. He continued touring small theaters and landed a contract to perform at La Scala in late 1900. This propelled him to international acclaim and he began performing for European royalty. Caruso’s voice was suited to the limitations of music recording at the time and his first recordings were made in Milan, Italy, in 1902. His first performance at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City was in 1903, which situated him as a popular artist among the bourgeois audience as well at the city’s massive population of Italian immigrants. By 1904 he had an exclusive contract to record for the Victor Talking Machine Company, where he would eventually make 260 recordings through 1920. As an international operatic celebrity, Caruso performed charity work during World War I. His health began to deteriorate at this time due to a heavy touring and travel schedule compounded by his lifestyle. In December 1920 he suffered a throat hemorrhage while performing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He never fully recovered and he died the following year, aged forty-eight, in Naples. Despite having recorded prior to the advent of digital recording in the mid-1920s, Caruso’s legacy as a popular solo singer has influenced countless artists who have followed in his wake.