"Questa o quella"
(Rigoletto - Verdi, Giuseppe)
• Recorded 16-03-1908 •
More information here
There are many anecdotes told about Caruso. In the books you'll find many of them - see under Downloads. I have picked one that illustrates Caruso's respect for his audience.
"He sang Celeste Aida so brilliantly that the applause stopped the show... his Radames [the role] reached such heights that those lucky enough to have been present will remember the occasion for the rest of their lives. What happened at the end of this [final] duet [with Emmy Destinn] was not merely applause, but an uproar, a cry of jubilation. The audience clapped, yelled and stamped their feet.
In the course of many years I witnessed many triumphant Caruso nights, but none quite like that Aida."
Emil Ledner, Caruso's German manager, Berlin, October 25, 1907
The scene is Berlin (before the First World War) and Martino, Caruso's valet (whom the stickler for order Caruso had spontaniously hired because "he [as a porter] carried my suitcases with the utmost care"), tells the story to Dorothy Caruso (from her book "Wings of Song"):
"Once in Berlin the students bought standing room to hear Caruso sing. Oh ! Madonna mia! What crowds there were that night ! Even up to the dressing-room door they roll like waves, and when the house is full they overflow into the streets and nothing can pass by the opera house.
While the Commendatore was singing, there came for him an immense horseshoe of flowers that took up all the dressing room, and I think to myself I must put it in the hall, which was already full of bouquets. At the moment I was moving it Caruso came from the stage, tired and excited as always after a performance, and he stopped to look at the card attached to the flowers, which read: "To the Greatest Singer, From the Students"
"Let it stay", he say, and begin to change his costume.
So to help him I have to jump around that mountain of flowers wherever I move. Some gentleman come in at that moment and look at the card and say, "Too bad, because the students did not hear you sing after all."
The Commendatore stop smoking a cigarette. "Why not?", he asks. "Don't I sing loud enough?" - "They didn't get into the opera house." answered the gentleman.
Caruso's dressing room opened on the street, and there sounded so much noise out there that I went to push down the window, thinking he might be disturbed; but he stopped me, saying, "Martino, what is the noise?" Listening, I hear a sound like humming and people calling, so I raised the window and look out again, and there all the students are in the street. "Those are the students", I say, "and I think they wait for you to come out."
Caruso looks at the big horseshoe of flowers and comes over to the open window. When the students see him they roar and howl and throw their caps in the air. Such a demonstration and such a terrible noise, signora, you never hear in all this world ! For even now it makes my ears ache to think of it.
Then Caruso puts up his hand and begins to sing the aria from Marta [hear it here], and from those boys comes not a sound, not a breath till it is over, and then - Martino shut his eyes and pressed his hands over his ears - they shout, they roar like lions, they howl terrible terrible.
When the Commendatore comes out to mount into his carriage, they take away the horses and put themselves in the harness and pull him to the hotel !
Random Quote (view all here)
"I wonder what would have become of me if, like him, I had been born in a city slum; for I did not have the gifts of personality that enabled Caruso to create life and warmth around him wherever he went."