President’s Playlist–An Orchid Lined Voice

In January we posted a president’s playlist about one of my favorite songs, “Over There“. Today, we are going to learn a bit more about one of the artists, Enrico Caruso.

Wilson owned eight recordings of Enrico Caruso, including “Over There”. Caruso was born in 1873 in Naples, Italy and made his operatic debut there in 1895. His performance was not well received and he swore to never perform in Naples again (and he never did.) In 1902 he signed his first recording contract with the Gramophone Company in London. The next year he moved to New York City where he started his career with the Metropolitan Opera in November. He continued to perform there for the next eighteen seasons and became known as the “man with the Orchid-Lined Voice.” After his time in New York he returned to Naples. Enrico Caruso died in 1921 due to complications from pneumonia, but his recordings are still used in the backgrounds of many movies today.

Enrico Caruso’s voice range was of a baritone. However, his voice became lower and richer as he became older. He would often transpose music if he felt that it was out of his range. See if you can spot the differences in these three recordings. The first is from 1910. This ballad is called For You Alone and encompasses a wide range but constantly returns to the top of that range for long notes:

This second piece is called Pimpinella which was recorded in 1913. Notice how Caruso’s voice sits comfortably in the middle of the range.

This last song was recorded in 1919. Many of the phrases in this piece end much lower than in the two previous songs.

Even though Caruso’s voice lowered, his popularity did not. Caruso was one of the first recording stars. An estimated 5 million single-sided Caruso records were sold during his lifetime!

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