Enrico Caruso

Tenor of the Century: 44 Classical Recordings 1903-1920

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Lyric tenor Enrico Caruso was the first singer to become internationally famous through the medium of the phonograph record, even as the phonograph became famous through the medium of Caruso. It was Caruso who cut the first million-selling record (Vesti la Giubba from Pagliacci) in 1902. The entire convoluted history of the recording industry, in fact, leads back to Caruso, he of the warm and passionate voice. Living Era's Tenor of the Century is an excellent sampler of Caruso's Victor recordings made between 1904 and 1920. Note that Living Era did not include Caruso's earliest recordings: not the rare and seldom heard Pathë cylinders of 1898-1899; nor the ten sides cut by the Gramophone and Typewriter Company, Ltd. in a Milan hotel room in 1902; nor the seven Zonophone recordings made under the auspices of the Anglo-Italian Commerce Company in April 1903; nor the three recordings made in October 1903 and subsequently issued on both Pathë cylinders and discs. For the folks at Living Era, the heart of Caruso's recorded legacy begins with his first session for the Victor Talking Machine Company that took place in New York on February 1, 1904, and ends just short of his final recordings made on September 15 and 16, 1920. A reference to the year 1903 posted on the album cover was derived from a speculative discography published during the 1940s and is factually incorrect, as Mi Par d'Udir Ancora, from Bizet's Pearl Fishers, is now known to have been recorded in April of 1904 rather than at some indeterminate point in 1903. All of this technical data aside, Caruso's memory is well served by this double-disc compilation. As his untimely death at the age of 48 occurred several years before the introduction of "the electrical recording process" and a newfangled apparatus known as "the microphone," Caruso's powerful emanations tested the very limits of the acoustic recording medium. He also challenged conventional operatic standards of acceptability. Caruso comes across as astonishingly human; his soul-baring emotive transmission is disarmingly direct and at times almost disturbingly emblematic of the human condition. Caruso's voice is a treasure and a solace. Living Era has done an exceptionally fine job of remastering and reissuing these beautiful recordings made so long ago without losing any of the charm that belongs to antiquated pre-electrical pressings. Anyone hopelessly smitten may opt for Caruso's "complete" recordings reissued in chronological order by the Naxos label or his greatest records impeccably presented throughout the Nimbus Prima Voce series.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Pagliacci, opera
1 3:17
L' elisir d'amore, opera
2 3:03
Manon, opera in 5 acts
La Gioconda, opera in 4 acts
4 3:34
Martha, opera
5 3:30
La forza del destino, opera
6 4:15
La bohème, opera
7 4:10
8 3:20
Les Pêcheurs de perles, opera in 3 acts
Aida, opera
10 3:30
Il Trovatore, opera
11 4:22
Tosca, opera
12 2:27
Carmen, opera
Cavalleria rusticana, opera (melodramma) in 1 act
14 3:59
Otello, opera
15 4:47
La Traviata, opera
16 3:10
Macbeth, opera
17 3:29
Salvator Rosa, opera
19 2:55
20 2:19
21 2:42
22 2:16
23 3:23

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Les Pêcheurs de perles, opera in 3 acts
Faust, opera
2 4:15
Rigoletto, opera
3 2:15
Il Trovatore, opera
4 3:37
La bohème, opera
5 3:27
Martha, opera
6 4:14
Manon Lescaut, opera
7 2:52
Il Guarany, opera
Andrea Chénier, opera
9 3:03
L' elisir d'amore, opera
10 4:17
Serse (Xerxes), opera, HWV 40
La Juive, opera
13 2:35
14 3:25
15 3:17
18 3:01
19 3:02
20 3:19
21 3:37
blue highlight denotes track pick