Caruso made 25 recording in 1910. Here’s a selection, Solo, profugo, reietto, from Flowtow’s Martha that’s not “M’appari”. It’s almost never played today. Caruso was in splendid voice and makes a fine case for this rarity. The bass in Marcel Journet. The number also shows the tenor’s liberal use of portamento; tenors today are a little more sparing in their use of this technique.
The highlight of Caruso’s 1910 recordings was the nine sides devoted to Gounod’s Faust. Together with “Salut demeure” (issues earlier) they contain most of the tenor’s music in this opera. Virtually the complete Garden Scene with Geraldine Farrar (he called her the “beautiful Geraldine”) was recorded on for sides. This excerpt give a hint of what Caruso sounded like in a compete performance. Heard in the first half of the scene are Gabrielle Gilbert and Marcel Journet.
Farrar appeared regularly with Caruso in this and other roles. We can only lament Victor’s failure to record the whole opera, though I don’t know if there would have been a market for such a gigantic undertaking in 1910.
Caruso again returned to Franchetti’s Germania.In Studenti! Udite! he was in such refulgent form that you almost want to hear a performance of that forgotten (except for Caruso’s part in it) work. After two operations on his vocal chords he sounds better than before the surgery. I’d love to know who his surgeon(s) was.
His recording of No! Pagliaccio non son reminds the listener that he sang more of Pagliacci than the famous first act aria. It shows why this was his most popular role; he sang it 116 times with the company. His sound is very dark in this recording. There’s a tiny, almost unnoticeable, catch in the high note at the end. If you don’t listen carefully you’ll miss it, but still I wonder why he didn’t rerecord the number. You’d never have noticed it in the opera house.
Caruso never sang Verdi’s Otello on stage. He was thinking of doing it , but his premature death canceled that plan. Ora e per sempre addio shows what his audience missed. At the time of his death his voice was ideal for the most demanding tenor role in Italian opera.
If you listened to the Met’s broadcast of Il Trovatore (February 16) you heard how much this opera depends on great singers in all the major roles. Unfortunately it was a negative lesson. Listen how effortlessly Caruso sings the tenor part of Mal reggendo. The mezzo is the great Louise Homer who is as equal to the task as Caruso.
Caruso and Homer are equally good in the Judgment Scene from Aida – Gia i sacerdoti adunansi. The power and excitement of their voices still resonates even after a century. If you want to give Verdi his due and you have pretensions to be the world’s greatest opera house you have to find singers who if not at this level are close.
He also recorded a song in English for the first time. The song is Tosti’s “Addio” (Goodbye) translated in English. Listen very carefully you will be able to understand a word her and there.
While Caruso was able to maintain this level of excellence he couldn’t have gotten any better. This as good as it can get.
More to come later.