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Enrico Caruso: the Greatest Singer in the World



Enrico Caruso:  the Greatest Singer in the World

You are cordially invited to the screening of: “Enrico Caruso: the Greatest Singer in the World”

A documentary directed by Giuliana Muscio
Produced by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI)

The screening will be introduced by Giuliana Muscio and Min. Plen. Luigi Maria Vignali, Director General for Italian Citizens Abroad and Migration Policies (MAECI)

Thursday, June 9, 2022 8PM
Italian Cultural Institute | 686 Park Avenue, NY

Free entrance, by reservation only

Reservations are made on a first come, first served basis and are subject to availability and confirmation. No reservations are confirmed until you receive confirmation back from us.

Guests will be asked for proof of vaccination and ID upon entry

The documentary narrates Enrico Caruso’s American experience, with rare materials and a new approach, capable of revealing the modernity of his rapport with the media and of emphasizing the fundamental contributions Italian performers offered to the development of the media industry in the US.

The film utilizes photos and documents from the collection donated by Dorothy Benjamin, Caruso’s American wife, to the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, from the rich collection of the Metropolitan Opera Archive, from Museo Enrico Caruso in Villa Bellosguardo (Florence) and the home movies shot by orchestra director Giulio Setti’s family, preserved at Fondazione Ansaldo, in addition to newsreels and the silent film My Cousin (1918), recently restored by the Cineteca of Bologna.

It concentrates on his American experience allowing for an appreciation of his innovative approach to media (press, music industry and cinema) and of the role his success had in modifying the image of Italian immigrants in the US.

The music record industry was born thank to his voice, when, in Milan in 1902, he accepted to record some arias with Fred Gainsberg of the Gramophone and Typewriter Co., that, as the name suggests, was not at all destined to music recording. Caruso’s records, heard at the Metropolitan, induced the offer of a fabulous contract. He sang at the Metropolitan (that owes to his popularity its fame) for 17 seasons. From that prestigious stage he revolutionized the way opera was sang. With his exceptional gits as a performer, he introduced verismo (naturalism) both in acting and in the expressivity of his singing, rejecting virtuosity and the traditional mannered performance, thus contributing to moving opera from an upper middle class audience to mass culture. Furthermore the operas he performed produced a general identification of opera as Italian.

In New York he signed a contract with Victor Talking Machine and was its testimonial in order to bring opera in the homes of the American middle class and into the world. Caruso was the first singer who sold a million records with Vesti la giubba from Pagliacci. Between 1904 and 1920 he earned almost two million dollars just from the sale of his record. From 1909 he recorded also Neapolitan songs, legitimating the identification of popular Neapolitan music as an expression of italianità and creating a popular and cosmopolitan audience for his voice.
With increasing interest, the American press followed his career, his tournees, and even his life style, constructing the mythical figure of a singer for whom theatres were built in the jungle and a fame that time has not diminished. Caruso frequently appeared in the papers, in articles with big letters titles and photos showing him more and more at ease with posing, at times joking with the photographer. He even appeared in comic strips and published his artistic caricatures--not at all amateurish-- in both Italian and American papers.

His personality broke the distinction between public and private spheres: the newspaper presented his family but also the scandals that involved him (as the New York “scandal of the zoo” and his companion Ada Giachetti running away with her driver).
Caruso was also a film star, in that he often appeared in the newsreels and in 1918 interpreted two films, My Cousin e The Splendid Romance, with a surprising performing maturity and an exceptional contract of 200.000 dollars. In My Cousin he interprets both a successful tenor and his poor cousin, immigrant in Little Italy, thus confirming his empathy toward the world of Italian emigration. As an “Italian abroad” in New York Caruso frequented artists of the immigrant stage, like Cesare Gravina (later one of Eric von Stroheim’s favorite actors) and William Ricciardi, the founder of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, who participated both in different ways to the filming. Caruso interprets the two characters in different modes: benevolent humor for the cousin and self-irony for the tenor. But behind My Cousin there is a mystery because there are different versions of the film. His performance was very appreciated by film critics, and yet the film disappeared and its memory was practically erased. The documentary tries to explain why.
During WWI Caruso engaged in multiple fundraising activities, in favor of both Italian and American associations, with spectacular performances, documented by the newsreels. In addition, he composed Liberty Forever in order to support the selling of war bonds, and recorded Over There, the famous WWI American song. In this extended patriotism he fulfilled the identitary process of an “Italian abroad”, recognizing the ties with the homeland and with the host country.

In the finale of My Cousin the “tenor” visits the “cousin” in Little Italy, thus acknowledging their relationship, the blood ties with the country where he was born, but he arrives on his expensive car, which symbolizes the success he had in New York, all within a waving of American and Italian flags. Caruso was the bearer of a modern Neapolitan culture of performing arts, a great communicator and “an emigrant who had success”, conquered the Americas and became a myth.


Data: Gio 9 Giu 2022

Orario: Alle 20:00

Organizzato da : IIC

In collaborazione con : MAECI

Ingresso : Libero