- Enrico Caruso
- My Father and My Family
- By Enrico Caruso, Jr. and Andrew
- (Chapter 33, page 546)
- (The following extract appears in the
book Enrico Caruso, My Father and My Family published in 1990 by Amadeus
Press. Our thanks to Pat Burkhart for sending this in.)
- "Come now! Caruso had no sons, he
only had a daughter. I saw it in the Movies." (The Great Caruso).
- The film was rife with distortions and
did a disservice to my father¹s memory. All the same, it made
a star of Mario Lanza and through him performed an invaluable service to
opera. Lanza became a household name: thanks to him, opera was no longer
as art form for an elite group of eggheads, but was acceptable entertainment
for all. Vocally and musically, The Great Caruso is a thrilling motion
picture, and it has helped many young people discover opera and even become
singers themselves. Jose Carreras is one of them.
- It was Lanza who made the picture a success.
While the crowds idolized him, the experts and purists insisted that he
was a far cry from the real thing, that he had no business impersonating
the great Enrico Caruso, that he was no more than a gifted amateur who
never learned to sing properly.
- In my opinion, this was a facile and
unfair dismissal. Mario Lanza was born with one of the dozen or so great
tenor voices of the century, with a natural gift for placement, an unmistakable
and very pleasing timbre, and a nearly infallible musical instinct conspicuously
absent in the overwhelming majority of so-called "great" singers.
His diction was flawless, matched only by the superb Giusseppe di Stefano.
His delivery was impassioned, his phrasing manly, and his tempi instinctively
right -- qualities that few singers are born with and others can never
- Musically speaking, Lanza grew up on
records, including my fathers, yet he imitated no one; his recordings of
operatic selections are original interpretations. Let it not be forgotten
that Mario Lanza excelled in both the classical and the light popular repertory,
an accomplishment that was beyond even my father¹s exceptional
talents. Lanza¹s acting may have been elementary, but his innate
charm and sincerity compensated for any awkwardness. In addition to these
attributes, Lanza bore a passing physical resemblance to my father. I can
think of no other tenor, before or since Mario Lanza, who could have risen
with comparable success to the challenge of playing Caruso in a screen
biography. As one London reviewer put it: "It says something for Mario
Lanza that in impersonating this living cathedral of sound, he never once
(while he is singing, anyway) makes the performance seem embarrassing or
inadequate." I only regret that Lanza was not given a script faithful
to the facts to immortalize the Caruso story and through it his own art.