Monday, August 2, 2021

Enrico Caruso Dies and World Grieves for Loss of Tenor -- August 2, 2021

Washington Evening Star, 02-August-1921

Neapolitan tenor Enrico Caruso died 100 years ago today, on 02-August-1921. My Italian grandfather was a great fan. Caruso is often mentioned in San Francisco because of his quick exit after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

Noted Singer Suddenly
Passes Away at Home
in Naples.

Greatest of Operatic Stars and Idol
of Multitudes Had Triumphant

By the Associated Press.
NAPLES, August 2. -- Enrico Caruso, world famous tenor, died here today. The condition of the singer, which had been considered satisfactory until recently, became grave yesterday, peritonitis developing, and another operation being considered necessary. From the beginning of his relapse, however, there was serious concern over the outcome, and last night his life was despaired of. During the night the condition of the patient grew steadily worse, and the career of the great artist came to an end with his death at an early hour this morning.

In June, 1920, his country home was robbed of thousands of dollars in jewels, and in the same week a bomb was set in the National Theater at Havana just before his entrance in the second half of "Aida."

Scene of His Greatest Triumphs
Shocked by News.

NEW YORK. August 2 -- The death of Enrico Caruso beneath the skies of his own Italy today caused sorrow on every highway and byway of New York.

Here he was loved by all -- the poor of East Side tenements, the wealthy of 5th Avenue's stately mansions, the countless numbers who filled the seats of the Metropolitan Opera House between the sparkling pit and the somber galleries whenever the incomparable tenor sang a role.

Street sweepers stopped their work to mumble a prayer for the departed tenor; the cultured lamented the loss to art of one of its most cherished possessions. They felt the loss was not only America's, but the world's. For Caruso's superb tones have enraptured audiences the world around.

Voice Missed During Illness.

The homage paid him was never better realized than when his voice was silenced during his long illness last winter.

When he lay stricken, gallantly fighting against a death that seemed only hours away, ever expressing the hope that he might be spared until he could return to the soil that gave him birth, the meek and the mighty of every land prayed that the great tenor would be spared to them and to art a little while longer.

Princes sent messages of sympathy and hope to his bedside from every country that knew a cable station or a wireless plant. In New York, push-cart peddlers, as well as business barons and leaders of society, eagerly bought newspapers hour by hour to learn how Caruso's courageous fight was progressing.

To the hotel suite where he was suffering from one operation after another there went exquisite bouquets from florists' shops and also simple garlands that expressed the love and admiration of the poor.

Cheerfulness Admired.

On the stage Caruso always was cheerful. His gayety in responding to curtain calls, his gracious bows and unexpected tricks, his inexhaustible energy, aroused an admiration that knew no boundaries, creeds or birth.

His joy was in singing.

"I promise you that when I go to heaven I shall sing forever," he told an audience at the Friars' Club five years ago.

Sometimes, the possession of a voice that thousands considered the most perfect ever given to a man, palled upon the great tenor, and he would express regret that he could not be just an ordinary somebody.

"The burdens of my gift are greater than the rewards," he would say.

Personal friends knew Caruso to be as cheerful in private life as on the stage. Trouble seemed ever to follow him, yet he kept cheerful and undismayed.

Last December a disheartening series of mishaps preceded the illness which led to his death. On the 8th he sprained his side when making an energetic exit after the aria "Vesti la Giubba." in "Pagliacci."

Three days later he burst a blood vessel in his throat during a performance of "L'Elisir d'Amore," in Brooklyn, but he bravely carried on.

Two days before Christmas he lay in bed, his chest under treatment for "Intercostal neuralgia," but the Christmas eve audience for "La Juiva" was not denied the joy of hearing him. for he left his sickroom and sang the role of Eleazar.

Heavens Mourn Loss.

Christmas he spent in bed, and the next day came word that pleurisy had attacked him.

Week after week he battled for life, undergoing several operations. When he was sufficiently strong he went to Atlantic City for a few weeks, and then, when the warm sun of early summer came to Italy, he left New York, emaciated but smiling, confident that he would return in the fall to the thousands of music lovers who awaited him.

To the superstitious it seemed as if the very heavens today mourned the tenor's loss, for scarcely had there appeared on the streets the first extras telling of his death than it became dark as night. Great clouds, heavy with rain, draped the skies and soon New York was working by artificial light.

The last word received here from Naples was that Enrico Caruso was improving nicely, and that his voice would not be permanently impaired by his illness. When the tenor sailed from New York for Italy on May 28 he appeared still to be very ill and weak, although his physicians insisted that he was on the road to rapid recovery and would soon regain his health abroad. Caruso's illness first began during last Christmas week, when he suffered an attack of pleurisy and was confined to his suite in the Hotel Vanderbilt. His condition growing worse, the singer a few days later underwent an operation to relieve him of an accumulation of pus in the pleural cavity, exudate having collected between the pleura and the lungs themselves. It was deemed advisable to operate again for a secondary abscess.

In Critical Condition.

After these operations Caruso continued in a serious condition for more than a week and was hovering between life and death.

Early in February there was another sudden turn for the worse and he suffered an attack of heart failure. His friends were called to his bedside and two priests visited him and one administered extreme unction, the belief being the singer was near death.

A group of specialists were constantly at the bedside of Caruso fighting to save his life. They were aided in their work by the use of oxygen, which was administered to the patient in an effort to carry him through the crisis.

During the latter part of February the condition of the famous singer improved slowly, but steadily, although it was necessary for him to undergo a third operation for another small abscess. A few weeks later he was removed to Atlantic City, where he rested up preparatory to his return to Italy.

Word of the first Illness of Caruso at the time he was stricken with pleurisy came as a shock to his many friends in this country and abroad, as he had been singing with the Metropolitan Opera Company during the present season, here and in Philadelphia, and was enjoying one of the best seasons of his life.

World-Wide Interest.

Messages from all parts of the world inquiring as to his illness were received at the Caruso apartment. They came from London, Paris, Mexico City, Rome, Milan, Buenos Aires, Havana and many other countries. They were sent not only by persons known in the world of music, but from many admirers who had sat in his audiences at some time in the twenty-five years of his career as an opera star.

Up to the time of his sailing for Italy reports were current that Caruso's voice had not withstood the ravages of his many weeks of illness. These were stoutly denied by his friends and to prove their untruth the tenor, just before sailing away on board the steamship President Wilson, burst into one of his golden notes -- a particularly high one -- and held it without apparent difficulty. Thousands of friends who were gathered at the pier cheered him in his gallant effort, but he gallantly declined to give an encore "until next season."

Caruso, looking pale and much thinner, doffed his hat in acknowledgment of the greetings of the crowd. Police reserves and dock guards had great difficulty in holding in check a great crowd of admirers as they greeted Caruso when he went aboard the steamship, where his most intimate friends bid him and Mrs. Caruso farewell.

Confident of Recovery.

When Caruso left for Italy he appeared confident that he would return to America next fall and again take his place with the Metropolitan Opera Company.

Shortly, however, after the tenor had arrived in Italy reports began to drift back to this country that he would not sing again before the American public in his old voice. Caruso, however, immediately cabled a denial of those reports, declaring that "when I want to show I have not lost my voice I will do so at the proper time and place."

Early this month word came from Italy that Caruso was not recovering as rapidly as had been expected and seemed depressed, but friends declared his voice was returning and that he sang a short time each day.

Reports reaching Rome at this time stated that Caruso would be able to sing in New York by next winter, though friends reluctantly admitted "It will never be quite the same again." Caruso was also reported to be living a secluded life in a hotel near Naples, never mixing with the other hotel guests and taking his meals in his private suite.

News Comes as Shock.

News of Caruso's death on the heels of continued reassuring reports from Italy came as a stunning shock to the music-loving world. Only last Sunday photographs of the singer in Italy were published here and they showed him cheerful and apparently in robust health.

His friends here recalled today that when he was seriously ill last winter he often expressed the wish that if he had to die he would prefer to die in his own sunny Italy, for which he always held a deep affection.

The breakdown in the tenor's health last winter followed a series of mishaps to Caruso, which culminated on December 11 in Brooklyn, when he burst a blood vessel while singing "Elisir d'Amore" at the Academy of Music.

His performance on that occasion was gallant; he struggled through the whole first act, although time an again blood choked his voice, and every now and then he was forced to change a reddened handkerchief for another deftly slipped to him by some member of the chorus.

Those in the front rows soon became aware of the singer's danger, and applauded the daring flights, in which, time after time, golden voice rose superior to the obstacle that threatened to muffle it. It was not until the combined demands of his wife, almost frantic in the wings and the pleas of his physician had been joined that Caruso finally consented to abandon the stage.

A few days before the mishap in Brooklyn Caruso slightly strained a muscle, when he stumbled and plunged into part of the stage settings at the Metropolitan Opera House during a performance of "I Pagliacci." There was a long delay between the first and second scenes, during which Caruso rested and regained composure.

After his accident in Brooklyn every effort was made to minimize that mishap and to assure the public that Caruso would soon sing again, He did sing again, his last public appearance being at the Metropolitan on Christmas eve last, in the role of Eleazar, in "La Juive." He was welcomed back with an ovation, such as only an enthusiastic Metropolitan audience could muster.

Opera-goers that night felt reassured that all was well with the glorious voice of their favorite, but on the day after Christmas came the announcement that Caruso had been stricken with pleurisy.

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