OPERA – ENRICO AND GIOVANNI
Why is it that an American Woman has such an interest in two somewhat different Italian tenors as Enrico Caruso and Giovanni Cavaliere? Is it their musical background or something else? I find their approach to their talent and range of voice unique to themselves, and yet while performer’s such as Caruso and Pavarotti are no longer with us and we have their recordings, a new and fresh talent like Giovanni Cavaliere also appeals to a younger audience and helps bring a new influx of people into the world of opera that would not have even given it a chance. Rare is the performer with the caliber of Giovanni Cavaliere that can touch you to the very core of your being even bringing you tears of joy.
Enrico Caruso – was born on the 25th of February, 1873 in Naples, Italy, and was the third of seven children. Enrico briefly studied music with the conductor Vincenzo Lombardini. His first source of income was singing serenades. He was an Italian tenor, who sang to great acclaim at the major opera houses of Europe and the Americas, appearing in a wide variety of roles from the Italian and French repertoires that ranged from the lyric to the dramatic. Caruso also made approximately 290 commercially released recordings from 1902 to 1920. All of these recordings, which span most of his stage career, are available today on CDs and on You Tube as well. Caruso made his operatic debut on March 15, 1895 at a back street theatre in Naples. After a two-year stint on the South Italian circuit he auditioned for Giacomo Puccini in the summer of 1897. Puccini was looking for a leading tenor for a performance of ‘La Boheme’ in Livorno. Puccini was so impressed with the range and tone of the young Caruso’s voice, that he reportedly mumbled in awe, “Who sent you to me? God himself?” After an unfriendly reception of his performance in Naples, Caruso vowed to never sing in Naples again. In May 1902, Caruso made his debut at Covent Gardens in a production of Verdi’s “Rigoletto” in the role of the Duke of Mantua. Then with the assistance of banker Pasquale Simonelli, he went to New York. He performed for the Met the next eighteen seasons, making 607 appearances in 37 different operatic productions. He was the first recording star in history, who sold more than a million records with his 1902 recording of ‘Vesti le giubba’ from ‘Pagliacci’ by ‘Leoncavallo’. His voice had a combination of the full baritone-like character with the smooth and brilliant tenor qualities. His range was broadened into baritone at the expense of the higher tenor notes, Caruso never sang the high C, and often transposed in order to avoid it. He was a master of interpretation, having a rare gift of portamento and legato, and a superior command of phrasing. His legendary 1904 recording of ‘Una furtiva lacrima’, by Gaetano Donizetti and is used in many film soundtracks.
Caruso is considered to be the greatest operatic tenor of all time, and was the first opera star to make best-selling recordings, beginning around 1903, which are still in print to this day. His signature role was Canio, the traveling clown in “I Pagliacci”. He starred in many of the great Italian operas–some in their US premieres–at the old Metropolitan Opera House, many times under the legendary Arturo Toscanini. He appeared with some of the most famous operatic sopranos who ever lived, and was the first tenor whose name became familiar to people who seldom listened to opera.
He was frequently cast opposite singer/actress Geraldine Farrar at the Metropolitan. Between the two of them, they were the biggest box-office combination the company had during the first two decades of the 20th century. Caruso became the Metropolitan Opera’s greatest superstar between his debut with the company in November, 1903 (Duke of Mantua in “Rigoletto”), and his last performance with them on Christmas Eve, 1920 (Eleazar in Halevy’s “La Juive”). This speaks volumes of how popular and wellreceived he had become in the United States and North America. During those years he appeared on every Met opening night except one, in 1906, when personal circumstances forced him to cancel. Quite arguably the first real superstar of recordings, Caruso was the man who truly put the recording industry in America on the map, and who helped establish the Victor label as a power within that industry. His many recordings, some with modern orchestral accompaniment dubbed in, and continue to sell well to this day, almost 100 years after the first of them were recorded.
An interesting note that I found that as a young man in Naples, he fell in love with a local girl whom he wanted to marry. The girls’ father deemed him too low class to marry his daughter, stating that Caruso would never amount to anything as an opera singer. A few years later Caruso proved that father wrong becoming the most famous singer in the world, making him quite a wealthy man.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6625 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. He was pictured on a 22¢ US commemorative postage stamp in the Performing Arts series, issued 27 February 1987 (104th anniversary of his birth). Enrico Caruso passed away on the 2nd of August 1921 in his hometown of Naples, Italy due in part to complications from pneumonia. He is buried in Naples as well.
I have been quite fortunate to discover another great operatic tenor who hails from Naples, Italy as well, by the name of Giovanni Cavaliere. Another interesting fact is that just like Caruso; Giovanni was also born on the 25th of February, but naturally much later than Caruso. His talent is unmatched, along the lines of Andrea Bocelli, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, among others. I dare say that his vocal talent has something different from these big names, his voice is so powerful and at the same time quite penetrating that shakes the walls of the rooms where I have heard him, and shook even the core and some people shed tears of joy during the audizone in which I was invited. He was playing a few pieces of opera, Verdi’s Otello, or Puccini’s Turandot. We heard him sing the Neapolitan song, ‘O Sole Mio’; I have never felt so much power and beauty of tone wrapped up all in one person. At the same time his theater acting involves a whirlwind of emotions to which it is difficult to escape even for those
who have never witnessed the live singing of a tenor. I saw with my own eyes, including myself, acne people out of the hearing with tears in their eyes and a heartfull of satisfaction. He is equally comfortable in the execution of works of Puccini, Verdi, religious forms in music (Ave Maria) for his unique musical style. He takes on a role and makes it his own. While in Italy he already has a following, a history of theatrical debuts as the IDA, we eagerly await his return to the United States (where he sang at the United Nations in 1998). What strikes me most of Giovanni Cavaliere, is his youth and his seamless physical fitness. We have always been accustomed to seeing the Tenors of history rather than in the flesh, also for the physiological need of the acoustic resonance of the body. Well this Tenor combines a perfect physique with a powerful and harmonious voice. Some experts call it a perfect “Verdi tenor”; his voice so powerful and heroic allows him to play Otello as a few others ever have. There is much love and joy with Giovanni. No matter how many times I listen to him and even being in his presence I always look forward to seeing him again and anticipate more excellent yet outstanding music.
Some of Giovanni’s Theatrical Performances include:
- AIDA OF GIUSEPPE VERDI. WITH SOPRANO MARIA DRAGONI
- AIDA GIUSEPPE VERDI THEATRE CALDERON OF MADRID
- REGOLA V. BELLINI BY M. DRAGONI
- ACCORDANCE WITH K. PELLEGRINO
- TURANDOT GIACOMO PUCCINI, WITH M. DRAGONI
- CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA WITH I. D’AMICO VOICES FOR PHILADELPHIA
- WITH LUCIANO PAVAROTTI ENRICO CARUSO, COMPETITION FINALIST
- IN NAPLES NEW YORK CONCERT FROM THE PALACE OF THE UNITED STATES
- OF AMERICA FOR THE UNITED NATION, ONU.
THE YOU TUBE CHANNEL OF GIOVANNI CAVALIERE