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Enrico Caruso (1873 - 1921)

Born into a poor Neapolitan family, Caruso was the third of seven children, of whom only three survived infancy. After receiving a basic education he studied technical draftsmanship and at the age of eleven was apprenticed to an engineer who made water fountains. Later he worked with his father, a mechanic and foundry worker, at the Meuricoffre factory in Naples. Meanwhile he sang in his local church choir and in 1889, after the death the year before of his mother, who had encouraged him to pursue his musical ambitions, he began to take singing lessons with Guglielmo Vergine.

To support his family, Caruso worked as a street singer from 1891, also performing in cafes and at soirées. After a short period of military service, completed in 1894, he made his operatic stage debut in 1895 at the Teatro Nuovo, Naples, in the opera L’amico Francesco by the amateur composer Domenico Morelli. Further tuition followed with Vincenzo Lombardi, who also taught Antonio Scotti and Pasquale Amato: this improved Caruso’s range and vocal style. He secured engagements in several smaller Italian opera houses, appeared in Cairo in 1896, at Palermo’s Teatro Massimo in 1897 and sang in Russia during the 1897–1898 season.



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