Italian tenor. One of the most highly acclaimed singers of the twentieth century, he was the first major tenor to be recorded on gramophone records, although unfortunately most of them are acoustic (pre-electric) recordings.
Born in Naples to impoverished parents, he first sang in churches. Subsequently he studied with Guglielmo Vergine from 1891 and with the conductor Vincenzo Lombardi, making his debut in Naples in 1894. However, it was not until about 1902 that his voice was fully secure technically – the previous year a poor reception in Naples caused him to vow never to sing there again. Thereafter, his career took him to all the major opera houses in Europe and the USA, but he never sang again in Italy. His Covent Garden debut (1902) was in Verdi's Rigoletto, which he subsequently sang there on many occasions. He was also engaged by the Metropolitan Opera, New York, from 1902 until his death from pleurisy in 1921.
Caruso was particularly impressive in Verdi, Puccini, and Massenet. His voice combined a brilliant upper register with a baritone-like warmth. He also had perfect intonation and breath control, giving him a mastery of legato phrasing and portamento.