Loosely traces the life of tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921). He loves Musetta, in his home town of Naples, and then Dorothy, the daughter of one of the Metropolitan Opera's patrons. Caruso ... See full summary »
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W.S. Van Dyke,
Robert Z. Leonard
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Loosely traces the life of tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921). He loves Musetta, in his home town of Naples, and then Dorothy, the daughter of one of the Metropolitan Opera's patrons. Caruso is unacceptable to both women's fathers: to one, because he sings; to Dorothy's, because he is a peasant. To New York patricians, Caruso is short, barrel chested, loud, emotional, unrefined. Their appreciation comes slowly. The film depicts Caruso's lament that "the man does not have the voice, the voice has the man": he cannot be places he wants to be, because he must be elsewhere singing, including the day his mother dies. Throughout, Mario Lanza and stars from the Met sing. Written by
Jesse L. Lasky, who served as associate producer on this film, also knew the real Enrico Caruso. In 1918, while serving as the head of Famous Players (later Paramount) Studio, Lasky had paid Caruso to star in two silent films, My Cousin (1918) and The Splendid Romance (1919), neither of which was commercially successful. See more »
This movie can truly be called life-changing. It certainly changed my life; I was totally ignorant of opera before a chance re-run of this movie introduced me to a whole new musical world. As it turned out, I was in illustrious company. There is not a single contemporary tenor of note who was not inspired by this movie.
Let's be honest from the outset: the movie bears little resemblance to the real Caruso's life, and, yes, it is corny in the grand tradition of Hollywood musicals. But who cares? Lanza's singing is perfection itself, and his vibrant personality overflows in practically every scene. The rest of the cast is good, with top-notch operatic singers Blanche Thebom, Giuseppe Valdengo, et al providing Lanza with some worthy (and rare) vocal support.
Highlights include a superb Vesti la Giubba, a moving Ave Maria and a rapturous Because. In all the movie contains 27 vocal items, with not a dull moment to be found amongst them.
See this movie and revel in a unique vocal talent. In the words of one admirer, Mario Lanza could "outsing the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir", and the movie is a stark reminder of how bland today's singing idols really are. Enrico Caruso, Jr, was one observer who concurred with this view.While the movie overlooked his existence in favor of his half-sister Gloria, Caruso's son had nothing but praise for the man who portrayed his father:
"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 Giuseppe 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 attain.
"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."
Well said, Enrico Jnr, and viva il grande Lanza!
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