Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site

Main Page This family-friendly site celebrates Italian culture for the enjoyment of children and adults. Site-Overview



Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, Louisa Tetrazzini, and Adelina Patti


Caruso SF



Theatre- 1860

C. Bartoli




This charming tribute to Enrico Caruso features his singing 'La donna e' mobile', and images from a book about the man.  (Sometimes the arrow needs two clicks to start the video.)








New York's Metropolitan Opera House







Havana Cuba's Opera House





















'Amor ti vieta' by Mario Lanza's version (later on this page, you can listen to Gigli's version).  You can hear that both men are true tenors, something that is not always true of men singing as tenors today. 















Mario Lanza portrayed a sanitized Caruso in the 1951 film, 'The Great Caruso'.  Here's a clip with his performance of 'Because'.














Special for Mario Lanza fans, a singer who's life was far too brief, here is his recording of Shubert's 'Ave Maria'.














Here's a clip of Gigli from 1936 singing 'Tu sei la vita mia'.  At the end of the clip, you can hear Gigli's speaking voice, which is as it a true tenor's should be, a tenor.
































Maria Callas singing Puccini's 'O babbino caro', best known from the film 'A Room With A View'.  MP3 file.  Click to start in your Media Player. (The title appears wrong, but the song is right.)


Pietro Mascagni's evocative musical Intermezzo from his opera 'Cavalleria Rusticana'.  MP3 file.  Click to start in your Media Player. (The title appears wrong, but the piece is right.)























Il Divo, a sort of classical barber-shop quartet, singing, in Spanish, Toni Braxton's hit, 'Come Back to Me' or 'Regresami'.





























Visit my Cinema Page

Visit my Italian Renaissance Gardens Page

More about Opera at Wikipedia

More about Italian Opera at Wikipedia



In the Days Before Pop Music

Beniamino Gigli

Louisa Tetrazzini

Adelina Patti

Classical Pop


In the Days Before Pop Music...

...Classical music and folk music reigned supreme.  The former was seen as the epitome of talent, training and technique, the latter as a tie to the past and a populist expression in the present.

These were also the days before electricity and microphones, so the vocal star of big spectacles needed a voice that could carry to the backs of theatres, tents, and crowds in city squares, and that meant classically trained operatic singers.  


Interior of La Scala Opera House in Milan


Folk performers stuck to the more intimate local venues like pubs, restaurants and club halls.

And it's not like the two forms never mixed...

Days, sometimes hours, after the debut of a new opera, more earthy versions of the arias were performed by folk singers throughout the city.  Even today, I'm sure more Italian men can sing that version of La Donna č Mobile than can sing the legitimate version!


The Interior of Paris's Opera House


The Italian Stars of the Era

The stars of this era were charismatic, larger-than-life figures who managed to project their personalities and talent without the aide of today's global media.  

Three of the biggest Italian singers of the era were:

  • tenor Enrico Caruso,
  • coloratura soprano Louisa Tetrazzini,  
  • and later tenor Beniamino Gigli (who aimed to be Caruso's successor, just as Pavarotti aimed to be Gigli's).  

They traveled extensively, performing throughout Europe (Moscow, Paris, Milan, London...), Latin America (Buenos Aires, Mexico City...) and North America (N.Y., San Francisco, Chicago, Boston...), adapting their performances to the local tastes and languages.  They had ambition, talent and most importantly, stamina.  

Arriving at Paris's Opera House


Enrico Caruso

Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) is the gold-standard of operatic tenors.  No singer, living or past, has claimed to match his vocal versatility from lyric lightness to dramatic weight, and no critic of opera singers expects another singer to ever come close.  

He also enjoyed a vocal range that stunned people, and amused him.  When a base (basso) took ill during a performance in which Caruso was singing the tenor lead, Caruso sang the man's aria as the ill man mouthed the words, and the audience never knew the difference.

He claimed that an opera singer needed a big chest, a great memory and stamina.  He also stressed the need for heart, or emotion, to communicate the drama of opera all the way to the back rows.  

This was something new to opera, that up to then was highly stylized, with the singers standing still as they sang, as if giving a concert in costume.  And the star of the show was the prima donna, not the often effete male tenor. Caruso's masculine style added a sexual tension to the stories of romantic woe.

What Caruso had, more than his talent, was personality.  He grew up as a poor child in Naples who's mother and later his step-mother insisted he develop his natural talent for singing.  To survive on the rough, crime-ridden streets of the slums where he lived, the budding singer needed charm by the bucketsful.  

Gigli later lamented that he didn't have the same deprived background.  If he'd had, he could have developed the same expansive, warm, humorous personality that Caruso used to charm his audiences even before he wowed them with his singing.

His life was full of dichotomies, further humanizing the star.  He was self-indulgent and generous; unfaithful and loyal; sinful and religious; nouveau riches and earthy, superstitious and practical.  The media of the day loved him as much as the audiences did.  

(Click here if you'd like to read an entertaining and interesting account in Caruso's own words, from Britain's The Sketch magazine, of his experiences during the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco, the day after a performance of Carmen at the no-longer-existing Mission Opera House.) 

Caruso began recording early in his career, and the record business grew with his fame, each adding to each other's global reach.  Because of this, there are many recordings of Caruso's singing, and most are out of copyright.

You can listen to some Caruso recordings at my YouTube Channel.

You can download for free all of Caruso's recordings from the Internet Archive as MP3 files.

Free MP3 files of Complete Caruso Part 1

Free MP3 files of Complete Caruso Part 2

If you want to listen to samples of the pieces, lets you listen to one minute of each song.


To read more about Enrico Caruso, here are books from Amazon (the biography by his son is supposed to be the best), and two websites of interest.  

 Amazon Books About Caruso

 Caruso and Tetrazzini: Art of Singing

The Enrico Caruso Museum of America

The Enrico Caruso Page

And if you want to purchase CDs, here is Amazon's selection.

 Amazon CDs of Enrico Caruso

Opera Patrons in Paris's Opera House showing opera was more a social event than a musical event


Beniamino Gigli

Gigli (1890-1957) had large shoes to fill and he never quite managed to fill them.  His singing talent was more limited than Caruso's and less versatile.  But his voice was beautiful and expressive, and versatile enough to sing bel canto and heavy dramatic roles.

(Is it only me, or does the Italian-American actor Peter DeLouise, son of Dom DeLouise, look an awful lot like Gigli?  When they make that bio-pic...)

When Caruso died young, Gigli's career took off, and he was often called 'Caruso secondo', which was meant as a compliment.  A sign of the man's character is that he would often reply that he preferred to be called 'Gigli primo'.

There was also a darkness and rigidity in his character than led him to embrace Fascism and Mussolini, hurting his career and limiting his international appeal during and right after WWII.  But his concert tours and recordings picked up after the war and continued almost to his death.

Here are two Gigli recordings you can listen to with the Windows Media Player or the Real One Player.  (These are from my site.)  

La donna č mobile from Rigoletto by Verdi

Amor ti vieta from Fedora by Giordano

You'll notice the emotionality of the singing, which I've heard in Pavarotti's singing, but only when he sings for an Italian audience.  It's much to the Italian taste, and reminds people of Gigli, Pavarotti's idol.

If you want to listen to samples of Gigli singing, lets you listen to one minute of each song.


To read more about Gigli, or to buy his CDs here's some Amazon selections, and a website of interest.

 Gigli's Autobiography at Amazon

 Amazon CDs of Gigli

Gigli at Grandi


Louisa Tetrazzini

Louisa Tetrazzini (1871-1940) was the quintessential opera diva:  childlike, self-indulgent, demanding, emotional, larger-than-life, full of talent and charm, a full-figured woman, and, inevitably, loveable. 

She was what's called a coloratura soprano, which means her forte was in the showy, and technically difficult, runs, trills and vocal colorings of the music, especially in the higher ranges. 

In fact, Tetrazzini was known to have a weak low range, but her high range was so light, airy, perfect in tone and pitch, and technically stunning that no one really cared about her low range.

She was famously full-figured, and loved to eat.  And just like Pavarotti, chefs in restaurants she frequented would often make dishes just for her.  That's how the famous dish Chicken Tetrazzini came to be.

There is an odd story about Louisa going out for a big meal with Enrico Caruso (another big eater) before having to sing the lead in a opera opposite the tenor John Sullivan.  

Her stomach was so enlarged from the meal, she couldn't fit into her corset, so she was, in Sullivan's less than gentlemanly words, rubbery 'like two Michelin tires' as he tried to pull her to him during a romantic scene.  

They both started giggling and could barely stop laughing long enough to sing their parts. 


Like her male colleagues, Louisa Tetrazzini traveled the world performing in opera houses, concert halls, recording studios, and even city squares.  

In 1910 she famously sang for a crowd of thousands in San Francisco around a famous downtown landmark, Lotta's Fountain, bringing encouragement to a town still rebuilding after the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906.  The landmark was one of the few that remained after the devastation, so it had symbolic meaning for the locals.

You can visit my YouTube Channel to listen to some recordings of Tetrazzini singing and talking.

If you'd like to listen to Louisa sing, you can download this MP3 file for free from the Cantabile Subito Site:

Una voce poco fa from Il Barbiere di Seviglia by Rossini

If you want to listen to samples of Tetrazzini singing, lets you listen to one minute of each song.


To read more about Tetrazzini or to buy her CDs here are some Amazon selections, and a website of interest.

 Caruso and Tetrazzini: Art of Singing

 Tetrazzini Biography at Amazon

Tetrazzini on the Cantabile Subito Site

 Amazon CDs with Tetrazzini


Adelina Patti

Adelina Patti (b1843-d.1919) was the opera soprano star for the second half of the 1800s.  She was born in Madrid of Italian parents.  She named Tetrazzini as her operatic successor

Visit this website to learn more about Adelina Patti, President and Mrs. Lincoln's favorite singer.

Adelina Patti at Opera Singer UK

Adelina Patti at Wikipedia

You can listen to samples of Adelina Patti singing on She has a beautiful voice, delicate and lyrical.  There are also some versions of 1905-6 recordings around that were made after Patti's retirement, and with the primitive recording materials of the day, which do not always do justice to this star's sweet voice. lets your hear one minute of each song on this album which includes some re-mastered songs by Patti.


Visit my YouTube Channel to view 5 clips that tell Patti's story, including some of her singing, her auto-biography, and comments by her contemporaries.  It is a radio program about the great singer, that pays a worthy tribute to the singer who sang for 40 years throughout the world to enthralled audiences.


Classical Pop

A mixed genre of pop music and classical singing style is very popular these days.  Andrea Bocelli and Alessandro Safina come to mind, as does the "boy-band" Il Divo.

Andrea Bocelli's Website


Alessandro Safina's Website

Il Divo's Website

And you can sample some of their songs at  Nowadays, it's more common to purchase the DVD of a concert or television special than the CD, but some offer both together, so shop carefully.

To search for singers, operas, composers, books, DVDs, CD... at just use this search engine.


The author of the first book link is an interesting book recommended by a site visitor.  The book presents the real history behind the play and opera Tosca. 





This is an slideshow of opera on DVD.  Move your cursor over an image to get product info.  Click on an image to go to Amazon for more info and product reviews.