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Enrico Caruso:
The life and Work of an Opera Legend

Like an Easter Lily, Caruso rose from obscurity to international success. Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) was born in a working class neighborhood of Naples, Italy. He was the 3rd of 7 children, and the first to survive to adulthood. This early persistence foreshadowed his great destiny.

Caruso’s first big break came when he was conscripted for military service. The Baron Costa found his voice so extraordinary that he arranged for Caruso’s dismissal from service, because he felt Caruso was wasting his time. Soon after, he premiered "Fedora" in Milan at the Opera Lirico. This performance launched his career. "After that night, the contracts descended on me like a heavy rainstorm," Caruso would later say.

Then in 1903, Caruso debuted at the temple of American opera: the Metropolitan Opera House. The Metropolitan stood north of the port of entry for millions of immigrants from Italy. To Italian immigrants, Caruso symbolized that "America could be made". He personified the lily: that one could be born into the working class, but still flower. In gratitude to his fellow countrymen, he often performed for immigrant workers for free. And in return, the voice of Caruso filled the homes and streets of America’s Little Italies.

October 2003 marks the 100th anniversary of Caruso’s debut at the Metropolitan. A debut that not only made him an international star but also a remarkable role model and great source of pride for the Italian immigrants. The Italian American Museum is proud to present the exhibition, Caruso: The Life and Work of an Opera Legend. Caruso’s career reminds us that America is a rich soil from which all immigrants can become a success.

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