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The following program was produced for national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation by W. B U R Boston. Boston University radio presents Hall of song the story of the Metropolitan Opera from 1893 to 1966. You're. Cool. You are. The world. Your posts are miles past indie music critic in the New York World. Journal Tribune. And noton cross.
The Metropolitan's nineteen oh 20 seasons was probably sadder than any other in the entire history of the Opera House. The first indication of what lay ahead became on the opening night itself. Luxury was the word chosen for the performance and in the cast where rows upon sound lay on roti and recalled how to solo the tenor was beginning his 17th metropolitan season and during his career he had appeared in 16 opening nights. But on the night of November 15th 1920 something was wrong. But Trouble was with Caruso himself. He just wasn't up to his usual standard in the next morning's Herald over today Henderson reported that Caruso had never before appeared at an opening proponents in such a lamentable vocal condition. Most of the members of the audience if they had noticed anything at all probably thought that the tenor was simply having an off night. Others might have reasoned that Caruso was fatigued as a result of an extensive tour he had made just before the opening of the season in New
York a few days rest and he would be as fine as ever before. Unfortunately Caruso was suffering from something much more than fatigue. This was made shockingly clear during a performance of a lizard MRI in Brooklyn on December 11. Giuseppe Ben Bishop the Metropolitan's musical secretary at the time was present and as usual he had to consider the practical side of the crisis at hand. But I was in charge of the performance and in Brooklyn they said no more. And after the first act I gave make the money to the public and send them home. Their whole careers I want to have a pretty simple problem but there's a few guys on the scene I act in good gap because I forgot that I couldn't find him in new you know and then who left where they are going to be the company and pretend they're here. The same day I give the money am there a gap if it would have been if the bad man could have
said now you're paying for it. Well I was actually the beginning of the onus but usually after I think about tomorrow the pharmacist and then after months here in fact However the first indication of Caruso serious ailment had come a few days earlier. Bruno Serato the tennis secretary was with him at the time. He started eight when I was on the stage. I was there I don't know. He sank and fell. A tremendous pain like a knife in his back that there was the beginning of the prosy
that what happened in Brooklyn a little easier. I don't know. Such tremendous time bleeding from his doctor and all and we had to pass and could see from one side of the stage to the other end. Well that is them in the middle of the stage and then he sang a fourth and there are 13. But and also Sampson and the 16 and then on the 22nd it was supposed to sing Elysium but we canceled and we still got to put that boy Amistad with the G here and there on December 24th it was a lot of performance and he sang at the Metropolitan scene for nineteen or twenty six hundred and seven performances.
Even in the face of these ominous warnings neither Caruso nor the public would face the facts as missed as an auto told us the tenor went on dissing three more times after the Lizzie had a martyr in Brooklyn the first of these performances was left out of the del Destino on December 13th only two days after the fateful Elysium. WJ Henderson observed that happiness reigned supreme throughout the Opera House. Next came Samson on the 16th and finally luxury on Christmas Eve on Christmas Day. Caruso collapsed with a painful pleurisy his career though no one knew it then was ended. I got because I was his immediate concern at this point was to find Ateneo could fill in for Caruso. No one dared to think of finding or having to find a permanent replacement. As a result the same turn of fate that had struck such a cruel blow to the great Caruso proved a blessing to the young Neapolitan tenor who had made his
debut as follows it in but we go as Mephistopheles on November 26. His name was Benny Amino. It was. A what. Was. Was. One way.
Was. EK Yeah. Oh it was. Was.
Normally Gili who was only 30 at the time of his debut would have lived in the shadow of Caruso for at least 10 years. Now however he was quickly catapulted to the top of the Metropolitans roster of critical opinion was rather mixed. Henderson thought a fresh well delivered lyric tenor but Richard Aldridge objected to his persistent inclination to sing to the audience and to cultivate the high note. Great deal in the Tribune thought he was provincial in quick succession he took on Rodolfo in LA him cover a dossier in Tosca veto in the love of three kings and Cavil orea and Andrea told the middle of the season. Gatty introduced another of his novelty operas this one was Carol Weiss is the Polish Jew. It had three
performances and then vanished forever. Henderson's reaction was typical. He called it without a doubt the deadliest super epic ever administered to an operatic audience in this long suffering town. A broader occurrence was the return of the great seer bori have to six seasons absence brought on by throat surgery. Her recovery was complete and if anything the Barri voice was now more appealing than ever before. German opera began a cautious return to the repertory a stressed dawn and Lohengrin were presented an English translation author but dance he conducted and the casts included Blas to now assemble rock and white hill another new American soprano found a place on the Metropolitan roster when Nino Magana made her debut as shield in Rigoletto. She too was saddened by the Caruso tragedy since she and her husband Bruno Serato were close friends of the Tenet. In spite of this however the prospect of our own metropolitan career getting underway helped to dispel some of the sadness.
Let's listen now as Richard Calhoun the producer of our series talks with Madame R GONNA about her years at the Met. I made a no dish and forgot to get shots. But I wouldn't audition for him because I had sung as a child and I had had as far as I could stand a long career and he made. I made no decision for him in a concert with my apple. And at that time they had Sunday night concerts and I just was Albert Spalding and with that I sang two audios and the duet from Certainly with a mouthful was a marvelous baritone as you know and quite a matinee idol would you. You never did get to do any work with crews other than at the Metropolitan. Not at the Metropolitan That was just really too bad because it was this last year but I had sung in concerts for 17 18 19 and 20 and we had had glorious times together because you can imagine how the city's idea gave her Normas keys to in the hopes that it would turn out
at the stations and so it was quite a period of excitement and thrill. What was the reaction then. Being a colleague of his you know when he did fall ill and the company realized that he would not be singing again that night when he fell it was Christmas Eve and all he had insisted on having a supper together. Well my sister and I lived with my sister at that time at the Martha Washington hotel and we all sat around the big table after his performance of luxury and he gave us a source that he had concocted with with I don't know how much pepper and at that red pepper you know and we all sat there under the monsters because he was considered King and we all treated him that way too. I mean I never I never felt that I could ever be familiar as much as he was very sweet with me and called me the baby. He'd always tell his friends now no stories tonight the baby is here at the beach today. You know I don't
know that I bitch it means the little one and you know pilots I'm So I mean that night after that. I mean after that dinner we all went home and then the mister did out so lived at the Commodore with what I think was the first you know the Commodore. He didn't want to live with capitalism because he would have had a 24 hour service. So it's all would be a very good place to have a bed somewhere else. So that night he was cold and that was after that then I he was sick from New Year's Eve and then at Easter time we all broke bread to bread together in his bedroom with a little Gloria sitting at the foot of the bed and he looking extremely ill after my husband maybe told us he had three operations I mean for his ribs you know because it had this terrible impact. And from that time I mean he took us to dinner because he was our best man and he took us someplace out of town I mean on the outskirts of New York and we had a dinner party there and he was well enough to do that.
Then he was well enough to leave. So you can imagine I was shocked when I read it he gave us says one of his gifts the last six months of his apartment at the Vanderbilt Hotel and that's where we had our honeymoon. And that's what we heard in his room they had turned his bedroom into a living normal white living room with this white piano and everything in white and that's where I parked. Benjamin gave us the news that Ricky was dead. So there was just nothing we were we couldn't talk that was we did we felt it was the end of everything and felt the bottom of the world found out for us because we had to have a card. We even had a card. After he passed away I was how well he was and I'm so drained. But of course aside from losing a good friend the company itself lost a great turn out of the company as of whole. Most of the was quite a void there were we had a Chili's came up. I mean yes that's right and really it was wonderful I mean our so many
performances with him and his you know them already he was a marvelous colleague Julia wise and matinée Levy I mean you know you were really him in Carmen I believe in karma and I was not so lucky actually to try and I mean and I don't there are many many roads with with my familia and all that sort of joint recitals as we used to have them. But I sang 14 draws at the Metropolitan from 1920 to 1935 and it was the most wonderful part of my life from even from my age I'm what I understand there. And so I grew up in the Metropolitan. That's where I feel I feel I mellowed and how can I feel about a new house. I wonder if you see the new house is going to be thrilling and I'm going to enjoy it but it's not the attachment of life one has an attachment torn or homestead. That's
right you know it's the same thing. They're moving. I will love them at the new one this is going to be beautiful but it won't be my home anymore and I can't associate myself with it is beyond me. I never live that long to be able to work. So mellow. I'm there you see because it's over for me that way. Associations with my career. We did some work too with Lawrence Easton with raunchiest And I think I must have done what could I have done I think it was a car. Carmen yes Mahela did Fanti still have a do what I also did you know Ian is in Africa and I know she didn't do that. I did that with my bag bag and was the rows upon chair live I was up on child it was a wonderful colleague she was. I remember at a concert in Detroit and somebody said she should sing Carole know me as an encore. And so she looked up at my box and said Well if you want cotton or my i'll get me no more gone
up there and she'll come down and sing it for you. For which I mean this colleague that's right now that was lovely the audience stood up and applauded and I was embarrassed today. And you know Ahmed rueful I did the Barber of Seville with the title for he was a marvelous Figaro as was of course always that Luka who was. He was there I mean apart in a sense like Botti. He acted and he sang beautifully. I mean he didn't he didn't have a great big voice like to talk to foreheads or no but he was a marvelous artist in every sense of the word almost been wonderful singing along with it although it was I mean really I sang with Edward Johnson I did. I knew him as you know how did you call him and why did you Ronnie. Well that's right and I was right I didn't know him personally but I knew of this tenor in Millau know and all that and then I he was at the
Chicago with me. That's what that one year and his room was below mine and through all the piping systems the plumbing systems I could hear his noise pursing and squatted. Oh also scrub scrub I did the first performance by the chair and I had been given the the score that week and that Saturday night I was just saying it. And the first time that's Corky who was a personal friend of ours and came to us for dinner many many times. He saw my name and ran across the stage as you know thirty ninth Street is that man's section and the women on the what if. So he ran across the stage and he said no you have NOT haven't gone mad Have you have you ever done this before I said no. He said Have you seen the stage he said No I said I haven't. You should you come by and they said you know the thing about the whip I said well I've seen it when that I've seen performances of up but I've never been on the stage. He said Would you come out so he shows me this thing what to do with the whip as he goes off you know one she
throws invectives at him. I had some new shoes made and I didn't have any rubber heels on the heels. And as he goes offstage and I swing my whip around I fell from right down on the stage and stayed there and Scorpion The wings were seen by. Others. Much better stay there. I couldn't go drop by. Well those were the last years that the really grand grand uppers were around the world and they were I don't know I think Africa has also I mean a grand opera y'all haven't done any money at all. And all my Apparently my of a oh yeah what do you think the reason for that is how I really don't know but I think the voices today really match those of the other years. I don't I don't contend that like all singers do and Olympus that is an old directors of orchestras say that they're not singers today like they were so matter of fact I think that they take much
better care of costumes and and about the history of an opera and the and the mammals on the opera and to be able to sing with their back to the audience and not come right out to the footlights to be able to sing your high note which was horrible to get out of your part and then they used to get out of their part to bow. They don't do that anymore I find that very antiquated in the biz so you see a chorus I'm always just thought of that is one of the most well if you can create a pannikin and offers to Encore you don't know if it's going to come out as good as the first time I imagine because you're singing with a with vocal chords. It's not a piano and this is not about that mechanically is more or less perfect. Did you find you had to be particularly careful of your living habits. Well I did I mean it really was I was living like I was out I left
I was felt as I was living in a trunk or telephone booth and I know that that comes with singing so much and seen as a little guilty mother being very careful you know I sang my first performances at school commencements when I was five years old you know and it a choir had me I hardly acquired it but my family made sure that I had rubbers on and all of that but I know that it was much more fatiguing to talk than to sing and that's all from now all these all these parties that they have after performances. Even the concert performances because I think ASH sang in almost every state in the United States and that was really on time and then they would not only ask you to talk and shake hands with everyone but they would ask you. Some little something that they heard at the concert and when you sing it again. Would you say all of that is very hard that they're on the fois. That's harder than rehearsals or performances because in those days I
must have been many parties after the many performances yes aftermath performances we have some ourselves I mean but it would have to be when I was sure that I had three or four days that were really free but they gave more parties I mean I don't know whether they do today after concerts I don't know maybe the artists have grown wise enough I think the whole picture as change has changed I think to use. With airplane travel. People go around so much more so that they may we were you know whereas in your time a season of that would be maybe three or four months. Yeah I mean 14 and I have that time. But now you will come in for a week and that's you know a week of you not doing anything you're in Chicago years ago if you were in Bahrain as I have this here in Vienna we had cards we won't mention names we think much of the press and it's crazy. I mean you can't take care of your voice like that at one time but I think Mr being said something about that transportation has has certainly
not improved the status of the artist because that artist is is is all for making performances and think that's very important because the time is limited right you can only shoot and only seeing so many years well after that the begin to feel sorry for you. When I finished however Well I sang I finished at my best and so did the bowtie and so did Geraldine Ferraro made she sang no more. I sang no more I didn't peter out which I think is a very wise thing and very difficult. Oh you're mr you're up close and the adulation and all the compliments and all you do. Surely it I thought it would be easy but it wasn't what was your last performance last performance or the last performance of a sang was me in the lab or am with the Philharmonic in the stadium. Father there's the last performance of oh say what was your last performance of the night and also a boy and. It's really it's really very funny it was
a part I love so. I don't know. Growing up in a place and the other would be very modest to me. Enjoyed going there. But how can I feel a frustrated with it. It will be hard but I think maybe just to do that I was experiencing the same thing from kind of you know my call. So the harmonic concepts I mean I do I feel it. I mean I love comedy. It's a place of great. Souvenirs. Little Crow Flies this week. That was Nina Morgana the American soprano whose first year at the Metropolitan coincided with Caruso as last as the 1920 season due to a close Caruso's doctors announced that he was in much stronger health and could be moved to a milder climate for complete recovery. This news was so encouraging that I got because I was completely reassured
as he was about to leave for Europe in May he declared. And Nicole Caruso will without any doubt again take his glorious post at the Metropolitan got he then sailed for Europe and Caruso sought out the warmth of his native Naples in July his condition worsened and on August 2nd 1921 he died. The news of his passing stunned the world but his colleagues more than anyone else realized just how great the loss had been sustained. The sorrow felt by rows upon cell is still very real even after forty five years. Oh dear it's too horrible to talk about and I was at a gay party when the news came in that I couldn't begin to tell you. It was such oppression a loss to me not only for what he has meant to me and in my career and for all Americans that followed but to think that that
great great voice and talent that you need price was hushed for ever I can't bear to talk about it even now. But not even the loss of Enrico Caruso could stop the Metropolitan. And it now became gotta get this task to prove that his institution was greater than any one singer no matter how immense that Singer's talent and popularity might be. On our program next week we learned just how he went about compensating for the absence of the company's leading tenor. For now this is Milton Cross on behalf of miles cast in The hoping that you'll join us again then. Boston University Radio has presented a hall of song and the story of
the Metropolitan Opera from 1883 to 966. The series is created and produced by Richard Calhoun a grant from the National Home Library Foundation has made possible the production of these programs for national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
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Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966
1920 Through 1921
Producing Organization
WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
1920 -1921. Tragedy strikes during a performance of Elisir d'Amore in Brooklyn and signals the end of Caruso's career. Rosa Ponselle, Giuseppe Bamboschek and Bruno Zirato recall his death.
Series Description
Documentary series on history of the Metropolitan Opera Company ("The Met") in its original home at Broadway and 39th Street in New York. "The Met" closed its old location on April 16, 1966. Series includes interviews and rare recordings of noted performers.
Broadcast Date
Performing Arts
Media type
Host: Cross, Milton, 1897-1975
Host: Kastendieck, Miles
Interviewee: Zirato, Bruno
Interviewee: Ponselle, Rosa, 1897-1981
Interviewee: Bamboschek, Giuseppe
Performer: Caruso, Enrico, 1873-1921
Producer: Calhoun, Richard
Producing Organization: WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-41-15 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:30
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Chicago: “Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966; 1920 Through 1921,” 1966-12-20, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966; 1920 Through 1921.” 1966-12-20. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966; 1920 Through 1921. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from