powered by AFI
In 1873, Enrico Caruso is born to humble parents in Naples, Italy. As a boy, he joins the church choir, and one day, just before the start of a religious procession in which he is to sing, his mother falls gravely ill. Enrico wants to stay with her, but she persuades him to rejoin the procession. During the procession, Mama Caruso dies. When Enrico becomes a man, he sings for coins in local restaurants, and although he wants to marry the beautiful Musetta Barretto, her father finds such employment undignified. To please the old man, Enrico agrees to forsake his singing and become a merchant, but he is miserable. One of his deliveries takes him to the restaurant where he used to perform, and soon he is singing with his old friend Fucito. The great tenor Alfredo Brazzi, listening at a nearby table, is so impressed with Enrico's singing that he places him in the chorus for a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida . Barretto, however, orders Enrico to keep away from his daughter. Enrico earns a bit part in Tosca , and makes his official debut in Cavalleria Rusticana . After topping the bill at the La Scala performance of La Giaconda , Enrico returns to his home town a great success. Everyone is impressed with the singer's fame and fine clothes, but Gino, the barber, finally reveals that Musetta has married someone else. Grateful to Gino for his honesty, Enrico asks his friend to accompany him to his debut in London's Covent Garden and there he proves a sensation in Rigoletto . His success is marred only by the outbursts of his temperamental co-star, Maria Selka, who despises Italian tenors, and the sadness of his mentor Brazzi, who has lost his voice. Good-hearted and generous, Enrico hires Brazzi as his manager, and the party sets out for New York and Enrico's Metropolitan Opera debut. During rehearsal, Enrico and soprano Louise Heggar are taken with each other's singing, and as time passes, they become close friends. The effusive tenor does, however, unwittingly offend Park Benjamin, one of the Met's principal patrons. Later, while visiting the Benjamin home to make his apologies, Enrico meets and falls in love with the snobbish patron's lovely daughter Dorothy. During his first performance, Enrico is so nervous about impressing the "Diamond Horseshoe" of patrons and critics that he earns poor reviews and only polite applause. When Benjamin, disturbed by the attempt of an "Italian peasant" to portray a nobleman, attempts to have Enrico removed from the cast, the singer is deeply offended and declares, "I do not sing in America." Dorothy persuades him that if he performs for the people in the galleries, he will love and be loved by America. Before the next performance, Enrico clasps his good luck charm, prays to the Blessed Virgin, reminds himself that "I am no gentleman," and then entrances not only the gallery crowd but also famous tenor Jean de Reszke with his magnificent voice. Outside the theater, Enrico sings for an appreciative crowd of Italian immigrants before embarking on a triumphant world tour. Upon his return to the Met, he takes "Senorina Doro" to a small Italian restaurant, where he proposes. Dorothy happily breaks the news to her father and is disappointed when he, protesting that such a union would be "undignified," refuses his permission. The two are wed anyway, and Dorothy later surprises her husband by singing for him at his birthday party. Enrico is on stage when he learns of the birth of his daughter, whom he names Gloria Graziana Victoria America Caruso. The tenor's success continues, but one night, while singing a song to his daughter, he is overcome by a fit of coughing. When Dorothy discovers that he has been using an ether spray on his throat, she begs him not to appear in his scheduled performance of Martha , but he protests that he is well. That night, Caruso sings beautifully, but during the performance, he collapses on stage and dies. In the lobby of the Metropolitan Opera, admirers place a wreath at the bust of the great Caruso.