Search - Enrico Caruso, Rolando Villiaze, Marcello da Capua :: Italian Songs

Italian Songs
Enrico Caruso, Rolando Villiaze, Marcello da Capua
Italian Songs
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #1

As a follow-up to its Caruso 2000 release, RCA here offers us a remastered, implemented selection of Neapolitan songs recorded by Enrico Caruso between 1906 and 1920. The gimmick is again that the old recordings have been ...  more »


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As a follow-up to its Caruso 2000 release, RCA here offers us a remastered, implemented selection of Neapolitan songs recorded by Enrico Caruso between 1906 and 1920. The gimmick is again that the old recordings have been digitally stripped of their oompah, blaring instruments. In their place, the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra has provided modern accompaniment. It's still anachronistic--the voice remains in another acoustical era from the orchestra--but this time, the balance is a little better, and conductor Gottfried Rabl is amazingly sensitive to Caruso's style and phrasing. Moreover, of course, the pops and clicks of the old pre-electrical shellacs are gone. The voice retains its timbre and quality, thank goodness, and one can still marvel at the way the sound grew over the 14 years recorded here. It's always magnificent, but it became more baritonal and muscular with age, without losing any of its thrills. The "Ideale" from 1906 remains an exquisitely tender piece of singing; elsewhere, the sheer visceral excitement of the voice dazzles. Purists may not approve. Those unfamiliar with the Caruso phenomenon should hear him under any circumstances, and this is as good a chance as any. --Robert Levine

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CD Reviews

I LOVE it a great effort!!!
Richard D. Cappetto | Moodus, CT United States | 07/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Much like the Caruso 2000 CD This Italian Songs CD is a great effort to show us what The Great Caruso actually sounded like. Unfortunately no modern creations can really fix the old recordings to a great extent and give us what He really sounded like; BUT, if you suspend your disbelief, just a little bit, this is not bad at all; and in fact is very good. All the pops and static in the original recording is completely gone, its very clean in that regard, the vocals still sound like they were recorded mono, but with this clearer recording you can get glimpses of how great Caruso was. In Fact at times you just get lost in is powerful and beautiful voice and forget completely the way it was recorded. For Example O Solo Mio is just beautiful. I give this CD a 5 for effort, and for being tied for the best Caruso collection I have ever heard with Caruso 2000. I only wish we could go back in time with Digital recording equipment and record Caruso, then we would all know if he really was the greatest or not. But, I will tell you this, even with the mono sounding vocals hear, if he was not the best, he sure was one of them, the power and emotion are still evident even without being recorded by modern technology. This is a must have for any Caruso fan and any Opera fan as well."
An Unexpected Pleasure
Lawrence Bullman | 12/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have been an avid fan of Enrico Caruso for over forty years. I have heard just about every gimmicky process that has ever been attempted to make his recordings more modern sounding (read "electrical"). Each has its own virtues and inadequacies. I had not planned on purchasing this disc because, quite frankly, Caruso 2000 had been a disappointment. Caruso's voice almost always seemed to have a lid on it.

A certain fact has to be faced here. Caruso never made an electrical recording. No amount of filtering and doctoring can change that. The only way I can imagine that this barrier could ever be overcome is perhaps by computerized extrapolation of the frequencies his voice produced. A computer might some day be programmed to "figure out" from the original recordings the sound frequencies Caruso's voice produced but that the recording horn was too insensitive to record. Those frequencies could then be dubbed into the existing recording. However, it doesn't appear that technology is that advanced yet; perhaps it never will be. In my opinion, it doesn't need to be. All one really needs is a schooled ear to be deeply moved by the gifts, art, and technique Caruso exhibited on his original acoustical recordings.

Incidentally, I am both amused and appalled by individuals who doubt that he was the greatest male singer in the history of recording, perhaps of all time. Anyone who would suggest Mario Lanza's, John McCormack's, or anyone else's singing as more satisfactory isn't listening. Lanza wanted to be the next Caruso, but he was not Caruso, not even a pale imitation. Even Pavarotti willingly acknowledges that he idolizes Caruso. And McCormack was a completely different kind of singer.

The best way to enjoy Caruso, Italian Songs and even Caruso 2000 is to set them aside as seperate works of art, rather than expect them to be improvements over the original recordings. They're not. Caruso's voice is not reproduced as accurately as it is on original recordings played on the proper equipment in the proper environment, especially on Caruso 2000. But the beauty of his art and technique remains intact. It seems the recording engineers did less manipulation of the voice on this new CD; the voice is more faithful to the originals, but still not the same. It occurs to me that perhaps these recordings are best for those who cannot tolerate surface noise and Victor's almost exclsive use of wind instruments for the orchestra.

That said, the digital accompaniment added unexpected emotion, power, and drama to every piece. I was caught completely off-guard. The music on this disc had me in tears. Music is about emotions, and this disc overpowered mine. If the degree of emotion induced by a performance is the standard for its evaluation, then this disc rates five stars without question. And if this is the way more modern ears than mine must be introduced to the artistry of this great singer, let it be! The instrumentation and arrangements fit every selection, and the synchronization with Caruso's stylizing is nearly always perfect. I highly recommend this disc to budding opera and classical voice lovers as a worthy introduction to Caruso's artistry. And for the seasoned aficionado of classical voice, it is a refreshing, yet emotionally moving collection of great singing in its own right. Neither type of listener would be disappointed."
Much better than the earlier "Caruso 2000" CD
Richard D. Cappetto | 08/28/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I bought "Caruso 2000" a few years ago and while the effort was admirable and the Vienna Radio Orchestra was magnificent, there were just too many barriers to overcome mixing modern fidelity with the no-fidelity recordings of Caruso's voice. It sounded bizarre, like listening to Caruso singing on a small transistor radio while you were sitting in the symphony orchestra pit.
With this newer release, however, there have been some improvements. Apparently the original Caruso vocals were not stripped down as far as on the earlier CD, as you can hear more snippets of the original orchestral backings in the recordings. And on some of the songs, Caruso's voice breaks out of the "cardboard box" sound which characterizes the century-old recordings. A much better job of mixing his voice recordings based on their strengths and weaknesses has been done here. They should consider going back and remixing "Caruso 2000" to get these same results.
Songs such as "Viena sul mar", "O sole mio," "Core 'ngrato," and "Vaghissima" are sensitively and creatively mixed and result in minor masterpieces which will make anyone a believer in this effort. It sounds like Caruso is actually singing to the backing of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra on these songs.
I still feel some improvements could be made but this is so much better than the first CD attempting this mix. And I would like to see the same effort made to the late 1940's and early 1950's Mario Lanza recordings so modern listeners can more fully appreciate his legacy as well. In the meantime, I hope the VRSO is considering work on Caruso's few English-language popular songs, his Christmas recording of "O Holy Night", and "Over There.""